Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Day I Caved

I am not a huge fan of Jenny McCarthy.

I don't believe vaccines caused my son's autism.

I can't stand fear-mongering and miseducation; I hate to hear about measles spreading through a town because people were afraid to vaccinate their kids.

Yet a few days ago, the night before Chloe's two-month appointment, I found my heart pounding.

I knew what would be coming. I could see the flyer posted in all the exam rooms at the pediatrician's office, the one that highlights the immunization schedule. Four shots. Each one not just one shot but bundles of shots. And then of course that very evening someone on Facebook posted yet another vaccine/autism link article, this one about monkeys developing autism symptoms after getting vaccines.

I looked at my baby. I thought about the way she smiles and coos. Already she tries to babble back at me. Already she smiles and vocalizes much more than Ethan did at that age. I've realized now that some of my anxiety when he was a baby came because I was not able to make a connection with him, despite my overtures.

Chloe already connects with me.

I looked at her looking up at me, and I could hear the voices of people I didn't believe in my head, voices on message boards and in books. She was perfectly fine until she got her shots. Then everything changed.

I tried to balance that with the voice of reason. Shots made no difference for Ethan. He was always different. I've always believed his strain of autism has an obvious genetic component.

But what if? The voice in my head questioned. What if there are genetics, but something environmentally flips the switch and makes the potential that's there become reality? Something like a bunch of vaccines?

And while I didn't believe it, a tiny part of me believed it...that tiny part that, in the midst of me loving and enjoying my baby, is keeping a hawk's eye on development to make sure things are on track.

In the doctor's office the next morning, my heart was hammering once again. The nurse came into the exam room. "Okay, let's talk about vaccines..."

"Is there any way we can split them up?" I blurted out. "You know, do half today and maybe the rest in a few weeks?"

"Uh, sure. We have people do that. You'll have to talk to the doctor about it," she replied.

When the doctor came in, there was no way I was telling him why. This is the doctor who thought Ethan was just fine and to "wait things out" when he was 18 months old and showing some troubling signs socially. This is an old-school guy who's not a fan of old wives' tales, overly emotional people, and making decisions based on fear rather than fact. I knew the lecture I'd get if I told him. I knew he'd carry on about how vaccines don't cause autism, and to that I'd want to yell:

I know. I know, I know, I know. But right now, today, I'm feeling kind of scared. And I know I'm being irrational. The last thing I want to do is be irresponsible. I will get my child vaccinated. I'm just having a moment here. You would too, you know. You would too.

Because that's just it. Such is life with having a child after having a child with special needs. I don't walk around in fear all the time. You can't live in that place. But you still have to be vigilant. Most of the time, that means being perfectly reasonable, like checking those milestone charts in the What to Expect books every once in awhile. But then there are days you are human. There are moments of weakness when you know you're not making sense, and you know what you're feeling is coming from the past, and you know you just have to wait it out without getting too drastic.

I didn't go into specifics with the doctor, and he didn't ask. We agreed: two shots that day, two in two weeks. The nurse did her thing, Chloe cried and fell asleep.

Yes, I know I caved. I gave in to fear. But this time, I refuse to beat myself up. Driving home I could almost hear an old therapist-friend of mine. She used to say that there are times when instead of being hard on yourself, you need to give yourself a virtual little squeeze on the back, and say in a gentle whisper, again and again: "It's okay, baby girl."

It's okay, baby girl. It's okay. This whole thing is hard sometimes. You're going to have moments like this. Just don't live in them. Don't stay there.

Chloe slept and slept and slept after her shots. Then she woke up and gave me one of those huge gummy smiles. I let the sigh of relief slowly escape me, and smiled back.

1 comment:

Lena B said...

I totally understand your concerns. My special child was the #2, but I could totally see myself having this problem if it was the other way around - connecting wiith via Love That Max linkup