Dear Mark & Priscilla-
While breastfeeding my 29 weeker at the NICU just miles from you, the photo of Mark & Max at the doctor's was at the very top of my newsfeed. Our daughters were born the very same week just a few miles from each other. There is a strong possibility that they one day may play sports against each other, celebrate a music recital, or even be in the same class.
My husband Grant and I sit in this NICU day-after-day, night-after-night buzzing with beeps from heart rate alarms and air filled with tension as parents hope for the best yet prepare for the worst. But we can only take care of our own children. I NEVER want to see either of my daughters in pain or sick - especially from something that can be prevented. I also hope to never hear of anyone else's child suffer from polio, measles, Hep B, or any of the other diseases preventable by vaccination. Being a mother bedside and helpless is a feeling unfathomable - yet in the instance of vaccines - avoidable. Your simple act of sharing a photo of your daughter receiving her 2 month vaccines was so much more than a photograph to us, it was a call for humanity - a reminder that all too often we are focused on our selves and our own families, overlooking the impact of our parenting on society as a whole.
I did everything I possibly could to prevent my pre-term labor. A month away from my 1 year old daughter in an isolated hospital room on bed rest with daily injections of progesterone and frequent blood labs and experimental pessaries- yet I still gave birth to our beautiful Emerson Claire at just 29 weeks of gestation - 11 weeks early. The guilt of not being able to stop it weighs heavy on my shoulders. Since her birth, my husband and I have tirelessly been at her bedside working with doctors. The next few years of our lives will be filled with social workers and therapists to catch her up by kindergarten...if we are lucky. I sit on the board of the Prevent Cancer Foundation - prevention is near and dear to my heart - and is all about intelligent decision making. I couldn't prevent this pre-term birth, though I tried. But I will be empowered by medical advancements and vaccinations to protect my daughter in every way I possibly can.
I am sure you and Priscilla educated yourselves on the heated debate about vaccines, which is why I applaud you further for being so public with your decision. With my first daughter Grace, we had her at the Air and Space Museum in D.C. at just 8 days old - but with Emme we will have to be more cautious - we have even be advised to ensure she isn't around unvaccinated kids - and neither is Grace, her older sister.
Some of my very best friends have chosen not to vaccinate their children. I don't want to be the mom that says "My kid can't play with yours" but I might have to be - to keep my daughter alive. I respect each parent's choice on everything from bedtime routines, feeding preferences and the minutia of raising a child - but the vaccine debate frustrates me. Would you really rather risk having your child die of polio than potentially (even though scientifically proven there is no correlation) not have autism? I don't understand, but I am grateful for California's new vaccination laws.
As a mother of a medically fragile little miracle, it pains me that highly detailed medical research is ignored and so many parents, especially in California, do not get their children vaccinated. In my opinion, vaccination is not a personal issue, it is universal - it is about society eradicating deadly diseases and protecting the most medically fragile from harms way. I don't want to throw out the label "selfish", but it does come to mind when thinking about those who choose not to protect and prevent.
The vaccination debate makes enemies, but that is not my intention. I merely want to take a moment to applaud your family for seeing the big picture and leveraging your influence to help inspire parents to think of society as a whole - not just today, not just their family - but the future for every little one.
Hopefully Emerson will be getting her 2-month vaccines at her pediatricians office on Friday if we can get discharged after our 60+ day stint at the NICU. Like we did with Grace, we too will be taking a photo... not to start a debate, but to reflect upon when our daughters are grown- a testament of how much we care for them and their future friends. Thank you again, perhaps see you on the playground one day!
Kate Allen and Family