Get in the sea, anti-vaxxers: Measles outbreak confirmed across England and Europe

I’m not going to be conciliatory here, sorry. Fuck you, anti-vaxxers.

The recent measles outbreak confirmed by government is largely due to teenagers whose parents refused them the MMR vaccine when they were babies.

The UK recently achieved the World Health Organisation measles elimination status. We had eliminated a disease that can cause death, vision loss, stillbirth or miscarriage in pregnant women, pneumonia and fits… and if you miss all these complications it is just a thoroughly unpleasant illness for anyone to have, let alone a baby.

Making the decision not to vaccinate is not a personal decision. You are affecting other people. You are telling the immuno-compromised (who can’t get vaccinations) and the vulnerable that you don’t give a flying monkey if you infect them with your petri dish kid.

So let’s talk about discredited physician-researcher Andrew Wakefield, and his frankly disgusting, false and fraudulent MMR research. The small study, published in 1998 caused a huge amount of trouble because it made a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, which is absurd.

The study was thoroughly debunked. The Lancet retracted the paper and Wakefield was stripped of his medical license. Autism researchers have shown decisively again and again that the developmental disorder is not caused by vaccines.

IT WASN’T EVEN GOOD GUYS, so stop already.

And honestly, I have a massive issue with people who see autism as something they would rather their kid die of measles than get. What?!

Having autism can be incredibly difficult for you and for those around you – but that’s more down to the way society treats neurodivergence (think: ew you are different what the hell do we do), rather than there being anything wrong with being autistic.

Vaccinations are a damn scientific miracle. In the past 50 years, it’s saved more lives worldwide than any other medical product or procedure.

I reckon anti-vaxxers would be a lot more pro if everyone around them was dying of highly contagious, voracious, painful diseases.

Must I remind everyone that the infant mortality rate used to be disgustingly low? If your kid got to 5 it was time to throw an amazing party because that little squishy was so vulnerable to everything around it.

History lesson for everyone. In 1956 the World Health Organisation decided it was gonna eradicate smallpox FROM THE WORLD. And you thought you had dreams. What a goal. And do you know what? They bloody did it. It was declared as eradicated in 1980. I am actually tearing up writing this because how amazing is that? Using vaccinations, a horrible disease that caused suffering and pain disappeared.

We can eliminate cervical cancer in women – did you know that? Through vaccination.

Professor Harald zur Hausen discovered that cervical cancer was caused by a virus, making it possible to develop a vaccine for the disease. He won a Nobel Prize for that in 2008. And now girls in school can get vaccinated against a type of cancer. My mind is blown by how awesome science is.

I have even less time for anti-vaxx conspiracy theorists. Minus amounts of time. RECLAIMING MY TIME from you, go think about something less dangerous.

The government is drugging us to make us more compliant, apparently. I am a pretty non-compliant person and I am up to date, so I tend to disagree. And you can’t fight the man if you are dead from a medieval disease, just saying.

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We have a breastfeeding problem: Mental health, support and the stigma around bottle feeding

A huge part of my post-natal depression was the guilt and feeling of total failure for choosing to give up breastfeeding at 6 weeks.

Bub had a rather dramatic emergency exit through the sunroof to come into this world, which he wasn’t pleased about. Which is fair enough really, but a tad demoralising when he wouldn’t latch onto me and have a drink in recovery. The midwife sighed after trying to shove a livid Bub on my boobs for a bit, said ‘failure to latch’ and scribbled something on a clipboard.

I’d just been through major surgery, had a lifetime of responsibility placed on my chest and within 20 minutes – feverish, arms heavy and numb from the spinal tap – we had already failed? Shiiiiiiit man, this was harder than I thought.

Bub was also supplemented with formula from birth as he was so massive (11lbs4/5kg)  and everyone was a bit worried about his blood sugar dropping quickly which would have been dangerous. There was also a tongue tie (sigh) and even after that was sorted, he would rather scream at my boobs then latch on to them. Apparently he was a 0-60mph baby, according to my amazing and kind lactation consultant.

After 6 weeks of that, and 2 bouts of mastitis, and not finding the time to pump exclusively cos errrr… I had a baby to look after, I quit.

By then my mental health was in a bin somewhere and I had no idea how to dig it out.

“Breast being best” made me feel like total, total shit and there were people along the way that made me feel like a horrible mum for giving up. There were also a lot of people who were dead supportive, but it’s always the criticism that’s the most sticky, isn’t it?

