Okay, just to be clear, this isn’t a post about the pros and cons of vaccinating your kid. Just do it, so that we can all not die. Great.
Anyway, so taking your kid to get their immunisations is about the most heartbreaking thing you can do. That first time, you take your tiny, titchy little baby–some potatoes are bigger than that baby–to a clinic (or your doctor; we always went to the public immunisations at our local maternal health centre) and you let someone jab it with needles until it cries. You did that, you monster! You let someone hurt your baby! Will they ever forgive you? Will they forever remember that you did that to them?
No. They will not. They love you. It’s okay. You are panicking more than they are. You really are.
So, in these public clinics, you walk in, take a number, wait, get nervous about your kid getting hurt. (Don’t forget, they have no idea what’s going on and are thrilled to be in a different place with new and freshly disgusting toys.) After a while, they call your number, get your kid’s health book, stamp some things, and send you into the next room. There are chairs, and a screen. Behind that screen, there are children who are yelling. On the chairs, there are children who are calming down. A health professional will appear from behind the screen and summon you in. Then there are needles and it’s a reality. Hold on, guys, it’s almost over. You’re doing fine. Your kid still has no idea what’s happening. Last time, the Rocket tried to grab the needle herself. Then, generally, one parent holds the baby, immunisations are administered (oral! needles! both! then another needle!) and if you can help it, don’t watch that giant needle go in your baby’s tiny fat thigh. Also, don’t watch their face transform from happy to distressed. Just look elsewhere. When the baby is good and hysterical, pass it onto the other parent for a hug. You are basically good cop/bad cop at immunisations. Except that sometimes it ends in a nurturing breastfeed, and that probably doesn’t happen often on Law & Order. (I could be wrong. There are a lot of episodes.)
As they get older, there are different tricks. The Rocket recently had her eighteen-month immunisation, which was just one jab in the arm. As soon as we sat down, the nurse gave her a swirly stamp on her right hand. The Rocket was as excited as is physically possible to be, and the nurse said to me, “Right. When I tell you, stamp her other hand with this flower stamp.” On the count of three, I stamped, the needle went in. The Rocket was again thrilled by her stamp. She paused and looked at her shoulder, then went back to looking at her stamp. Not a peep. No rage. Nothing. We went back outside to sit in those chairs for fifteen minutes–to wait and make sure there’s no adverse reaction–and played with the new things we bought her to make it up to her that we’d just caused her deliberate physical pain. She didn’t care, though she happily shared some of her space stickers with a new friend she made, then she and the friend nicked some other kid’s iPad and watched Charley Bear (a terrible, horrible, no good very bad show). Then, when we put her in the car to go home, we accidentally pinched her with the belt buckle. Then she cried.
There is no real point to this post. Immunisations are awful and necessary. Teach gets very anxious about them; I barely muster up any stress until I see the needles. The Rocket has held a grudge against me about a PlayDough incident that last longer than any immunisation-based grudges. They are horrible. And you are doing a marvellous thing.