Motherhood and the Pandemic Part I – The Big Grey Area & The Decision to Vaccinate

By Sarah Schwartz

I’m a breastfeeding mother. I got vaccinated. Because of the COVID vaccines roll-out, people have pretty much stopped dying. The statistics are irrefutable. These are facts. Read that again-
People have stopped dying!

But listen-up. Here’s another fact- there simply is not enough adequate science for many pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to feel safe regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.

So please think about this when you judge, pressure or berate pregnant and breastfeeding women. We aren’t in the same category as Joe down the street.

We don’t know if it travels out of our arm muscles into our breastmilk, we don’t know how it effects our babies in utero. We have no science on how it effects children under the pre-teen age in the long term. We can’t know this right now. Go try and find science for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers on the spike protein. You won’t find much. The little science that is out there is on small groups and short-term data. And no, this isn’t an antivax conspiracy theory.

This isn’t an antivax anything.

It’s just the truth.

So, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are taking a huge leap of faith. We are backed by the last year of anecdotal success stories. Large governing bodies that look after the health of huge populations will tell all of us to vaccinate because right now in this moment, the science of this vaccine is indisputably lifesaving on the population whole. However, we are still injecting our bodies with a vaccine that has characteristics unlike any other vaccine before. It’s a unique position pregnant and breastfeeding mothers find ourselves in. One unlike any other generation. Also choosing to vaccinate our children.

One of the reasons I started Mothering It Out (my blog of art and essays) is because us pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, are in a special category.

We are an understudied population medically (and psychologically).

Socially, we are at once invisible and highly visible in inaccurate ways in terms of media representation.

We’re portrayed as if motherhood is an effortless joyful fantastic experience all women want for themselves. Or, that it’s a horrible body wrecking postpartum depression and anxiety inducing experience.
Truthfully– it’s everything. All of the above, none of the above and just some weird random place in between- the big grey area.

We have the pressure to make the kind of life altering decisions that no other human has to make when we grow human life in our bodies and feed these lives with our bodies. We are scrutinized, held accountable and judged and looked at under a microscope from every direction. We put immense pressure on ourselves to do the right thing. We learned very early on, that our bodies don’t just belong to us- and our decisions don’t just affect us. They have intergenerational impacts. And we as matriarchs bear the brunt of the blame.

The pandemic has had extraordinary invisible effects on mothers.

Our inner thoughts fraught with life and death loops that keep us awake at night, as if the crying children’s wakings aren’t doing that enough. False information riddled and emotionally charged social media groups become our main resource for support and information but also stress.

Additionally, the position we’ve been put in to make this choice during one of the most emotionally vulnerable and stressful times in our lives cannot be discounted. It is a scarcely spoken about- extremely difficult choice for us to inject ourselves and lives we are carrying inside ourselves.

Labelled as an ignorant anti-vaxxer for having any sort of a critical lens, being sent well-intentioned relentless messages that “…The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and more than a dozen other medical organizations recommend that all pregnant and breastfeeding women get the vaccine.” The expectation that when we read that, we sit down and shut-up and get the poke. When the repercussions will be experienced by us and our children directly with a ripple effect to infinity and beyond. I’m all for trust, but not blind trust. This is a good way to be as mother. Especially when diligence to research reveals that science is scant, and contradictory for *our* demographic.

It should be said that, it is a remarkable and admirable choice we do make to get the vaccine. It is thankless like so much of motherhood in general.

Here’s where I, as a mother, stand.

I believe we should be leaders and role models. Not just to the population at large that we are in a precarious interconnection to- but to our children who will learn from the type of humans we are.

It is an ethical responsibility of the individual to protect the health and wellbeing of the collective if the consequences to the individual is minute compared to the catastrophic costs to the whole. We are all interconnected. We are one planet, we are one people. That said- if the individual is harmed irreparably by vaccination they have the right to protect their health.

We are polarized in this vaccine debate because the interpretation of “personal harm” is wide open. Misinformation and fear mongering is an epidemic. Mistrust of governing health organizations is widespread. Alternative views have grown into a “pro ‘other vaccines’ but anti covid vaccine” counter culture.

The truth is though… unless we have a coordinated collective action as a population together we will not be able to stop the spread of this virus. Everyone’s personal rights to freedom will be quashed. Those who have the right to not be exposed and potentially killed by a deadly virus, and those who see the vaccine as too risky a measure.

We are already seeing case counts, hospitalizations and deaths go way down with very few, rare negative side effects to vaccine recipients. Vaccination is working. The covid vaccine is indisputably saving lives. It is because of the courage, honour and respect toward fellow members of our one race (the human race) that more of us haven’t lost our treasured loved ones or perished ourselves. Despite aversions and anxiety about the unknowns I myself have aligned myself with the majority, taken a leap of faith and been vaccinated. At the end of the day I simply couldn’t see how we could have a vibrant, healthy, free and prospering human race if we as individuals didn’t think about how our personal choices effect entire populations. For better or for worse.