Dear Anti-Vaxxers: Stop Harassing (And Bombarding) Grieving Mothers

by Leah Campbell
Scary Mommy and Ashley Spivey/Twitter

Unless you follow Bachelor Nation pretty closely, you may not know who Ashley Spivey is. She was a contestant on the show nearly 10 years ago now, eliminated by the 5th episode (meaning she was never a big player on her season). In recent years, however, Spivey has made a name for herself as an outspoken commentator on the show, even joining up with Reality Steve to host a weekly podcast.

Just this last week, Spivey’s followers cried alongside her when she announced that her baby CJ, whom she had been carrying for 30 weeks, had been stillborn, his cord wrapped around his neck.

It was the kind of news that deserved only compassion and love. But instead, Spivey later revealed on Twitter that she had been bombarded with messages from anti-vaxxers telling her the flu vaccine she had gotten a week before had been to blame for the death of her baby.

We “tried to warn you,” one said, referencing the attacks Spivey had received when she spoke out about getting the vaccine in the first place.

Forget that the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) advocates for pregnant people to get the flu vaccine in order to protect their unborn babies. Or that there is a wealth of data supporting the safety of receiving the flu vaccine during pregnancy. Let’s pretend we don’t know that contracting the flu poses unnecessary risks to both the pregnant person and their unborn baby (we do, and it does), or that it would even be possible for a vaccine to cause the cord to wrap around a baby’s neck (it absolutely wouldn’t be—the logistics of that don’t even make sense.)

What’s really disgusting here is that anyone would think targeting a grieving mother with “told you so” messages might be an appropriate response to an announcement of loss.

It’s disgusting, but not totally surprising. In fact, I’ve dealt with something similar myself.

Nearly four years ago now, my then 4-year-old daughter began experiencing a host of scary symptoms that landed us in and out of the hospital for months, eventually resulting in a diagnosis of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA).

JIA is an autoimmune condition that causes my daughter’s immune system to attack her joints. Left untreated, it can result in paralysis and extreme, ongoing pain. By the time my daughter was diagnosed, she couldn’t use her right hand at all, and she frequently had trouble with simple tasks such as walking up and down stairs.

Thankfully, with treatment (a weekly shot of a chemo medication meant to suppress her immune system), my daughter was back to herself within just a few months of diagnosis; running, jumping, playing and behaving like the 4-year-old child she was.

Of course, I struggled initially. It’s never easy to learn your child is going to face a lifetime of illness and health battles. I don’t know a single JIA parent who wouldn’t happily take on all the pain, trauma and tears that accompany this disease for their child if they could. I had to go through a grieving process of my own, reconciling my former hopes for my daughter’s future with this new reality.

Reminding myself, over and over again, that yes, this disease would make her life harder—but it wouldn’t keep her from living the life she deserves.

So you can imagine my frustration (hell, let’s go ahead and call it what it was: rage) when anti-vaxxers started reaching out to me to blame vaccinations for my daughter’s condition. They did it under the same guise as some of those who reached out to Spivey, pretending to simply care and wanting me to join their cause in warning other families not to vaccinate their children.

They were preying on my grief, hoping it would convince me of the evil nature of vaccines.

Unfortunately, they underestimated my ability to discern facts from fiction. Or my willingness to dig deep into science and research for the answers I was looking for.

What they didn’t know was that it had been almost a year since my daughter had received a vaccination when she first began exhibiting symptoms. What they couldn’t have known, but also never bothered to considered, was that it turned out my daughter (who is adopted) had a long family history of what seemed likely, upon further inspection, to be autoimmune joint issues.

And what they always seem to want to forget is that autoimmune diseases can be triggered by many of the illnesses vaccinations actually protect against. In fact, any bout of illness can trigger an autoimmune condition to someone who already has the genetic makeup for developing one. In my daughter’s case, she had a strange (unidentified) viral infection shortly before her symptoms developed. And every time she has gotten any illness since, she’s experienced a flare in her condition.

There is no doubt in my mind that even if my daughter had never been vaccinated, she would have eventually been diagnosed with JIA.

Of course, facts don’t matter to this crowd. They are so convinced of their own stance that any science, data, or logical explanation of the truth goes ignored by this group of vultures so eager to leap on the stories of tragedy shared by strangers on the internet, claiming those stories as proof of their own beliefs.

There are so many problems with this, it shouldn’t even have to be explained. These people don’t have medical degrees. They’ve exhibited a blatant lack of understanding of the science at hand. And they have no insight into the medical backgrounds of those they are diagnosing themselves as being vaccine injured.

For the record, this is one reason to look critically at any and all claims of vaccine injury. Because anyone can make those claims without proof or science to back them up.

In fact, that’s exactly what happened when I refused to join their cause, knowing my daughter’s history for myself and fully understanding vaccines had nothing to do with her condition.

These people then started flooding comments sections and sharing my daughter’s story themselves, using her as the example of vaccine injury she absolutely is not. To this day, that still happens. Just a few weeks ago, someone called my daughter vaccine-injured online, simultaneously shaming me for encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this year (as though my goal were somehow to harm as many children as I could, an evil villain wanting others to suffer as we have.)

“Read the inserts!” they scream, not bothering (or lacking the critical thinking skills) to understand the context of those inserts, instead just latching onto the scary words and holding them up to drive fear in anyone who will listen.

This is how these people work—pushing false narratives and unjustified panic to get others to join their cause.

And the thing is, to an extent I understand how they get there. Many anti-vaxxers have faced loss or the illness of a child themselves, and they’ve grasped desperately at straws for something to blame.

I get that. I get wanting to know what caused the tragedy in your life. Wanting something to blame.

But the data simply doesn’t support that desire in this case. And it definitely doesn’t support trying to push those beliefs on grieving parents, counting on them being at such a low that they just might join you and allow you to use their children as proof that you’ve been right all along.

Nothing about that is okay. And if you need the reasons why explained to you, you may be too far gone to be helped.

But for the record: It’s harassment. And it’s gross. And if harassing grieving parents is the only way you know to prove your point, it’s clear to everyone but you that you really don’t have a point at all.