a former anti-vaxxer’s guide to reaching vaccine hesitant folks

When people imagine the types of people that would be hesitant or outright against vaccinations in general, they seem to have a picture in mind.  

Usually they picture a mom, a “Karen” if you will, who is all about the non-GMO, organic, no chemicals sort of existence for their kids. They picture someone entirely anti science and educating themselves by Dr. Google about the dangers of vaccines. They picture someone taunting rhetoric about how it causes autism, and how kids are sicker because of the chemicals and Big Pharma.

This stereotype character is the target of shame and venomous sentiments to remind everyone that this character should be shunned from society. They say that any child isn’t fully vaccinated should be out of the public school system. This character of a person is sad excuse of a parent and if they had done their research, they would know there is One True Way. If you didn’t believe the science, you were a heretic.

I don’t think it should come to any surprise that this approach does not turn minds and hearts. Using shameful attacks doesn’t somehow bring people to the light. I can say this, because , up until early 2020, I was, in one regard, part of the group in question. The one that they thought was ignorant, selfish, stupid, and anti science. I was a parent who regarded vaccinations with unease and unrest.

Granted, at this point in my journey,  I fell somewhere in between anti vaccine and pro vaccine, and to that end, that meant feeling unwelcome on either side. I was not firm enough that vaccines were entirely horrible and not a proponent enough to satisfy to steadfast pro side. My kids weren’t unvaccinated (they had some as babies), but not vaccinated enough by public health requirements for schooling. They required an exemption to attend school.

This is why I saw myself as vaccine hesitant, and this group of people is far larger then society realizes. I believe this is largely in part of we are too scared to speak up. We all have stories that may have a common origin – it wasn’t entirely the convincing done by the anti-vaccination movement that got us here but rather the dismissiveness of the medical community when you even dared ask questions that added fuel.

It wasn’t Jenny McCarthy, fear of autism, Big Pharma that was the smoking gun that led us down a different path.

It was fear. Fear of screwing up as a parent and wanting to make sure we didn’t misstep. For some, it leads you down one path, for others you end up going another way.

I’m not anti science at all. I love science – I love the wonderment, the constant state of questioning and thinking, and re-thinking. That’s what I believe is at the heart of it.  I wasn’t anti vaccine prior to my first born but I wasn’t pro vaccine by my the time my other child came along 2 years later. It was 2 years of experiences and rabbit holes that ended up leading a journey of vaccine hesitancy.  

Consider the messaging – look at the research and the data and learn!  Ask questions. Talk to your doctor. Yet, when you do, you are brushed aside, shown irritation that you are even asking these types of questions. In my case, my doctor answered my concerns with just a blanket statement that it was just reckless not to vaccinate.

So off you go to do your own research – and depending what rabbit holes you encounter, you may come across compelling articles from even medical professionals themselves who are adding their voices to the anti-vaccine movement.  It’s easy at this point, to feel lost.  

The last straw for me was when I was pregnant in 2010 and was aggressively told by my doctor that I should get the H1N1 vaccine. One that was not tested on young children and pregnant women. My concerns were again, dismissed.  

A close friend also had an adverse reaction with one of her children to initial vaccines so I just felt so scared that that could be one of my own kids. What if, that was one of mine?  Like I said, the fear of messing up as a parent is big. There are conflicting evidence everywhere and people all seem to have the “right” answer. This is just another notch.

Full transparency – I was I hard core at first. I went down the rabbit hole big and considered non-GMO, making everything organic with no chemicals and was on Google/YouTube a lot.  I resembled to some degree, that stereotypical anti-vaxxer.

My ex husband was on board with this too but I think he was in the same boat as me. Just scared.

Over the years, it started to wane in intensity, and I came to exist more into the grey space I have referred to as “vaccine hesitancy”. I came to find out how many people navigated this space and how we just felt…..lost. Unsure. Unwelcome all around.

It took 2020 to change all that with a pandemic and the love and trust of a partner, who would shift the path that had taken years to cultivate.

In the end of February 2020, I had my folks over and my partner whom I had been dating for a few months at this point. He was a doctor and I had yet to tell him about my thoughts about vaccines. Admittedly I was terrified.  What if he had the same thoughts as the other doctors? What if he thought my fears and questions were silly?

