The Measles: A Desire to Break Out During an Outbreak

I know millions upon millions of people are putting pen to paper (or, sorry, fingertip to keyboard?) about the whole measles outbreak situation, and in an effort to dust off my soapbox and pretend I’m staying relevant, I’m going to offer up my own opinions as well.

I want to begin this post with the disclaimer that I am lucky and therefore not terrified. I have read several extremely painful articles about measles since that terrible Disneyland trip that I didn’t go on. I have read of families with children whose conditions make it impossible for them to get the measles vaccine, and for whom the measles would be very near fatal. I have read of parents who have tried to convince their communities to get the measles vaccine to save those susceptible children from missing out on their lives, to no avail. I have read plenty of these stories, and so should you. These are the important ones. You can follow any of the links below (and I’m sure there are many more out there) to read the truly devastating stories that will show you just how debilitating this epidemic is. Do that.

1, 2, and 3.

Ok, so now that you have read those articles (I just love assigning homework on my blog), you can read my thoughts on the issue.

Here goes:

I believe that the decision for someone not to get the measles vaccine (note I am only discussing this specific vaccine, not vaccines in general) is a selfish one. It is a selfish one whose affects I feel. And therefore, I am angry.

See, my child doesn’t have a condition which places him at such a high risk as those spoken of above. My son, however, is a newborn baby, so no matter what risk he would be placed at once he got the measles, he lives at a high risk of simply getting it in the first place because he cannot get the vaccination against it. This is the case for all babies under 12 months of age. So, while the measles outbreak is not debilitating to us in a tragic way, it does affect the way we live our lives and will do so while we attempt to avoid the virus (or, rather, the infection caused by the virus) for the next ten months at least. And with a recent discovery of a case of the measles in our county, it affects our lives in a real way right now.

When I became pregnant, my lovely fiance and I decided that we wanted to focus a good deal of our energy on retaining our personalities and interests when our new baby came. We had heard plenty of talk from friends about how important things, like being married and having children, can make you forget about other important things, like practicing one’s hobbies and progressing towards one’s goals, etc. So, from the beginning we planned on making time for the things about which we were most passionate and encouraging each other in those endeavors. But what we wanted more than just the opportunity for us to continue doing the things we enjoyed, like go to local shows or take long walks in the woods, was to be able to share those things with our son. I was then constantly making mental lists of all of the things I wanted him to experience. At some points I even imagined us traveling out West and climbing mountains together (two things which I have exactly no experience in whatsoever) to show him just how awesome the world is. No matter what we did, however, we wanted to give our son a front row seat to all of life’s excitement. It was something we talked about often. We still do.

What this goal mostly meant for me since Roland arrived was simply going out into the world. I wanted desperately to show him all of the places we liked to go to: cafes, book stores, parks, restaurants, and even bars (because I happened to work at this awesome and pretty family-friendly bar when I was pregnant with him). We wanted to show him everything all at once. But then the measles came.

I wasn’t super nervous about the measles at first because I was uneducated about the types of people who got the measles. In other words, I thought that as long as we avoided what I would call “kid places,” we wouldn’t have to worry. And we hardly went to “kid places” anyway, so it worked out pretty well for us. But then I found out that the person who had the measles in our area is (lol, of course), an adult. I’m not going to hate on this person, because I’m assuming that person had nothing to do with not getting vaccinated in the first place (and maybe even assumed they were vaccinated). Parents are always the ones to blame when it comes to vaccinations because, no matter what, we are the advocates for our children. We are in charge, which is why they hand the baby to us when he or she comes out.

The point here, though, is that although we are blessed to have a very healthy baby on (and in) our hands, we still feel the affects of the measles on our lives because it keeps us from achieving one of our main goals as parents. Now, not only do we have to avoid “kid places” still, because children spread anything like wildfire once they get it, but we also have to avoid “adult places.” Which, of course, leaves us with “no places.” The only places I feel comfortable taking our son now are 1. outside (because it has been essentially zero degrees outside for weeks, and airborne respiratory infections struggle with that, thank goodness) 2. to church, because I feel spiritual health trumps these things. And while I love going to church on Sunday and being able to hop outside for between one and four minutes a day with my son, I am not fulfilled by this lifestyle. It may be a lot to ask to want to actually live (not just breathe and move) during my son’s amazing month-to-month stages, but I do. I really really do. I want the ability to leave the house back again.

