skip to Main Content

Almost seven years ago my journey in motherhood began. My son was born into¬†this world in our bedroom, though it left him scarred (a severe obstetric brachial¬†plexus injury). And while he should have been whisked away to a hospital and¬†promptly given a Vitamin K shot (he was a severe shoulder dystocia with major¬†hematoma on his head), my midwife encouraged us to call off the ambulance¬†and just stay home. We followed instructions and to this day, I feel guilty¬†about “what could have been,” especially after learning of the devastating effects¬†a lack of Vitamin K can bring.

He stabilized, but the next week we entered the world of medicine after living in¬†the natural childbirth/parenting world. A world of difference. Though it was a¬†scary time for us, the children’s hospitals we became a part of and accustomed¬†to weren’t as terrible and misinformed as I had long been led to believe. In fact,¬†I found great peace in their care of my son there. He started receiving therapies,¬†seeing specialist teams, and began the process of having surgeries to help his¬†birth injury.

As hard as it may be to believe, although I was so thankful for the care the¬†doctors and nurses had given my son and respectful of the knowledge they had, I¬†still was staunchly anti-vaccine.¬†After years of reading biased information against vaccines, the “dangers and¬†risks” had infiltrated my brain! I couldn’t shake that off. So my son, and then my¬†second son, received no vaccinations‚ÄĒand I was proud of this decision.

Fast forward one year later to the birth of my third son (yes, I had three babies in¬†two-and-a-half years!). What a cute, fat newborn he was! Again, he received no¬†Vitamin K and no vaccines. When he¬†turned two months old, though, whooping cough (pertussis) started going around¬†my area. At least one young infant death was reported on the news. At this¬†point, we were traveling to our children’s hospital every week for my oldest son’s¬†therapy, as well as traveling to some off-site locations for other therapies. A light¬†bulb went off in my head: “Where do kids go when they are really sick? To our¬†children’s hospital, of course!” I figured my baby had a high chance of catching¬†whooping cough there.

I bought a book called The Vaccine Book and, though I later learned it has misinformation in it, it did change my mind about DTaP. My third son started receiving the DTaP vaccine on schedule. Once I talked with the pediatrician about that and had consented to the DTaP vaccine, she changed my mind about Hib. We live around a lot of Amish communities, and she informed me that sometimes those communities have a high rate of vaccine preventable disease such as Hib and that it was smart to let my baby have that vaccine too. I consented.

I did not, however, begin vaccinating my other children. But that summer my second son fell on a sharp rusted piece of metal on our farm, which cut his knee. Because we live on a farm and pasture our livestock, I was afraid that his injury could result in tetanus*. So I took him in and started him on DTaP shots, because I knew tetanus is not something to mess around with.

Soon I had my fourth baby. After reading about the risks of forgoing the Vitamin¬†K birth dose‚ÄĒnewborns are born deficient in Vitamin K and are at risk for vitamin¬†K-deficient bleeding, or hemorrhagic disease of the newborn‚ÄĒI consented to her¬†getting the shot at birth. Such peace I felt about it!

A year later, I began to read more and more about the scientific evidence of the¬†benefits of vaccines. Because I was so quick to get certain shots when I felt my¬†kids needed them, what other shots could I be wrong about? I was annoyed. The¬†science challenged my notions! I was mad, too. “Could all this really be true and¬†could I be wrong?” I was humbled by so many things in motherhood. Was this yet¬†another humbling experience? Yes, it was.

Picture 45A couple months ago, I made an appointment with our local health department¬†for vaccines for my four children. I went in hoping they wouldn’t be too harsh¬†on me for refusing the vaccines not so long ago. I went to them, humbly asking¬†for help, and they were so helpful with sorting out what shots we should give¬†them first. The mumps are going around our area now, so we decided to include¬†MMR that day. Was I nervous? Yes. Even though I know there is absolutely no¬†link between vaccines and autism, lies and misinformation can hang out in your¬†brain. You just have to remember that science is on your side and go with that¬†over the feelings of worry. (Everything was fine and my four kids took the shots¬†well… not even a fever).

So we are on the road of catching our children up. And I am so thankful!¬†Thankful they haven’t already got a preventable disease that could affect them¬†for the rest of their lives, and thankful they are going to be protected as they¬†enter their school-age years.

My dad had polio as a child and it paralyzed him for weeks. He made a¬†miraculous recovery and was able to walk again. Looking back on it now, I can’t¬†believe that even with his story I had refused the polio vaccine for my children,¬†opening them up to a similar fate.

These lies going around and the misinformation seemingly everywhere can seem¬†so convincing to a worried parent. Most of my friends believe it, and their children¬†remain unvaccinated.¬†Even watching my change of mind hasn’t persuaded them to start vaccinating,¬†but my hope is that maybe there is someone out there who can relate to my¬†story. Maybe you‚Äôre feeling iffy and nervous about starting to vaccinate. Maybe¬†my story can give you a boost of courage! A previous parent sharing her vaccine¬†story on this website said that she felt the anti-vax movement is almost like a cult¬†and so courage is required to break away from it. I agree with her.

Even though I cloth-diaper my babies, gather our own eggs, raise our own meat,¬†grind our own wheat, hang our sheets on a clothesline some parents who choose¬†not to vaccinate their kids may not consider me a ‚Äúnatural parent‚ÄĚ anymore,¬†simply because I vaccinate my children. But I can look at my precious children¬†and know they are protected from polio, from tetanus, from pertussis, and so on,¬†and I know that nothing is more natural than a parent protecting her children.

Betsy is a farm wife and stay at home mother of 4. Her daily dose of encouragement is Isaiah 40:11. When she is not feeding cattle and sheep, baking bread, or “saving lives daily” (aka: her own mother’s definition of motherhood), she is at her sewing machine.¬†

*Editor’s note:¬†Tetanus can follow any penetrating injury in a susceptible person.

Back To Top