The pandemic was just in it’s infancy and my mom had made a slip about my position on vaccines and since I thought he picked up on that, I figured now was the time.

That night, over dinner, we talked for hours. I had the privilege that I hadn’t had years ago – trust, privilege and care. He listened without judgement, validated the fearful feelings, addressed the questions and brought perspective. You see, numbers and data aren’t always enough. Putting them in perspective in such a way that it clicked struck the needed chord for me.

Trust. That’s the elixir. That’s the magic to will have people reconsider.

If people don’t trust you, they won’t open up. Everything you say won’t hit its mark at all.

Since then , I felt that hesitancy fall away. When the COVID vaccine comes my way, I’ll be up for it and I’m glad that I had the opportunity to be heard and understood instead of being attacked and shamed. That’s what changed for me.

If you want to reach a vaccine hesitant person and/or cultivate a presence that feels safe for vaccine hesitant people to reconsider, here are some suggestions that I know worked/would have worked for me:

  • Stop the public shaming of anti-vax views
    You are alienating vaccine hesitant people and adding fuel to staunch anti-vax proponents who will use that to their advantage. Instead, offer perspective, hope, time, and patience. Check out this thread for an example:

    https://twitter.com/SabiVM/status/1336142899566833665
  • Reinforcing stereotypes doesn’t work
    In  conjunction with shaming,  end the stereotyping of anti-vax folk. People are not anti science if they question and have concerns. This judgement will close people off.  Remove what you think constitutes people who are mostly likely not going to get vaccines. It is far more diverse than you realize.
  • Don’t be afraid to be inclusive with risk of both the vaccine and the disease.  
    I think a lot of medical care professionals are scared that if you even mention risk with vaccines, you will turn people off from getting them.  I can tell you first hand , that that’s not always true and it is far more dangerous to ignore the presence of risk or making it seem that there is no risk at all.  Like any other medical decision, it’s beneficial to know that there is risk. You don’t need to know every single possibility , of course, but some coverage would be beneficial.

    For example, I was aware of Guillain-Barre syndrome was a possible risk in some vaccines but my partner also made me aware that the risk of that was higher if you got the disease itself. That is worthwhile knowledge.

    You see, we don’t see a lot of these diseases much anymore and we heard the stories of our parents who have gone through the usual childhood diseases and came out fine. So for a great deal many hesitant people, they think:

    “Well, my parents had that and now have lifetime immunity with know ill effects so what’s the big deal?”  

    Don’t brush these questions aside. There is risk, like anything else in medicine, but it’s putting in perspective what the greater risk is.  Talk about what common reactions look like, and what it is happening in the body when this happens. Talk about what things to look for in case there is an allergic reaction.  
  • Be mindful of personal and systemic history
    Some people have had very adverse relationships with doctors that have violated trust or medical professionals that have just ignored their patients. There are people of colour and Indigenous folks that have suffered at the hands of medicine and science and are legitimately wary.  

    Experiences shape us.

    Meet people where they are, understand their past and their history and come to them with that in mind.

    For example, with the new COVID vaccine, talk about the trials and the studies. Look through their lens and cultivate a perspective with that mind. What types of ethnic groups were included in the trials? What were the adverse effects through these groups, etc.
  • Know when to let go
    Not everyone will be convinced but do not change tactics. Do not suddenly become hostile towards them, or others because you did all this and someone did not change course.  Be steadfast with patience and building foundations of trust.

  • Be supportive when even a small change happens
    For many of us who were on this path, it didn’t happen overnight and changing course won’t happen overnight either. People may just want to start slowly. If they/their children need quite the catch up, let them do it on their own terms without judgment.

    Someone may decide that there are still a few they aren’t entirely comfortable with getting yet. In my case, that’s the HPV shot. For others maybe it’s the chicken pox, or hepatitis, or even the flu shot.

    If someone was vaccine hesitant before and is reconsidering, stand behind them because moving forward is still moving forward. “All or nothing” approach would just end up pushing people away whom you have built this trust with.

  • Advice for medical professionals
    I am lucky that I have a partner who is patient, caring, trusting as both a partner and a doctor. Sadly, not everyone has that opportunity.

