An Earthy Mother sharing her experiences in today's world....

Monday, April 26, 2010

Guest Blog: Parenting without vaccines

By Sarah Sparkles- mama to a girlie aged 8, a boy aged 2 and one on the way.

Before becoming a parent I trained as a nurse and practised for some time, mainly in the mental health field; I loved my job but the politics were getting to me. It felt very strange administering drugs, then going home and using homeopathy! I have a disease called Perthes in my hip- this means essentially my hip is undeveloped and can cause me a great deal of pain- I've always been medicated in one way or another and I've always felt a resistance to it. When I was in my teens I started to look at other ways of managing health and I was convinced there just HAD to be another way to get through my life without codeine rotting my organs! I found a holistic practioner who was happy to realign my spine and pelvis (as I walk with a very slight limp which gets pronounced when I'm tired). My parents were convinced I was bonkers for a while; they let me try alternative therapies but were soon tired when I wasn't conforming to their idea of treatment, despite the obvious fact I was happy doing better and not half high on vast amounts of painkillers. I was very worried that by the time I was 30 my liver would pack up- never mind the fact that I was already taking massive doses at just 16.

My consultant was amazingly receptive as Perthes is not a common disease- his sole request was that I go in to be monitored for ways to help others too; he was brilliant and pointing me towards NHS services that are so called unconventional. At nearly 30 it's stabilised and I don't use any drugs and haven't for years.

When I left home at 17 I started to flower within myself; for so long my personal philosophies were suppressed and as time went on I found it really hard to nurse and be myself.

At just 19 I found out I was pregnant with my daughter- sadly things didn't work out with her father and we parted. Frightened and very depressed, I found the whole thing very hard to manage; the fear from the midwives that I'd not be able to carry to term because of the hip issue, the agonising pain as I progressed through my pregnancy, soon I was swamped with "help" and once again my notions were dismissed as madness.

They intially wanted to do a planned cesarean section as they just weren't sure how my pelvis would expand- if at all! I found an advocate to at least let my pregnancy go on and plan closer to the time of birth, I really was so sure I wanted to deliver vaginally. Three weeks before my due date my labour started. I was at home alone and very very frightened of all the tales about how it "had been the worst pain of your life/ the most horrendous day/episiotomies/tears/botched/forceps/placenta left in".... No-one had a good word to say about giving birth, I had planned to just let things roll and take on one pain relief option bit by bit- I had a TENS machine but within a few hours I had rung an ambulance- my contractions were on top of another. My daughter arrived on the sofa with just gas and air and I felt joy! It did hurt, I did tear a tiny bit- but it wasn't what they all said... I felt like a goddess!! We went to hospital and later discharged and I started to re evaluate my thoughts- what else were they wrong about?

I started to breastfeed but the help was poor; my mum truly finds it sexual and spent a LOT of time telling me not to do that in front of my father... My sister had never even considered there was another way to feed other than a bottle and so I had no support beyond a few weeks- soon my confidence slipped when she ws feeding lots; I thought I wasn't making enough- and then the nagging started that I wasn't being fair and I was being a martyr so the formula came out. I was feeding her in secret at night when no one knew. I didn't even tell the health visitor - I don't know why but I started to believe I was wrong, the saddest part is that if I'd have said something I would have known she was a HUGE advocate for breastfeeding but didn't need me to feel bad for my choice as she could see I was already teetering.

Then the vaccination schedule started- I didn't feel quite right.

I allowed oral Polio and then was persuaded to give the diptheria. This was at the time of the MMR debate and I had started back to work so I was privvy to how scared the NHS was; this made me question why they were so frightened if it was so safe. I started to look into it all and decided to hold off,she'd been SO ill with a tummy bug after the last vaccine I didn't want to carry on she has always been a tiny thing and couldn't afford to lose an ounce. Dr was not happy and voiced it to me but was open as well. We agreed to postpone. Indefinitely.

