This is a guest article by Silvio Aladjem MD
During my 40 years of obstetrical practice, I have always been fascinated by the process of becoming a mother and/or a father. Neither the mother nor the father to be, have been trained for such a role. Interestingly, the process of becoming a parent appears to be different for a mother as opposed to the father. That should not be surprising, since the mother caries the pregnancy for a full 9 months, thinks of the infant as a part of her own body as the baby moves and kicks more and more as pregnancy progresses. As birth approaches the mother’s brain is focused exclusively on the infant’s wellbeing and somehow she accepts her own demise, if necessary, just so the infant survives.
Nothing of the sort happens to the father to be. In fact, on occasion the father doesn’t even want to be in the picture and some are known to vanish. The majority, however, become fathers but not until the birth of the child occurs. Most seem to need the physical presence of the baby, need to see it, touch it, and hold it. In addition I firmly believe that the mother, somehow, transfers to the father that sense and feel of parenthood.
I have seen this process over and over. We all accept it as being the way it is, without questioning. That’s the way it has been for millennia.
As time goes by, parenthood evolves and adapts to the needs of the growing baby. But fundamentally its goals remain basically the same: protecting and nurturing the ever growing infant.
That’s why I was dismayed when a few days ago I read in a newswire from Germany about the death of a child, under two years of age, because of complications of measles. The child had not been vaccinated.
Vaccinations are not mandatory. Parents do not vaccinate their children for a variety of reasons, including cultural or religious. But most do not vaccinate their children because they are misinformed or not informed at all. One would think that the “protecting” in the parenthood equation is either misplaced or misconstrued when it comes to vaccination. Why would a parent leave the child without protection from diseases that may kill?
Let’s just think about it. Surely you either remember or have seen in books or movies, the iron lungs during the polio epidemic in the thirties. You must have heard of the past epidemics of smallpox that used to wipe out millions of people around the globe. Same with diphtheria, whooping cough and a score of others, including measles. Smallpox and Polio have been eradicated and most of the others are rare occurrences. Have no doubt they would be back were it not for the public health officials’ efforts and surveillance and vaccinations.
Vaccinations are not mandatory. How much of the population is vaccinated depends on what part of the World you live in. In the heart of the African continent, where tribes and witch doctors are a way of life, lack of education and superstitions guide their lives. Not too long ago at the height of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, health care people were looked upon as the cause of the epidemic and therefore were not trusted, or worse. Needless to say that vaccination programs leave much to be desired in such an environment.
What is the excuse in the Western World? Unfortunately it is not much different: misconceptions, mistrust as a result of such misconceptions, lack of education, and an unspoken omnipotent feeling of “it won’t happen to me”.
Am I saying that the vaccines are 100% safe? Of course not. Nothing in this World is 100% safe. Air travel is considered to be the safest way of travelling from point A to point B. Try telling this to the hundreds of families that lost a loved one in the recent series of airplane accidents. However, most likely you would not think twice about it should you want to go to Hawaii. Obviously there is an inconsistency in the logic here. In making the decision about vaccinating your child the lack of information/education and understanding of the facts pushes people into making negative decisions. Airplanes, cars or boats, are easier to understand. It’s an accident. Vaccines, on the other hand, are something we do not quite understand.
I wonder what are the parents of the little guy in Germany thinking. I am sorry for them but mostly I am sorry for the little child that should have been able to grow up and have a happy life, had it not been for the parents wanting to “protect” him without understanding what they were protecting him from.
SILVIO ALADJE MD, an obstetrician/gynecologist and Maternal Fetal Medicine (high risk obstetrics) specialist, is Professor Emeritus in obstetrics and gynecology at Michigan State University, College of Human Medicine, in Lansing, MI. He is the author of “10,000 babies: my life in the delivery room” now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other book stores. Dr. Aladjem published extensively in Scientific Medical Journals and wrote several textbooks in the specialty. He can be reached through his website, www.drsilvio.com.