    Doctors – I can appreciate that you don’t always have the time to have an hours long conversation with your patients about this. I know how the system is.

    At the same time, people may feel more welcome elsewhere where their concerns will be reinforced to match a different perspective. I suspect you don’t want that.

    So, even if you can’t answer all the questions right then and there, at least let them know that you get it. You understand. Don’t push them, be aggressive or shame. If they need time think, support them. That’s a great time to maybe provide material or encourage community resources that go to the root of fears.

    I know you believe on what vaccines can do and the benefits they have. I also know dismissivness and pushiness will only serve to possibly drive those away that may be on the fence. Approach those situations with a bit more care and I assure you, that you may see more people be less hesitant.

In summary, the next time you promote hateful and shame inducing messages against anti-vaccination folks, please consider that it’s not doing the good you think it does.  I’m sure it feels nice to roast them and poke fun, but let’s be realistic……those who are deeply rooted will not change course and those on the fence are not going to fall on your side because of it.

Forcing people into your way of thinking will only backfire therefore, instead make a foundation that people feel open enough to reconsider. There are a lot of people you can reach out there with just a different approach. From this pro-vax turned anti-vax turned vaccine hesitant turned vaccine supportive, I know that this can work.  It’s worth a shot. 😉   

Just Visiting

As someone who is known to fiercely proclaim the idea of autonomy, non-entanglement, and organic relationship building, this is going to be a confession that is hard to admit to. I contemplated if I should even make this post. I feared:

Would my partners think I’m unhappy with what we have?
Would it seem like I’m a hypocrite as an RA/SoPo minded individual to admit any of this?

Regardless, it’s important to get out there. I’ll take that chance because maybe someone else may feel the same confliction.


You see, I never thought I wanted a nested home life after my marriage ended until I met someone who challenged many parts of me. Parts I believed to be so true to what I thought I wanted. The irony was that I now wanted that very thing that I didn’t think I wanted before, and it was because of someone it wasn’t possible to have it with.

So, after this realization and longing came to the surface, it also brought with it further observations that never dawned on me on their gravity.

As a SoPo, it can feel like:

I’m the one whose partners “vacation” from their lives to come see me, have a whirlwind of a time, then say goodbye until next time.

I’m the one who doesn’t want to rock any boats because time and space is valuable, and sparse.  

I’m the one that won’t get asked about at family functions, because, I’m not seen as “family”

I’m the one who is visited. The one left behind.

It’s not “See you later” , it’s “Until next time”.

************************************************************************

I’m sure nesting partners out there could give a list too and I recognize where it would come from given I was a nesting polyam partner in my life before. I know what that felt like. 

Thing is – those daily quirks, believe it or not – that’s a privilege. You get to be the full authentic self. People get to see you for everything that makes up who you are.

Sure, if I’m feeling down, I lean into my partners and my friends and they are very supportive. There is , though, something to be said for that moment where you walk into your safe space and there could be a hug waiting for you as you need to melt. There is something reassuring about that peace as you drift to sleep with someone close by. Unexpected. Unscheduled. Because the space is home. To more than just yourself.

Sigh. Sometimes, I miss feeling that I had help and that everything didn’t need to fall on me. I miss cultivating a space with diversity and not just my own perspective. I miss not just being a date night. I don’t want the excitement just be about the fun but the eagerness to be present through the tears, the exhaustion, the mistakes I’m bound to make.

I recognize there are elements of envy that exists when I see what my nested partners have. I’m not their home. They are just visiting. And then, they leave. But I’m still here , alone.

Yet, I am far from lonely. My heart is full. I know that I am loved.

I wouldn’t love any other way. Loving fully, openly, and without borders is who I am.

I’m conflicted because I know about non-attachment to outcome. It makes sense to me and I talk about it all the time. I feel frustrated at these feelings because I don’t want them to invalidate the beauty of what I do have. So add to the bouts of sadness, sprinkles of guilt along with it and you have a recipe of feeling down right torn.

So, what can I do?

First, I am letting them have their space. I’m writing this all out for the universe as well. It needs to get out of my head. This post, is trying to achieve that.

