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Archive: Scheduled Guilt

May 1, 2009

James is due for his vaccinations soon so I thought I’d revisit THIS post: (Originally published 15/10/08) Infant vaccinations are horrible and I hate them. This is one opinion upon which James and I can agree. Yes, my son is now immune to a variety of infectious and often deadly diseases. But that is the only upside.

I have performed an unbiased survey and the results indicate that the immunization schedule causes the following to occur (with a zero percent margin of error):

Babies are stuck with needles meant for bovine injections.

I can’t, in the name of good science, claim conclusive results from my other observations but there is a strong correlation between these immunization schedules and severe parental anxiety and/or guilt.

When I arrived for the first appointment, James was barely two months out of the womb, still expecting I provide him with the same protection and comfort to which he was accustomed. I cradled him in the cold florescent lighting of the waiting room, reading mediocre Canadian magazines and assuring him that it wouldn’t hurt too badly. There can’t be that many nerves in a person’s thigh.

The health nurse led us to her sterile chamber with posters warning against SIDS and Flat Head Syndrome. I immediately felt guilty for not providing James with enough tummy time. Or maybe I provided too much. Or maybe both. I wondered if the nurse could tell. It was very likely she could.

I hoped she’d cut out the small talk – the “friendly” inquiries – and just do it. Instead, she pulled out the developmental charts and healthy parenting brochures, her finger dangerously close to Social Services on the speed dial. She probably had a set of foster parents waiting in the hallway.

“So…how are things going?” She was perky. Too perky.
“Good. Fine. Everything is perfect.”
“Are you getting enough sleep?”
“Yes.” This was the most outright lie I’ve ever told.
“Any feelings of depression or mood swings?” It was a trick question. I’m a woman. Postpartum.
“Nope,” I said. She raised her eyebrows and made a note in her file. Wrong answer. I started to sweat. She changed the subject.
“And how is baby doing?”
“Good. Fine. He’s perfect.”
“Is he able to turn his head toward the sound of your voice?” I forgot to practice that trick so I started praying he was hungry because that’s all that motivated him to turn in my direction in those days. The nurse placed James on his belly on the examining table, head toward the wall, and instructed me to speak to him. I got down on my haunches.
“Honey,” I whispered. “It’s mom. I know we never went over this but if you could just lift and pivot, just this once…” I peered over his shoulder to see if he was even considering. He was asleep.

“Did I mention he poops on command?” I asked. The first parts of James’ four month and six month appointments proceeded in a similar fashion: A nurse tested for developmental milestones (rolling over, playing patty cake, deriving a square root) and James failed miserably. Then I distracted her by mentioning that he’s almost potty trained. I fear for the day when this is no longer impressive.

“Well, no, he can’t count to ten but he always makes it to the toilet on time.” “He’s seven.”

So after I was fully emerged in the pool of motherly guilt, the nurse left to get the vaccines. James looked at me thinking, “Okay, well that wasn’t so bad. I didn’t even feel it.” The nurse returned five minutes later with three syringes which looked like turkey basters to me.

“Please remove his pants and hold him down with a firm grip….that’s good…okay, but I need to be able to reach him. And stop bouncing your leg. Now stop bouncing the other one.” James looked directly into my eyes and as the needles went in, I could see his neurons creating irreversible connections between this – the worst experience of his short life – and my face. As it turns out, there are many, many nerves in a person’s thigh.

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