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Controversy Wednesday: VACCINATION

17 Nov

My precious little pincushion.

The timing of this discussion…er, monologue, is not a coincidence.  Seabass gets his 6-month shots today.  Hoo-ray.

A dear friend once told me about taking his daughter for her shots at three years of age.  “You think it’s bad when they’re infants?” he guffawed.  “Just wait ’till they can look deep into your eyes and plead ‘Why daddy?'”

I had never had a flu shot – or even given it much thought – until I was pregnant.  With the swine flu breaking out all around me this time last year, I suddenly cared very much about vaccines.  Very, very much.

I did some of my own “research,” which included poking around on the BabyCenter.com chat boards and such.  I scoff at the word research because, when it comes to the internet, I almost feel like there’s no such thing.  Everything is conjecture.  Everything is open for interpretation.  And God only knows where most of it really comes from.

Witness an article from something called Examiner.com stating that doctors are coming out to discredit the need for a vaccine because the H1N1  pandemic “may have in fact been a hoax.” 

While our administration and countries across the globe have been “pushing” pregnant women to the front of the line for the H1N1, we are now discovering much heartache from those who listened, received the vaccine and now are sure it caused them to lose their unborn child.

Articles like these make me nuts.  In the name of rigorous journalism, these writers plant ideas in my head that may or may not be true, and in the meantime, freak me out to the point of neurosis.  The fact that the website is called “Examiner” is a nice touch, too.  Gives it an air of credibility even though it’s basically a wiki.  (And speaking of wikis, notice that the author even cites a Wikipedia page as a reference source.  Come.  On.)

So anyway, back to my vaccination.  I was very much divided.  On the one hand, I had my OB telling me to get not only the swine flu vaccine, but the seasonal flu vaccine as well.  “I’m not going to demand that you get these shots,” he said, “but I am going to strongly recommend it.”

On the other hand, I had the onus of internet nay-sayers…and Jake.  That’s right, you guessed it.  Jake is anti-vaccine.

We had the discussion, and I totally tracked with him.  “These vaccines are so new,” he reasoned.  “How can anyone know what they’re doing to us in the long term?” 

It’s one thing to think about yourself and your own safety as an individual.  Frankly, if this were just about me, I’d say screw the vaccine and pass the mint jelly.

But it is something entirely different to think about a child for whom you are responsible and utterly head-over-heels.  Of course, all of this talk inevitably led to concerns about vaccinating the wee Seabass.  All I wanted to do was protect him.  That shouldn’t be too hard, right?  Oh, the ignorance. 

“It’s only one set of shots one time, right?” Jake asked me.  “And we just have to pick which ones we do and don’t want him to get, right?”

I didn’t have the foggiest idea.  Again, after the tiniest amount of “research,” I wanted to hurl myself out a window.  It is LOADS of shots on SEVERAL occasions.  To make matters worse, there are groups out there claiming that vaccines do horrible, unspeakable things to some children who receive them:

  • SafeMinds.org says vaccines cause autism. 
  • But Dr. Paul Offit says “no way, dude!” 
  • Then there’s some other guy with the wonderfully curious name of Seth Mnookin whose next book, The Panic Virus, details the implications of battling infectious diseases. 
  • Then there’s Jenny McCarthy running around through it all with GenerationRescue.org, which asserts that vaccines can indeed cause autism.  (By the by, WHY am I listening to you Miss McCarthy?  Because your son is autistic and you were in Playboy?  Hmm.) 
  • And then there are comments and blog posts and forums with all of us moms trying to figure it out.  It’s maddening.

In the end, I told Jake I couldn’t defer to research.  “Basically,” I said, “I can find a fact to defend any argument I choose.  So I leave this up to you.”  And here is what he decided:

  1. If the vaccine is less than 10 years old, we skip on it, as there is just too much unknown there.
  2. If the doctor (whether my OB or Seabass’ pediatrician, Dr. Awesome) doesn’t feel strongly one way or the other about a particular vaccine, we skip it.