Second, it’s coming to terms that the price of admission as a SoPo leaning person who loves people who are nested, is “just visiting”.  

For many SoPos, that’s just fine and if you would have asked me months ago, I would have said it was just fine. But there has been a part of me awakened that I can’t deny and makes me wonder, if it had always been there under the surface; hidden under my own convincing over years that it was who I was.

Someday maybe there will be an opportunity to have that. Having that hello/goodbye kiss and hug each day. Seeing me at my best – and worst. Not just a visitor, but a shared place to call home.

In the meantime, I know I feel blessed that those I love experience that for themselves with their nested partnerships and I am honoured that they do want to share their time and love with me when they can. I appreciate what is there, what is available.

This is a new stage for me, a new realization so with that will take some work and I got this.

Gift of Letting Go

This past weekend,  I went to see the acclaimed movie “A Marriage Story”, which , was quoted from cast member Adam Driver as a “Love Story About Divorce”. A few weeks after my own divorce finalized, I suspected that I was in for a weep fest. Thankfully my awesome metamour knew that all too well and stocked up on napkins.

This movie did not disappoint. I felt like I watched my own journey played out on screen. I had never cried that much from a movie before. Ever. That profound pouring of emotion came from remembering the pain, recognizing the elements of trying to let go and the hopefulness of a future that I am currently already living.

To be honest – I was already ready to kick off another blog post about something more inline with my usual stuff. Relationship anarchy, non monogamy, etc. However, I had to stop instead and get this out before I shift my focus again to the now. There were so many things I learned at the end of a decade long partnership that ties in so much to how I feel about societal messaging on relationships. I need to share some pivotal thoughts that maybe worthwhile to anyone else going through the same thing.

We navigate in a society that perpetuates the notion that people are easily giving up on relationships for something better; that no one is willing to put in the work into relationships to make them work.

Longevity is the pedestal to aim for, the perceived sign that a relationship is successful and strong.

Relationships that end by choice are a “failure”.  

Messages like this contribute to a shitload of guilt and have us staying in partnerships way past their evident expiration date.

Deciding that a relationship has reached it’s endpoint is NOT easy. Unravelling a relationship is NOT easy.

I felt so guilty wanting to let go that it took half a year to come to that point where I knew it needed to happen. I didn’t want to see him hurt at my doing so I peeled off the bandaid slowly. Looking back, that caused much more pain than I had tried to avoid doing.

Listen, coming to the decision to end it – was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make. This was the father of my kids, and my husband of 10 years. I spent nights crying with the anxiety that I was torn between what I knew I needed for my happiness and the guilt that I was “giving up”.

Even more so, the next few years of navigating divorcing, trying to make ends meet as a solo parent financially, custody, and those grieving feelings was not the easy route. BY FAR. 

These were the hardest years.

But…

They led me here. Leading an authentic life. Having a routine that I’m settled in and engaging in love and life on my terms. Instead of pouring in my effort and labour into a relationship that had reached its natural end, I directed it towards letting go of what was and building a life for me. Letting go was a gift to us both, while then it was hard to see it that way, it is now with a different lens.

I didn’t quit my marriage. I didn’t give up. By staying, that would have meant sacrificing my own growth and worth for the sake of someone else. By staying, I would have failed myself.  Everyone in a relationship are still individuals who happen to be building something together.

You can still love someone for who they are and at the same time, know that being together, it just doesn’t fit. I know I will always love him. I didn’t spend that long of a time out of pure obligation. I remember the reasons we fell in love, I remember how I adored him and valued the space and times we shared together. But I also saw how we began to grow differently and how we responded to this led to our suffering. We were fighting to hang on to something that wasn’t the same as it was before and never was going to be. I knew I had to let go.

I see now how the fighting to hang on was so entwined with societal messaging. Projection of guilt and fear from years of internalized messages of fighting for and working hard to make a marriage work.

It seems so clear now. Even years later, how much of a role that played. Bring in worries of what friends and family might think and it adds to the despair.

I wonder if I would have done anything differently given the chance to go back, with the perspective I have now. I think – no, I know –  I wouldn’t. Looking back at how that transpired has given the gift of knowledge of how to conduct my relationships going forward. Making those mistakes, seeing those fears and feelings of guilt as they are with my eyes now means that I can approach transitioning relationships in a different way. There is opportunity to have relationships part ways in terms in such a way that everyone involved is the same or better than when they came into the relationship. That is my goal.

