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I recently had a conversation with a great friend of mine in which every single subject became an argument. Suddenly, we disagree on essentially everything about life, parenting, priorities, existence. A small conversation about the nutritional value of steel cut oats versus that of instant oatmeal leads to a comment about spanking her one year old leads to one about the recent news headlines and measles "outbreak". We soon got off the phone, with shock at how children make these very subjective opinions so cemented... the way children destroy our friendships with others.

I didn't use to feel this way. I have always been an extremely opinionated, stubborn and persuasive person; but I didn't always think that my mind simply couldn't be changed on a subject. It turns out, the more we argue something the more we believe in it. So these slight cracks of awareness turn into long winded arguments on social media... or perhaps even 6951-word posts on a random person's blog that will maybe get shared and shared and shared. And then those awarenesses lock in, completely different than where you started.

Some people would say I abuse my kids. My goodness, I would never lay one finger on them but my words are sharp and I am the tough one in my house. Because they can't seem to get their shit together before I lose my mind: they can't decide when it's time to give up on the outfit they had planned (at the very last minute, mind you) or when they need to just. stop. talking. or when it is just not the right time to pee in their sister's room. Right? They are learning but maybe they will hurry up if I just scream. I get it. But at least I don't hit them.

What I do know about my parenting style is that in the very fiery way I train them to live, I will fight for their right to do so- in every way imaginable. And I am certain that they know that, too. Mama bear is vicious. So when my 11-month-old 12 lb daughter was checked out by the doctor, and was told obviously I wasn't making enough milk, I knew not to just run out and buy something I knew nothing about. As it turns out (and after weeks of being treated horribly by her pediatrician), a new doctor suggested food allergies. An elimination diet proved allergy to dairy, gluten, eggs, soy and coconut. Within 2 months she was back on the growth chart. We rejoiced. But my tiny tiny child had not received most of her early vaccinations- and not in small part because she was failing to thrive and her symptoms didn't look like a healthy child- in large part because I was scared of how they would affect her.

We eased our way down the list of shots for years, as she outgrew allergies and gained her spunk, opting out of the most controversial or unnecessary ones for now. Maybe she will be stronger later. We decided not to give her the MMR vaccine- the one that is arguably most pressing right now- because it is incubated in an egg, her only remaining allergy. The doctor says: you can give it to her, we will just be on stand by with epinephrine. That doesn't work for me. Not in any way. We do not have medical exemption, we are lucky we have the choice not to give her a potentially life-treating vaccine. Until recently, we would have had a choice at buying each of the parts of MMR separately- Measles, Rubella, Mumps (separately NOT incubated in an egg)- but once sales for Rubella and Mumps dropped, that choice was taken away.

A child in our doctor's office dies within an hour of receiving a round of shots- from an immediate reaction in said office. It isn't on the news, it isn't in an email from the office, it's in the mouth of a family member that happens to work there. And happens to have had an opinion on our delay of vaccinations. Now, let me clarify, this perfectly healthy child DIED, and there is a federal court in place specifically to pay out on vaccine injuries. There is no avenue for the family to file a complaint with the FDA, there is no avenue to go to litigation with the pharmaceutical company that manufactured this vaccine.

This, my friends, is as big of a red flag as you can fly in a nation where you are literally responsible for making sure a person who BROKE INTO YOUR HOUSE does not get injured while he is there.

There is also no way to recall the vaccine that caused this injury because the lot numbers on vaccines are spread throughout the country to prevent pockets of incidences. Where are the parents of this deceased child? Where is the community outrage? It is not my job to find out and pull them out of the hell hole they must be in, but they exist, and they have been compensated what some court thought their child was worth.

I didn't set out to not vaccinate. In fact, both of my kids have had shots. I have set out to fight for my right to decide if it is a risk I am willing to take while I do the single most difficult job I have ever had- raising them. This war between anti-vaxxers and "responsible parents" is not really about herd immunity, it is about herd mentality. I get to decide what is right for the world because what you decide is stupid.

But guess what? I don't get to decide if you teach your child abstinence despite the mountains of evidence against it. I don't get to decide if you cut off part of your male child's penis. I don't get to decide if you teach him that a black man has no worth. I don't get to decide if you want to take away a rape victim's right to reclaim her body from a child she never asked for.

Yes, deaths from easily preventable diseases are at an all time low because of rigid vaccination schedules, but mandating vaccinations has never been a policy, and the numbers are still moving in the right direction. And if you still feel that this is a different case, that my child is endangering yours, realize what is actually killing children, and protect yours how you see fit.

The numbers below are the actual breakdown of current adolescent and child deaths.

The reality is, we need to do a little bit of a better job trusting other people to raise their kids in the very best way they know how; and we need to do a lot of a better job treating each other with enough kindness to recognize when someone is just doing the very best they can with what they have been given.

Lastly, I will not now or ever apologize for the way I protect my children. Once I became a mother, I became a little less a citizen of the world and a little more the keeper of their safety. And in the same way that I can identify that my long-term friend is furiously passionate about her role in the world, I will continue to encourage open and honest conversation with inquisitive people, and hopefully I can awaken others and be awakened in return.

What is your personal experience with vaccines and vaccine injuries? Have you ever made a choice that most people would not agree with? Can you hold space for others making decisions you cannot support?

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