Well, so far we haven’t encountered any vaccines younger than 10 years, and our doctors have urged us to go through with vaccinations.  So we’ve been textbook.  We didn’t even choose to get creative with scheduling Seabass’ shots like Dr. Sears recommends.  So boring.

In the end, we’ve decided that we have doctors for a reason.  Yes, they fail us sometimes, and yes, it’s hard to trust anyone to know all the answers.  But I really believe these people still know better than the internet does.  At the very least, they can hold our shaky parent hands and look in our bloodshot parent eyes and reassure us that whichever decision we make will be our own and no one else’s.  Now, which website can claim that level of sincerity?

I’ll never forget hearing a medical student describe her training: “Patients want so badly to believe that medicine is a matter of black and white, but I’m learning that it’s all just shades of gray.”  Scary.  And also, oddly reassuring.

Enough outta me.  What do you think?

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Sunday, phlegmy Sunday

14 Nov

It finally happened.  My sore throat has turned into a rich, gurgly hack of a cough.  This means I’m on the mend!  It also means my head is full of snot and my voice sounds like Harvey Fierstein. (In fact, when I called my friend Jenny in San Francisco yesterday, she asked, “Is this a drag queen?”) 

I’m tempted to take a video of me hacking to prove it to you, but instead, I offer this photo of my bedside table.

The worst part about being sick is that I have finally infected Seabass, poor little guppy.  As I write, he lays in his crib attempting to fall asleep, quiet for five minutes, fussing for one minute, quiet for three minutes, fussing for 30 seconds.  Remember the recent Controversy Wednesday about “crying it out?”  Yeah, that pretty much goes out the window when I hear my boy wailing from plugged nostrils and a hot little forehead.  You anti-cry-it-outters will feel vindicated to know that we’ve already gone in once to do some serious Seabass-soothing, and we’re on the verge of doing it again.

If only someone would give us all the answers.  Or even just create a Nyquil for nursing mothers.  I never thought I’d miss an over-the-counter drug quite so much, but I do.  Enough to write an ode.

Ode to Nyquil

Your hue, a bluish-green
As a syrup or a pill
You give us all relief
When we are feeling ill
My precious, precious Nyquil
The salve to soothe my brain
In earnest, I do wonder
When will we meet again?

The best medicine for a sick nursing mother

11 Nov

Okay, so it's a little creepy that there's a fake blog for a fake couple and their fake baby.

I’m really sick.  Yes, I’ve descended into an abyss of wadded up toilet paper, fleece, grape juice and whining.  I’ve never been all that great at handling illness, but at least there used to be sick days I could use. 

Now?  Yeah, no such thing as sick days.  Drat.

Thankfully Jake has some.  When he got out of bed to start the pre-work hygeine routine this morning, I looked at him with death in my eyes and pleaded for him to stay home.  Thank God it worked. Otherwise Seabass may have driven me over the edge.  I don’t know what’s gotten into that kid, but he is downright inconsolable.  IS IT NORMAL FOR A BABY TO LAST ONLY ONE HOUR BEFORE MELTING DOWN???  IS IT NORMAL FOR HIM TO ACT LIKE HE’S ONLY THREE WEEKS OLD AGAIN???  Forget it.  I already know the answer: Every baby is differentTeeth.  His diaper’s too tight. 

Sigh.  He’s lucky he’s so stinking cute.

I think the toughest part about being sick right now is the fact that I can’t take much of anything to make me feel better because it will all either go straight to Seabass’ delicate little system or dry my girls up.  No Nyquil, Dayquil, Tylenol PM or anything that will knock me out and take away the pain.  I’m trying to remember that I did labor drug-lessly.  Labor was a lot harder than this, right?  Right?

Anyway, in my unmedicated oblivion, I’ve spent a fair amount of time poking around the internet.  And guess what I’ve found?  Only the best baby blog ever:

The Halpert Baby Blog.

