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I'm So Sick and Tired of Thinking About Vaccines

Photograph by Twenty20

If I can be honest about vaccines for a minute , I will tell you that, frankly, I'm entirely exhausted from thinking about them.

I'm exhausted about wondering if they are really doing what they are supposed to be doing, if I'm missing out on some crucial information, if I can trust the ingredients when I can’t even seem to trust what’s in my toothpaste or if I will be the mother crying someday because my child died from the flu.

I'm exhausted because vaccines are one of those parenting decisions that you can’t just avoid—either you vaccinate your children or you don’t. There's no in-between, no putting it off for another day or plugging your ears and pretending you don’t hear.

I'm exhausted because it truly seems like there is no true “right” answer about vaccines.

I'm exhausted because as a mom who also happens to be a registered nurse, I have the added complication of feeling conflicted with one foot in the medical world and one foot in the "modern parenting has made me afraid of everything" world.

And, finally, I'm exhausted because I feel so alone in the vaccine world. I’m neither a die-hard vaccine proponent or an anti-vaccine advocate—I’m just a mom who honestly isn’t sure what is the best step to take for my family. I hate that everywhere I turn, there seems to be anger on both sides.

It wasn’t until I came across a post from a fellow mom and nurse that I found someone who summed up exactly how I feel about vaccines. In a compelling and honest Instagram post, Katie Vigos, who runs the account Empowered Birth Project, shared why her decision to vaccinate her children wasn't a straightforward one:

“The truth of the matter is this: If you vaccinate, you are taking a risk. And if you don't vaccinate, you are taking a risk. I've personally witnessed vaccine-preventable diseases kill people during my 10 years as an ICU nurse, and it's tragic and heartbreaking. Like the 16-year-old boy who went from perfectly healthy to dead within 2 weeks from a virulent strain of influenza. But I've also taken care of people who suffer lifelong debilitating injury as a result of vaccines, like a 30-year-old woman with a chronic degenerative musculoskeletal disease she developed after having a reaction to the MMR vaccine. Ultimately, I had to make my own decision, with my husband, about which risk we were going to take.”

I feel like when it comes to vaccines, people like to make it seem as if the right decision is black and white—but it's not always so simple for every parent.

Reading her words, I finally felt validated because her words expressed exactly how I feel about vaccines. I am well aware that there are real risks either way. I am well aware that vaccine-preventable diseases exist and I am well aware that vaccine injuries exist.

I personally know people on each side. I wouldn't even declare myself as having a side simply because I'm willing to listen to both sides and to learn everything I can to help decide what is best for my family.

The truth is, I worry about what could happen if my kids get vaccinated and I worry about what could happen if they don't—so neither way feels like a win. What if they got sick from a vaccine-preventable illness and suffered serious complications? What if they got injured as a result from a rare vaccine reaction? What if I choose wrong?

I tremble in fear and watch my children closely after each vaccine they have ever received. I worry about the alienation and division this topic has brought among parents. I just want to hear from someone like me, who can admit that she's not 100 percent sure which path is right, but she's darn sure hoping she can choose the right one.

I feel like when it comes to vaccines, people like to make it seem as if the right decision is black and white—but it's not always so simple for every parent. The one thing that's clear to me is that no parent should be made to feel bad for being able to see both sides of the debate.

I think we could all use a little reminder that it's not an "us vs. them" situation here. We're all in this together—trying to make the best decisions for our families—and I think that's something we can all agree isn't easy to do.

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