I never really said much to my parents knowing I'd be ridiculed, by now we were all but strangers.

Her dad and I had worked it out enough that we were on friendly terms and he still sees her often.

Time went on and my health visitor retired to be replaced by a lady that was pretty convinced I was a terrible mother and made it very clear. I did start to question myself,but by now my daughter was 3- a happy bright little thing had never been ill - the odd sore throat or a cough & cold type thing. That was enough for me. We moved house some 100 miles when she was 4- a new start, a new life. I'd had a late miscarriage and I needed to be away from everything, have some time out and move on.

Soon after we moved, my daughter caught chickenpox after going to a baptism. It was mild and a few days later she was right as rain! In 2008 my son was born at home. The midwife was great. He didn't even consider that I'd not breastfeed. As my son latched on for his first feed the midwife smiled at me and said "That is the best gift you can ever give your son." Family life settled in; Mark has always been very supportive of my choices and desires, simply making sure that everything else is done so I can just sit and feed. This time I was proud to shout out YES I'm breastfeeding- I don't speak to my family anymore. I just stopped calling, and so did they. I do often wonder what they'd make of my life!

I've had a few bad days where I'm knackered - I work as well by choice and necessity but I can look at my boy and know I am doing the VERY best by him. The health visitor popped by when he was 2 weeks old as is standard here; sadly I was hoping for 'wow, well done' and I got lots of 'how I could have more sleep and how selfish it is when dad can't feed' - I asked her to leave and not return.

Daniel has only been ill once- possible Rotavirus (he just breastfed lots, was sick when he needed to be sick, and I just worked with it- within a week he was back to normal.) I had shingles a little while back I was a bit worried as I was in my first trimester, but all was well. Daniel caught chicken pox from me - so mildly I only saw a spot in the sun! All he needed was some extra breastmilk and he was fine.(In the UK we don't vaccinate for chickenpox nor Rotavirus. ) Both children have been fit & healthy; both children go to groups and activities an awful lot and have never caught anything.

I don't really have a lot of friends; I find it quite hard to mix with people. I do genuinely enjoy my own company.

My girlie has 100% attendance record for school which she's very proud of and itching for a certificate!

I asked the midwife that attended Daniel's birth to be my midwife for this pregnancy as well he's quite happy to let me call the shots. He's never tried to persuade me to do anything and truly believes that we all have the right to informed choices. He was overjoyed when I said I was still feeding Daniel!

Overall I guess I've been quite lucky- I've met some resistance but not much.


  1. Wow! It sounds like you had some really big struggels in the past, but you got up and trusted your intuition and you've been a pionier in doing what's natural and therefore right! You're truly an ispiration and I'd like to give you a big cuddle and a pad on the shoulder and say: Well done! You did the best you could at all times and your children would be very proud of you and grateful for such a dedicated mother! Thanks so much for sharing! XO, Andrea

  2. You have a lot of courage! Thank you for letting us hear your wonderful story. I hope you have a beautiful birth, and congratulations!

  3. I'd like your thoughts on the following quote from The abc website:

    The New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission has taken the unusual step of issuing a safety warning against a group of anti-vaccination campaigners.

    The Commission says the group, known as the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN), has refused to include a prominent disclaimer on its website stating the information should not be taken as medical advice.

    Australia faced a whooping cough epidemic last year. More than 19,000 cases were reported and three babies died, including four-week-old Dana McCaffery from the NSW north coast.

    Paediatrician Chris Ingall treated the sick babies and says immunisation rates have fallen dramatically since the AVN became active in the region.

    "They spook many young families into believing that vaccinations are bad, that the risk outweighs the benefit, which is quite wrong," Dr Ingall said.

    "Ever since the AVN became active up here, the immunisation rates have fallen. We're the lowest in the state, we have pockets below 50 per cent vaccination.

    "Those are the pockets where the pertussis [whooping cough] outbreaks succeeded. Unfortunately it rolls out to the entire community, so everyone gets affected.

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    Thank you