On Parenting, Science, and Trust – and Choosing to Vaccinate

UPDATE: The Mother Geek Blog is no longer online, but the guest post I originally published there was reprinted on the Australian site Mamamia and the U.S. site DoubleXScience.

I had a guest post published on the The Mother Geek blog yesterday. If you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably seen it already, but I thought I would post a note about it here since not everyone is on Facebook. Actually, just about the only person I know who isn’t on Facebook is my mom, so this one is for you, Mom:) If you are on Facebook and haven’t yet “liked” the ScienceofMom Facebook page, I invite you to join the sciency parenting conversation there.

The Mother Geek is written by Jeanne Garbarino, a postdoc at Rockefeller University and a mother of two. I love the mix of writing about science, career, and motherhood on her blog, so when she invited me to submit a guest post for her Momday series, I jumped at the chance.

For my guest post, I chose to write about how being a scientist helps me to trust other scientists and medical professionals when it comes to my child’s health. When the scientific community overwhelmingly supports a parenting practice – like vaccinating our children – I’m on board. If you read my blog, you know that I question other decisions plenty. When it comes to the decision to vaccinate, I trust the science that it is the best thing for my child and for our community.

An excerpt… check out The Mother Geek to read the rest! (Link to Mamamia post here.)

Because I trust scientists and doctors, I didn’t question the CDC’s vaccination schedule. I didn’t pore over vaccine research or agonize about the decision to vaccinate my child. Instead, I trusted that the committees of experts at the CDC and AAP carefully make the best recommendations possible based on the data available. Maybe that is naïve. Maybe I am a lazy mother for not trying to become a vaccine expert before I allowed those first needles to enter my daughter’s thigh. Or maybe not.

What would be naïve is for me to think that I could become an expert on vaccinations.  It would be naïve for me to think that I could understand the vaccine field better than the committees of scientists and doctors who have made this their life’s work. I know how much work it took me to become an expert on one or two corners of nutrition and fetal physiology. It took thousands of hours of reading textbooks and journal articles, sitting in lectures, attending conferences, and struggling at the lab bench before I started to feel even a little bit comfortable calling myself an expert in any field. So I think it is naïve for a parent to think that she can become an expert on vaccines by spending some time on the Internet reading questionable sources, almost all of which have some agenda. I accept that I can’t know everything, and I have enough faith in humanity that I trust others who know more than me.