Wednesday, August 8, 2012

vaccination vexation

(This is not a post about vaccinating versus not vaccinating your kid.  I'm not touching that topic with a ten foot pole cause it makes me enraged.  But if you're curious, this post by an actual doc pretty much sums up my opinion on that topic.)

So Sadira turned four in November.  But because of scheduling glitches from two years ago, she had to wait until January (and the new health insurance year) to go to her annual well-child appointment. 

And well-child appointment means time for her vaccination boosters.

I don't think there's a parent alive who doesn't loathe taking their child to the doctor's for a check-up.  It's especially annoying when you're a working parent and you have to take time off to do it.  (Grrrr, if I'm going to take time off of work, I want it to be for something fun, dammit!)  But it's a necessary part of life, and preventative care is a wonderful thing, so we do it.

This past year's appointment left me with a perplexing question: Now that's she's four, and much more AWARE of the world around her, do I tell Sadira ahead of time that she's going to the doctor, and deal with the subsequent incessant whining/crying?  Or do I lull her into a false sense of security and orchestrate a surprise attack, waiting to the very last second to reveal her fate?

I took the coward's way out and opted to keep the purpose of our trip a secret.

Which is difficult, considering the doctor's office is in the complete OPPOSITE direction of everywhere else we typically go.  So here we are, on a random Tuesday morning, hopping on the beltway in the OPPOSITE direction.

Sadie: "Mommy, how come we're not going to Janet's?"
Me: "Oh, we are honey, we just have a quick errand to run first..."
Sadie: "Oh cool! Is it going to be fun?"
Me (feeling like a horrible person): "Uhhh, sure, maybe it will be honey, we'll see..."
Sadie: "Awesome! Where are we going?"
Me: "Uhh..umm, Sade, well, you'll see soon..."
Sadie: "It's a SURPRISE!?!?"
Me (feeling like even MORE of a horrible person): "Ummmm...kinda, I could say that, maybe..."
Sadie: "Yay!! I love surprises, Mommy!!!"


The next 15 minutes consisted of her rattling off all the wonderful places she thought her Mommy--who she loves soooo much!--could possibly be taking her for this wondrous mid-week surprise.

Oh boy.

And as we turned onto Fairmont Avenue, reality set in as she saw the doctor's office.  The color drained from her face as she said feebly, "Mommy...wait...where are we?...I thought we were going somewhere fun.."

And then...


{Cue sobbing}

But this wasn't the typical temper tantrum crying.  It was the dramatic, woe-is-me, sorrowful, my-heart-is-broken-how-could-you-betray-me kind of tears.  The kind that make you feel terrible.

I typically don't feel horrible (in that mom guilt kind of way) about taking her the doctor's.  It's for her own benefit.  It's for her HEALTH.  It's a good thing, and although annoying and inconvenient at times, it's not something I feel bad about.

When I hear my friends talk about how hard it is for some of them to take their kids to get shots...about how it breaks their heart to see their kids cry, and how terrible they feel afterwards, so guilty and sad that they had to put their child through that pain...well, I just shrug and think to myself, "I guess I have an ice cold heart...cause I just don't react that way." I feel bad for THEM (my friends..and the kids too, I suppose [not really]), but I don't ever experience that myself.

Even when Sadira was just a week old and went to the doc's for her first well check, I still didn't feel bad when she got shots.  I actually kind of liked that I got to swoop in and be the savior and comfort her when it was all over. 

Same thing when she was 18 months, and then 2 years.  I didn't feel bad at all.  "Buck up, you're alright, it's only gonna hurt for a second," is my typical mantra, and then when the tears start I'm ready to dish out the hugs.

I never feel bad about it actually.
When she was three she surprised us all when Nurse Nikki tried to perform a sneak attack with the shots, and Sadira whipped her head around so fast and screamed at her, "What the hell are you doing to me, crazy?!"

Yeah, I had some 'splainin to do after that one...

But this year, as my very astute, and observant four year old stood on the sidewalk out front of the doctor's office and cried big old alligator tears, I felt bad.

I felt awful actually.

Not because I felt bad that she had to get shots that day, but because she felt like I deceived her.  And I didn't like that one bit.

"Look Sade, I'm really sorry I didn't tell you we were coming to the doctor's office today, but I didn't want you to worry.  We just going to go in there and see Doctor Bodnar for a few minutes, and then we'll be finished," I tried to reason with her.