I remember some of the things I asked myself then which ultimately began the road to finalizing that end. I’d like to share those:  

Why Are We Struggling?

My ex husband and I separated for ½ year in 2014 and came together again epically in a new honeymoon phase. Without really addressing we split in the first place, we rode on the wings of a relationship reboot lasted for a short while before we were up against the same challenges.

 We decided about maybe splitting ways again, and lo and behold we jumped on another “we are doing great” wave.  It only took a few months before the same things cropped up again. They weren’t things that could necessarily be fixed – we were growing in different ways yet felt if we just kept up with this reboots, it would keep us going.

After that essentially I began to withdraw on different levels and couldn’t bring myself to do the final “this is it”, until I knew, I had to.  

I knew it was the end when it was the same reasoning for 2 years yet neither of us could bring ourselves to finally cut it loose. The guilt and internalized belief of needing to work on a marriage no matter what  made it last much longer than it should have.

What Am I Fighting For?

I can’t speak for him, but for myself, I think it was an avoidance of being the villain and causing pain. I wanted to make things work so I wouldn’t feel that I was hurting someone. I am a recovering people pleaser so I was all about ensuring that others were happier at my expense.

That was no different here. I struggled to find a way to be happy myself without hurting someone else. I then knew that no matter what, by letting go, it was going to hurt him. Unavoidable.

I risked being seen as the person giving up. I risked being labeled the quitter. But had to for my own well being.

Why Am I Here – Does this Spark Joy?

Ok, yes, the whole spark joy will have folks snickering at the cheesiness but in this case, there is a lot of merit to say that if you can’t hold a relationship close to you and say it sparks joy, whatever are you there for?

Sure, relationships aren’t meant to be 24/7 joy machines but if you are spending much more time trying to work on your relationships than the effortless joy that comes with being with someone, it begs to ask yourself what keeps you there? Obligation? Guilt?

I definitely wasn’t in a spark joy mode. It was fingers in a dam.

dike, finger, cartoon, dam, Mike Luckovich



Do I Like Who I Am In this Relationship?

A big a ha moment for me as well was when I realized that I didn’t like the person I was in this relationship nearing its end. It started bringing out the worst in me and I felt it was more draining than enriching.

I began experiencing feelings of resentment and I was in a state of anger a lot. This wasn’t the person I wanted to be and I wanted to be in a relationship where I felt my best. Disagreements and clashes happen, but overall, I wanted to be at my best to navigate whatever came my way.

I wanted to feel appreciated for who I was for all the quirks that came with it. I wanted to have relationships where I could be free as I was and loved for who I was in all the complexities. Sometimes, though, when we are with someone for a long time, it clashes with how each person grows. We may see that that who we are now is no longer valued/appreciated by those we love and vice versa.

What is the Worst Case Scenario If It Ends?

For many folks,  hanging on much longer than one should, stems from fear and not wanting to experience loss. I wonder how much it’s about losing the person themselves or just being alone. Results may vary, I’m sure.

This one helped in so many ways and it’s something that I encourage anyone to do even if you are in a blissful , everything is great relationship.

What is the worst that could happen, if this ended?

I contemplated this by playing it out. It would mean having that hard conversation, seeing someone I love be hurt immensely, doing an incredible amount of work to de-tangle finances, living space, kid’s schedule. It would mean I would having a single income to support myself and my kids. It would mean changing a work schedule to accommodate when the kids are with me.

It would mean getting a divorce at some point and all the costs involved with that.

But….

If that’s the “worst”, that’s workable. Hard ? Yes? Stressed? Yes!! But if the worst part is just logistical unravelling and there is a point where it levels out, would it be worth it if it meant:

  • I have the opportunity to lead an authentic life
  • I can be myself unapologetically
  • A future on my terms
  • Being open to be loved fully and to be a better version of myself

By staying, it would mean I’d avoid the unravelling of every day entanglements, but would living a life for someone else. It would be about suppressing who I was and what I could give for the sake of making it “work”.