The huge weight you feel of wanting to do the very best you can for your child is partly why ‘breast is best’ hits you so hard. So early on in your relationship with your baby you are already having to admit defeat. You can’t give them the ‘best’, you’ve settled. Will this be the shape of stuff to come?

I was a mess trying to breastfeed. Unbeknownst to me at the time I had Post Natal Depression. One of the main symptoms for me was that Bub’s cries would rip through me. I can’t explain it well but every time he cried it was like some hideous combination of air raid siren or nails down a chalkboard, plus the emotionally crushing feeling that every sad wail meant I was failing him all over again (which, in hindsight actually made me a fantastic mother. I barely let him cry for the first 9 months of his life, it made me SO ON THE BALL, ha).

I am massively supportive of breastfeeding (I have a boycott Nestlé poster framed in my kitchen, by the kettle for all and sundry to see), which is probably why it hit me so hard when I stopped.

I fed him his last bottle of my expressed milk in some sort of tiny random ceremonial way, crying all over him (pleasant) and explaining that this was the last of the good stuff. Actually, it wasn’t, as I had another bottle of expressed boob milk in the fridge so I did the ceremony again – take two for the drama queen, not ridiculous at all!

So what to do? The figures for prolonged breastfeeding in the UK are abysmal, but you’ve either got to invest the time and money in helping women (not expecting them to work miracles whilst also keeping the house tidy) or accept it and be nicer to people who bottle feed.

The countries that have really high breastfeeding rates have a number of factors that contribute to this. Norway, for example, has paid maternity leave for around 49 weeks and extended paternity leave too, allowing women to stay home and be available without getting super poor or having to tidy up all the time. They have a load of help in the hospital, there is a massive breastfeeding culture there.

It makes for interesting reading, but it would definitely be difficult to replicate here.

Bub is no worse off from being bottle fed, that I can tell. He’s vibrant, annoyingly active and only has the constant snots because he goes to nursery (aka the Petri Dish).  Formula is a modern miracle of science, no doubt about it.

I don’t know what the solutions are (or how we would fund them), but there has to be a meaningful and kind way to encourage and support women on their journey, that protects their mental health whatever happens.

 

The master manipulator

Hey, nice to chat with you. I’ve had a few boyfriends like you, thankfully in the past. My friends and other people I care about have dated people like you, gotten married to you. You seem like a good guy, but you just want your life to be easy! Don’t we all?

I have some advice for you, that you probably won’t take, but hey – if I want to get it off my chest, you’ll sit there and nod and agree to get it over with.

Do not call a woman crazy for being upset or angry. Ever. It is never appropriate and it is always unkind.

Do not act like a woman is overreacting when they call you out. Do not be patronising, do not tell her to calm down in some shitty tone, or try and shut it down asap by pretending to be sorry in the least genuine way ever “ok ok, I’m sorry, just drop it”.

It’s controlling behaviour and you do it (probably innocently) for an easier life but in doing so you’re slowly ruining someone’s self confidence, and women are so, so often the victims of this behaviour. Ever wondered why a woman you know has crippling confidence issues or is dead insecure? Seems neurotic? High maintenance or needy? Bet you, BET YOU she has been in a shitty relationship before.

So, shit guy, I am sorry that the patriarchy has left you ill equipped to deal with your emotions and leaves you often perplexed when it comes to other people’s.

You’ve been brought up, like a lot of men, to think it’s weak to cry, to hide your emotions (unless it’s anger, because that’s dead manly), to not talk about relationships, emotions and your worries to your friends because it’s a bit much and you’d rather whack each other on the back and make jokes instead.

It’s just easier to zone out and shut it down, I get it. I genuinely am sorry, and I know it’s one of the causes of the totally tragic male suicide rates (the single biggest cause of death for men under the age of 45 in the UK).

You’re not alone, but there are lots of men who are unlike you. I have a lovely husband. I have lots of lovely man friends who would never ever be this guy.

But nice men, you don’t get a shiny badge for not being a dick unfortunately – otherwise I would quickly run out of tinfoil.

Call it out when you see it or hear about it. That was easy to write, it’s hard to do but it’s critical if you actually want things to change. Raise your sons to be respectful and your daughters to believe in themselves.

Anything less is a contribution to the problem.