"Will I have to get shots?" she asked.

"I'm not sure Sade, I really don't know.  But if you do, it'll be okay.  It'll only hurt for a second."

Sorrowful tears continued... I resort to the oldest parenting tactic in the book.

"And if you just calm down, afterwards we can stop by Starbucks and I'll get you a cakepop, okay?"

Ahhh, bribery!

My little champ took a deep breathe, her voice still shaky, "okay Mama...but I really don't want to get shots today..."

"I know baby, but it's up to Doctor Bodnar, okay?"

She nodded. 

So in we marched, me and my miserable little sidekick, who was no longer sobbing, but had the longest, saddest, most forlorn looking expression on her face, EVER.

And as we got on the elevator, there was another child and his mom heading up to the doctor's.

"Are you going to the second floor too?" she asked us.

"Yes," Sadira replied, "I'm going to Doctor Bodnar's office, but I'm not getting shots today."

"Oh okay!" the other mom said cheerfully.

As we walked up to the desk to check in, the receptionist asked Sadie's name.  I let her answer for herself, because she hates when people speak for her (this is true in restaurants, too).

Sadie spoke up, "Sadira Mirjafary....and I'm NOT getting shots today."

The receptionist raised an eyebrow, "oh yeah?  Okay, that's good to know," and sent us to the waiting room to wait our turn.

A few minutes later, out came nurse Nikki, calling Sadira's name to "come on back."

"And how are we today, big girl?" she asked Sadie.

Sadie stared up at her, untrustingly.  She's been through this routine before, "I'm fine.  And I don't want any shots today, okay?"

"Oh you don't?" Nurse Nikki looked down at her.

Sadira was firm, "No I do not. NONE.  Okay?"

Nurse Nikki laughed and told Sadira to step up on the scale.  After getting her height and weight, she sent us into our room to wait for the doctor.

"Why did she laugh, Mama?  I don't like that.  I don't want those shots today..." Sadira said ruefully.

"We'll just have to wait and see baby, okay?"  I knew from the paperwork I had been handed that she was due for four boosters, so her hopeful bubble was about to be burst.

A few minutes later, the good Doctor game in.  Our pediatrician is simply the sweetest thing.  He reminds me of my grandfather with his grey beard and sweet, laid back demeanor.  He's frank and honest, and always makes you feel like the best mom in the world.  I still remember when Sadie was just a week old and I was tired and bewildered and still recovering from my C-section and he hugged me and said, "You're doing a pretty great job at this motherhood thing, Mom."  He's just great, and I always feel like he and I are on the same team.

I was happy to see him when he walked in, and he seemed happy to see us (as he always does). 

"Well hellloooo there, Sadira!  How are you doing this morning?"

She stared up at him and took a deep breath before stating her case, "I'm good Doctor Bodnar, but I do NOT want to get any shots today, okay?  I do NOT."

He chuckled and replied, "you know, I heard that you had some strong feelings about those shots.." (I guess news travelled fast through the office...)

I made myself comfortable for what I knew would be the impending speech.  The kind, yet firm speech about how shots aren't the most fun things in the world, but they keep us healthy, so we have to make sure we get them on time, and "it'll only hurt for a second," and "you'll get to pick out a sticker and lollipop when it's all over."

But that's not what he said.

INSTEAD, I heard him say, "Well, Sadira, I appreciate that you want to take such an active role in your own health.  And would really much prefer that you tell me all about how school and dance and soccer and all of the other things are doing are going...and if you promise to do the hearing and seeing games this time, we can skip the shots."

Then he looked at me and said, "You can bring her back another time just for the vaccinations, okay Mom?"

SAY WHAT?!  I have to go through this AGAIN??? Take ANOTHER morning off of work, and bring her in for ANOTHER APPOINTMENT????

I wanted to say, "NOOOO!! No, that's NOT okay Doctor Bodnar!  C'mon man, don't make me do this again!  You're supposed to be on MY side, remember??!!  Let's just get this over with!"

But I didn't.

The victory grin on Sadira's face was entirely too much.  There was no going back.  If I didn't agree with this new plan, I would certainly be worse than any Disney villain ever created.  Millificent and Mother Gothel would be tame little field mice compared to the evil Nasrene, who forced Sadira to get shots even when the doctor gave her an out...