So, with that in mind, I realized that either I can put in the labour to get myself to a place of peace, or lose myself to avoid the labour.

If holding on causes more pain the pain you go through to let go, the answer seems clear.

This is only my story and I’m sure everyone out there will work through transitions or hanging on to relationships using whatever tools they believe works best for them. This is what I learned and in the past 3 years post marriage, they have helped me approach relationships and transitioning relationships more healthily. Granted , I still mess up and I’m still learning new ways to try to be better. Life is a journey of learning that never ends.

I would like to leave you all with this though as something I firmly believe. It’s not a failure to setting someone you love free. It’s recognizing that while you can love someone for who they are, it’s an act of kindness to let them be that person without you if it means you both can find peace. Love isn’t enough and that’s OK.  Let’s let go of the notion of victims/villains, failure/success, longevity and rather grasp on to whether the connections we make, make us feel alive and enriched. For however long that may be.

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I’m Not Easy to Love

This is a public service announcement to those whom I have yet to open my heart to, let my guard down, and get all gushy with. Ready for it???

I’m not easy to love.

Nope. Not at all. You have been forewarned. Run away if you have to. I get it.

If you are still here, why don’t I tell you more.

Think of ………..cats.

Cats are creatures that are fiercely independent and badass. They play by their own rules, live life on their terms and know how to tell you (usually with nails and/or teeth) what their boundaries are if you exceed the maximum allowable strokes.

However, even though they have this level of independence that is ferocious, they still want to be around you. They melt your heart when the choose to cuddle with you. You can’t help but smile when they meow to be near you.

Even when they knock shit off of tables, you still LOVE them precisely for who they are. Not what they do for you.

This isn’t easy. I’m sure I’ll get eye brows raised from fellow kitty owners about it not being easy but when you are trying to get an essay out and Mr. Wiggles decides to plop on your laptop inconveniently, you are immediately torn between love and irritability.

Sometimes they won’t want to be pet. Sometimes they will need some space. That’s still a part of their wonder and joy.

How does this relate to what loving me is like?

Being a relationship anarchist and solo polyamorist (SoPo) means that I live my life on my own terms, and hold fast onto my values regarding autonomy. While I’m not looking for relationships that prescribe to the relationship escalator or hierarchical configurations, there is so much room for meaningful connections outside of the socially accepted narrative.

Much like our furry companions, I am independent, enjoy my own space and am all about the boundaries and asserting them (Admittedly, as a recovering people pleaser, I’m trying to get better at that!).

But I also love to lean into you, let my guard down, and like a cat exposing its belly – being vulnerable and open. I love being touched, affectionate, understood, comforted and SNUGGLED!

I love exploring, being silly, and playful. I love being open to possibilities and try to be fluid with whatever comes along.

Doesn’t sound like that would be considered – hard?

Stay with me…..

I’m not easy to love because loving me means that you are loving someone that doesn’t need you yet chooses to connect with you.

I’m not easy to love because loving me means that you won’t be my one and only. You won’t be my complete best/friend/soul mate/lover package. Loving me means understanding that you are special to me because of who you are, not because of a role in my life.

I’m not easy to love because I will challenge you and dig deep. And hope you will do the same.

I’m not easy to love because I refuse to be someone who is your personal polyamorous teacher. I won’t be your personal therapist. However, I will listen, comfort and be present.

I’m not easy to love because I believe in mutual enthusiasm and consideration. I won’t be the only one showing up.

I’m not easy to love because “I know I’m Superwoman, I known I’m strong. I know I got this cause I had it all along”

Essentially……(sorry , had to…..)

Thanks Kelly C. My anthem.

As a solo person, it’s easy to ghost me. Forget me. Fade me out. Reach out only when it suits or when you want something from me. Many times, it’s wanting access to my body under the guise of spending time together.

SoPo people are so often those who are seen as relationships of convenience and are easily discarded when it’s too ….hard.

So, if you want to love me – bring it on. It won’t be easy but it will be worth it.

Stay Tuned – Blog and Podcast in the Works!

My podcast is coming September 2019 but I’m also getting the blog, YouTube channel and everything in the works now. Keep coming by to see the changes as they happen over the next few weeks 🙂

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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