I love love love The Office.  It’s the only TV show I watch because even when it’s bad it’s good.  So discovering the marketing genius that is a mockumentary blog about Jim and Pam’s baby Cece tickled me pink, though it’s also made me a little crazy how easy the show makes parenting look.  I know, I know: it’s not real.  But the blog certainly blurs the lines a little, doesn’t it?

He’s rolling over. Yippee?

23 Sep

Suited-up and ready for roll-training.

About a month ago, I went to my mom’s group and marveled at how many of the babies were already rolling over.  I came home and told Jake.

“Huh,” he mused.  “Are any of them not rolling over?” he asked nervously.

“Yes, just one,” I answered.  “Our son.”

This was my first mistake.  Developmentally, Seabass was right on track; it can take anywhere from two to six months for the average baby to roll over.  But the fact that ours was the only non-rolling baby didn’t sit well with Jake.  No, not at all.  And thus began roll-training.

In preparation for this exercise, Jake would spread a play blanket down on the floor and then lay little Seabass on his back surrounded by plenty of toys to reach for.  At the beginning, the poor dude just lay there staring at Jake as if to say, “Now what do you want?”  But soon the building blocks for rolling started to fall into place and we were thrilled at our wee one’s progress.

That is, until we put two and two together.  Seabass+rolling over=laying on tummy=end of the world.  Allow me to explain.

Despite our attempts to acclimatize Seabass to laying on his stomach during “tummy time” (a practice that is meant to strengthen baby’s neck and back muscles), the little fish hates hates hates to be face down.  In a matter of mere seconds he unravels.  He grunts.  He wheezes.  He plants his face in the floor and lets out painful, muffled shreiks.  Worst of all, he never seems to get used to it.  “Tummy time” may as well be called “Pit of hell baby torture time,” because that’s exactly how it looks.

But no, it never occurred to us that this was where the roll-training would eventually lead.  Ergo when Seabass howled frantically in his bed last week, I could not for the life of me imagine what was wrong.  And then I saw him: face down, arms swimming and feet kicking.  “Oh my goodness, he did it!” I whispered to myself, elated.  “And he’s furious.”

Try as we might to get Seabass to enjoy his pit of hell baby torture time, he just doesn’t.  Interestingly, though, he absolutely loves the whole rolling-over bit.  There has been many a nap in which I’ve rescued a face-down screaming Seabass only to watch him  roll back over the moment he’s left to himself.  The desire to move forward developmentally is stronger than the desire not to cry, apparently.  Or maybe he’s just not thinking.

Whatever the reason, I can’t take it anymore.  Yesterday’s naps where toast due to the roll-and-freak-out scenario, which meant that nighttime sleep was fragmented and weird.  After weeks of waking only once in 12 hours to feed Seabass, last night I had to wake up four – count ’em: FOUR – times.  Not surprisingly, I find myself longing for the days when all this kid could do was blink.

But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy seeing Seabass’ little tush in the air when I walk into the nursery.  It’s a funny thing, baby development.  One moment you’re wishing he could reach the next big milestone, and the next moment you’re wishing he would just stay put.

The last time I cared this much about percentiles, I was taking the SAT.

16 Sep

We visited Dr. Awesome today for Seabass’ four-month well check and vaccinations.  This wasn’t our first, second, or even third visit to the pediatrician.  No, it was our fourth in as many months.  Between a refluxy baby and a nervous mom, we’d already become well acquainted with the office staff.  And that’s not taking into account all the phone calls.  I’m pretty sure they recognize our phone number on their Caller ID now, too.  If they weren’t all so kind, I’d imagine them rolling their eyes and pretending to shoot themselves in the head whenever my voice comes across the line.

It had been several weeks since the last time we’d weighed the little guppy, so there was a certain amount of excitement to see the number on the scale.  Dr. Awesome laid our pink, fleshy naked boy on the infant scale and nudged the weight until it centered on 18 pounds.  “Is that good?” I asked Doc.  “Which percentile is he in?”

