Don’t get me wrong: I think immunizing my kids is the responsible thing to do for them and for society. But I still hate doing it.
There was one particularly gruesome occasion when we learned Patti’s 4-year-old "well visit" would include "three shots." I suggested the nurse might want to call out for reinforcements. She looked at my tiny daughter in bemused disbelief. Then she approached us with the syringe and the wrassling commenced.
She called for back-up.
I was seated with Patti in my lap, my arms wrapped around hers. One nurse held the syringe and the other held Patti’s hands. Patti shrieked and fought bravely, causing the nurse to stab her own finger, much to my horror and humiliation.
As the four of us continued our vaccination tango, Patti’s shrieks became demands: "I don’t want three shots, I don’t want three shots!" After the first was completed, she continued screaming, but had enough presence to edit herself: "I only want one shot! I only want one shot!" After the second, she changed to, "I only want two shots! I only want two shots!"
But alas, Patti got her three shots, I got massive mommy guilt and the nurses got the heck outta there!
I was left alone with Patti and her "look." She glared at me, her face soaked with tears and red from screaming, as if I had kicked her dog … after shooting it. I wondered silently how it was that I never made my husband experience this little delight of parenting.
Always the contrarian, my second daughter Suzi has been amazingly brave about vaccinations. She looks a little annoyed when the needle goes in, but as long as it comes out, she’s fine, bless her calm, non-guilt-making little heart.
This past Halloween we all got H1N1 vaccines. I wasn’t thrilled about it, but my husband and I both have conditions that put us at risk. And yes, I had paid a little too much attention to frightening news reports about children sickened by the virus.
In line the girls chatted calmly about trick-or-treating until we entered the building where the vaccines were being given. Apropos to the season, it sounded much like a haunted house, with blood-curdling wails chasing down the hallway toward us. The girls were suddenly silent and sulky.
When it was our turn, I asked the nurse to inject my husband and me first, so the girls could see us smiling, but she said it’s better to start with the kids.
She was wrong.
Patti was first and her reaction was predictable. On the upside, my husband finally experienced the joys of vaccines firsthand. He wrassled her into position and guiltily witnessed the pitiful tears and misery.
The big surprise of the day was Suzi. She’d apparently decided that it’s no more Mr. Nice Girl. Her spine-tingling screams must have set a new decibel record for the day.
When my turn came I was shocked that both the serum and needle were completely painless – I felt nothing!
I guess it just shows that when kids panic over vaccinations, it’s not always about the pain. They’re scared and probably feel betrayed by their parents. It’s our job to comfort them and make them feel safe again, even if we know it didn’t hurt.
After the shots, Suzi tried to regain her facade of bravery, saying she’d only cried because, "I wanted to go last!" Reliving the experience, though, she burst into tears again. She turned to me and threw her arms open wide for a comforting hug, which I gave wholeheartedly.