So I said, "okay..."

Sadira was ecstatic.  She couldn't believe she had successfully controlled her own destiny.  She answered all of the doc's questions like a champ, let him check every inch of her without so much as a peep of protest, told him ALL about school, showed off some of her soccer and dance moves, and practically skipped into her vision and hearing screening.

Doctor Bodnar pulled me aside, "I hope you don't mind, Mom, but she's such a bright little thing, I really wanted to get a chance to talk to her 'un-stressed,' you know?  Especially since this is such a big year, with starting school...and now we've finally gotten these screenings out of the way."

Yeah, yeah...whatever.

We left that day without getting any shots, but with a raincheck for a follow-up appointment five months later.

I explained to Sadira, "since you didn't get your shots today, we will have to come back another day and get them, okay?  You are not home free, my friend.  You just were spared today."

She didn't care.  She had stared down the barrel of her fate, tested it defiantly and won.  There was no tarnishing this sweet sweet victory.

I, on the other hand, was not so jubilant at the thought of a SECOND appointment, and dreaded having to go through this whole process again when that day came.

Well, last Thursday that day came.

I once again was faced with the tell her or not tell her?  That was the question.

Surely she was going to be MISERABLE that today was the day.  The single and only purpose of this appointment was to get these shots---obviously there was no backing out, or delaying this time.

I decided to take a different approach.

I woke her up, and after she got dressed I got ready to tell her.

I took a deep breath.

"Sade, I have to tell you something, okay?  Remember when we went to the doctor's the last time and he told you didn't have to get your shots that day?  But we had to make an appointment to get them another time?  Well that other time is today.  We have to go to Doctor Bodnar's office this morning and get those shots, okay?  I'm really sorry.  Mommy doesn't want to have to go either, but we have to.  It won't take long, and when it's over, you can get a cakepop from Starbucks, and I'll drop you off at Janet's okay?"

She listening quietly.  Sadly.

Then without so much as a sniffle, said, "Okay Mommy."

I was prepared for an argument, "Sade, I know it's not fun, and not the way you want to start your day, but I promise it will only hurt for a second, okay?  It'll be over before you can count to ten, okay?"

And as I explained, she calmly walked away and got her shoes on.  She didn't need any further explanation.  She was melancholy, but not hysterical.  The sobbing, weeping, and protesting that I was prepped for never came.  And instead she quietly walked down the stairs, followed me out to the car, and climbed in her carseat, without one single word of protest.

The car ride to the doctor's office was silent.  No tears, no negotiating.  Nothing.  Just silence, as she stared out of the window in the backseat.

When we parked the car at the doctor's office, there was one little moment.  One brief, fleeting little moment as she was getting out of the car.  She scrunched her nose up, and her little mouth turned down into a sad frown, "Mommy, I really don't want to do this..."

"I know baby, but it will be so fast, and then we'll be finished.  You're such a big girl now, you can handle it."

And like a little patriot marching into battle, she stoically following me into the building, up the elevator, and into the office.

"Sadira Mirjafary," she told the receptionist.

And when Nurse Nikki called us back, there were no words of protest, no tears of hysteria, just a solemn faced little four year old, ready to handle the day's task.

Four shots, four bandaids, two stickers, and just a couple whimpers later, we were out of there. 

There were no tears that day.  Just a brave little girl who looked the other way when it was time to get her shots.  A little whimper of "ouch!" four times, and that was it.

I couldn't believe it.

We stopped at Starbucks and got her treat.  I told her how impressed I was, and how much of a big girl she was.  I told her it was obviously because she was almost five that she handled it so well.  Big girls can handle stuff like that.

She agreed.

And as we drove back she said thoughtfully, "Hey Mommy, you know what?  I think since I'm almost five and such a big girl, I'm going to start calling you 'Mom,' not 'Mommy' or 'Mama,' okay?"

"You can still call me Mama and Mommy when you turn five, Sades..."

"Nah.  When you're big, you just say 'Mom.'  And I'm almost five, you know?  I'm big now."


She's big now. 

She can get her shots without crying, and she doesn't want to call me Mommy anymore.

Who would've thought that on the day she had to get her shots, we'd be driving back and I'd be the one crying in the car?


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