Now, I should take a moment to spill the beans and admit that I didn’t really understand the meaning of the word “percentile” until I had Seabass.  It’s not as though it’s the hardest concept to grasp – I don’t know why it took  me so long to get it.  But now that I do, I want to know the percentile for EVERYTHING about the baby.  And why?  Because I want to know that he is normal. 

No, scratch that.  I want to know that he is better than normal. 

There was a time in my life when I worked in the education field, specifically with young musicians.  The kids were terrific: bright, funny, and eager to learn.  It was their parents that were often the nightmare, nearly each one insisting that their child was a genius and deserved XYZ for it.  There was a lot of latent and not-so-latent jockeying for position, even among parents of seven-year-olds.  Perhaps especially among parents of seven-year-olds.

So you’d think I would take a moment to stand back and check my own not-so-latent competitive streak when it comes to Seabass.  Yeah, you’d think.

Dr. Awesome entered Seabass’ weight, height and head circumference measurements into a program on his computer and I held my breath.  “Looks like he’s in the ninety-third percentile for weight,” he reported, “the ninety-ninth percentile for height, and the ninetieth percentile for head circumference.”

This news yielded some serious high-five-ing and fist-pumping.  “The ninety-ninth percentile for height?!?” I mused.  “No wonder he’s so fussy all the time.  His whole life has been a giant growth spurt.”   Comments were made on how our boy would dominate the basketball court later in life, as though the fact that he has exceled at his one duty in life thus far – to grow – could possibly be construed as a competition.

Jake and I were both the first child to be born to our parents: Ambitious, head-strong, bossy and focused.  Furthermore, we were both the only first-born members of our respective families.  So when Seabass came along, we marvelled at the concept of a family of first-borns.  “Our family is going to KICK BUTT!” we’d say.  “Nothing will stand in our way!”  Only occasionally did we back up a little, self-assess, and remind our obnoxious selves that life isn’t about winning.  But that was before Seabass had percentiles to exceed. 

Let the games begin.

Maybe he’s less of a Seabass and more of a Lizard

15 Sep

Just don't look above the hairline...

Cradle cap.  What’s the deal?  Well, for starters, it’s downright disgusting: Scales of dead skin all over my otherwise-perfect Baby Seabass’ head.  Kinda looks like a dried-up river bed or the skin of an ancient iguana.  The baby book calls it “infantile or neonatal seborrhoeic dermatitis, also known as crusta lactea or ‘milk crust.'” 

Seriously?  MILK CRUST?  “Well, Mrs. Sullivan, the good news is you’ve given birth to a beautiful baby boy.  The bad news is, his head is covered in MILK CRUST.”  The only less appetizing medical term that I can think of is scabies.  Blech. 

For you pregnant moms out there, cradle cap is really nothing special – affecting half of all newborn babies – and completely harmless.  But it’s gross.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been cooing and making silly faces at my sweet boy only to notice errant flakes cascading down his back.  So, after four months of being distracted by Seabass’ scaly, milk-crusty head, I decided to take action.  Here’s the order of events: 

  1.  Lay Seabass on towel.
  2. Apply Burt’s Bees Apricot Oil to affected area.
  3. Massage well into scales.
  4. Using a fine-toothed comb, pick at scales, lifting them from scalp and combing them through hair.
  5. Gag.
  6. Wash Seabass’ hair thoroughly with baby shampoo.
  7. Brush out remaining flakes.
  8. Repeat as necessary.

The result?  A crust-free, soft, beautifully kissable baby head and a happy mommy.

Variation on a theme by Rod Stewart

4 Sep

As overheard while Jake changed the baby’s diaper this morning:

[To the tune of “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” by Rod Stewart.]

IF your name is Seabass
AND your diaper’s dirty
COME on, baby, let me know…