Oh. My. God. I have to vaccinate my child.
This isn’t a trigger for the mommy war over whether or not to vaccinate. I’m pro-vaccination, end of story. My stress wasn’t about the vaccinations, although there is always a tiny slice of my mind that will forever think the worst (call it the downside of a wild imagination). My stress was over the pain about to be inflicted on my beautiful, sweet, smiling little baby. Right around the time they start giving you the, “I’m in love with you and it makes me so happy I’m going to giggle my socks off” look, you have to start jabbing them six ways from Sunday.
Can’t they just suck lollipops with drugs in them? Teenage ravers do. Why not sweet little babies? Just put some sugar-flavored medicine on a pacifier and let them suck it down. Don’t make them cry. Nothing that makes you feel better should hurt so much. (And this comes from the woman who had him circumcised in her living room at 8 days old. At least then I was allowed to douse a pacifier in wine and let him have as much as he wanted. Apparently Manischewitz is not medically approved for office use.)
“Mom,” the phone call began, “I need you to come with me to the doctor. Your grandson is getting his two-month shots.”
“You need me there for moral support?” she asked knowingly.
“Well,” she hesitated. This was the woman who turned her back on the bris. Sure she was a nurse in another life, one that didn’t involve her grandson, a major surgical procedure, and pain.
I cut to the quick the way any good daughter could. “Get over it and get to the doctor. I need you!”
She laughed. “Okay. I’ll meet you there.”
I spent the week before trying to ignore the tension building in the back of my mind. I warned my husband three times not to book any meetings the day after our son’s appointment, not knowing how he’d react or what we’d be in for. Finally, the morning came and I gave our son a good talk, as I always do before we do anything. I told him we’d have to be brave bears and that while it may hurt a little, diseases like polio hurt a lot more, so we’d just have to toughen up for our own good.
Suddenly, there he was in my mother’s arms in the doctor’s office. “Susan, look, he’s staring at you,” she beamed.
I smiled at his now-familiar stare, one that surfaced a few weeks ago and reminded me of the first time his father looked my way before we ever dated. His father had been shy; he waited to give me that comfortable, joyful little smile when no one else was around. Our son didn’t care. I got it anytime, anywhere. This boy hasn’t yet learned to be embarrassed by love.
I sang to him and reminded him we needed to be brave bears. When he sucked down his Rotavirus vaccine (the only one administered orally) I squealed with delight at his lack of spit up. How else do you reward a 2-month-old baby? You can’t give him ice cream and you’re still his favorite toy. So, you make a party of it.
Then came the shots.
“Okay mom, lay him on the table and keep his eyes on you,” the nurse instructed.
Jab one came, followed by a scream and a look of sheer terror.
In that instant all of my concerns, fears, worries flew out the window. I was Mom. I was on duty. I leaned forward, held his hand, stroked his head and nodded my own. “I know baby, it’s almost over. Mommy’s here, Mommy’s here,” I repeated it over and over again.
Thirty seconds and three more jabs later and we were done. The nurse helped me whip him up into my arms, cotton balls on his thighs and over to the chair where my mother helped me get a bottle into his mouth in under a minute.
He’d stopped crying. Looking from my mother to me he assessed the situation. “No more,” I repeated, followed by, “you’re so good, so good.” My mother and I again made it a party, albeit a calm and quiet one.
By the time we got to the car 10 minutes later, he was knocked out. I debated on stopping at a drive-thru for a milkshake, but decided against it. The Mommy Treat could wait for later. I needed to get my boy back to his nest and keep him safe.
For the next hour I checked on him every five minutes in between dinner and laundry, looking for any signs of funny breathing or the dreaded vomit. He just cooed his way through a deep sleep, deeper than he reaches most days. When he woke an hour later I leaned over and smiled.
“How’s my happy boy?” I asked gently.
He looked up and took me in, still half dazed. Then, like magic, a huge grin spread across his face.
“There’s my smiley happy boy!” I squealed.
We sang his latest favorite song, “Doe a Deer” in celebration. Shots forgotten, life was wonderful again. I forgot all about the milkshake. As it turns out, his smile is my best medicine.