I know it may seem petty that the foundation of my gripe with people who don’t get vaccinated is that I can’t have any fun. I’ll be the first to admit that it is, especially when plenty of people have it way worse than my son and I when it comes to getting sick. But I feel that I am allowed to be angry at those people who made a selfish decision that now directly affects my freedom to give my son the life I want to give him. So I am.

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Bigness and “Big-ocity”

Recently I discovered that a lot of what you think about as a mom involves bigness.  I’m not talking about that “big” nap we all wish we could get in, or that “big” smile we see on our baby’s face that other people say is “just gas.”  I’m talking about the alpha and the omega of “big”s for a new mom: a “big” baby.  See, while in this land of the free, where bigness is generally looked down upon and made to feel worse than smallness (though it happens to be the biggest country in the world, of course), us moms know that bigness is something to be longed for and coveted when it comes to our new babies.  We all want a chubby or pudgy baby to cuddle with all day, to be sure.  But bigness isn’t the problem with our lives as new moms.  The problem is “big-ocity.”

Clearly I am reaching a new realm of gibberish here, but hear me out.  See, it’s awesome that we want our babies to have that extra padding, but a problem arises when someone else seems to want that as well, from the second our baby cries his first cry to the moment he walks into kindergarten, and sometimes beyond.  That person is the person behind all important things, of course.  That person is the man.  And once the man tries to play a role in our child’s bigness, it becomes something which is tampered with by the outside world.  It becomes “big-ocity.”

The man wants our babies to be big and the man is not someone you can fight with on this.  See, the man is the nurse who is waiting with bated breath in the delivery room as your baby comes out (not to love on him, but to take him right out of your arms and place him on a cold metal scale); the man is the pediatrician who comes to your recovery room the next morning and tells you that your baby is already losing that weight you were so proud of, and asks, “Are you planning to continue breastfeeding?” with that painfully expectant stare; the man is the doctor who weighs your baby again before you leave and, with a sigh suggests, “Maybe you should supplement with formula,” or, if you are using formula, asks, “Are you sure you are feeding every two to three hours?” as if you can’t tell time.  The man is able to make you, as a new mother, feel like complete dirt.  We love the man.  The man is always welcome.  LOL NOT.

Granted, we all knew “big-ocity” was important.  We all took the parenting class that told us (or heard from our parent-friends) that there would be pressure for our new baby to get back to his or her birth rate as soon as possible.  We were ready for the “big-ocity” conversation to occur.  What we had not prepared for was the continuation of everything that is good and beautiful in the world depending on our baby gaining weight.  And, since that was entirely our jobs as parents to facilitate, we were not prepared for the feeling that we hadn’t done enough.

Moms who feed their babies formulas have this battle just the same as moms who choose to breastfeed.  Both groups are learning how to sustain their child’s life and being told by the man that their efforts are not good enough.  THE MAN’S MESSAGE SUCKS ACROSS THE BOARD.

My personal journey inspired me to do whatever I could to breastfeed my son.  I knew I wanted to try it as soon as I knew I was pregnant, and I am so glad I did.  And when I took a breastfeeding class and learned a great deal about it through my doulas, I knew that I was not alone in the effort to make breastfeeding my son a reality.  Furthermore, when my son came and somehow, God Bless him, knew exactly how to help me perform that task, I was even more sure this was our path.  Many will say I was #blessed in that my circumstances aligned with my original desires.  I was and am incredibly grateful that breastfeeding worked out for us.  Beyond this, I was very blessed that my son did get back to his birth rate before it was time to face the man again.  It was a hard road for a spell there, though, let me tell ya.

But, being a breastfeeding mother puts a whole new spin on the issue of “big”-ocity.”  Not only does the breastfeeding mother feel the sting of her efforts not being enough, but she feels the immense mental suffering of her entire self not being enough.  Forgetting all of what she knows about breastfeeding (that it is nearly impossible to pick up correctly on the first try, that it is based on supply-and-demand, and thus can change at any given time, and that it requires quite a bit of good old fashioned work), she only sees the facts.  And the facts say that she needs more than herself to take care of her child.  Harsh facts at that.

And though I am blessed extravagantly in this area, as my son already doesn’t fit into his 3-month clothes at only 7 weeks (again, God Bless him, and more specifically, got bless his father who gave him those big genes), I know mothers who have been told that the situation of their baby’s lack of “big-ocity” was a desperate one, which is not something anyone should have to hear.  And now, in my own small world, I am realizing that the testing of “big-ocity” continues long past that first week.  Breastfeeding is incredibly unpredictable, and everything about it (how often it needs to happen, how much needs to be offered for the baby, etc.) can change without notice.  Thus, the question of a baby’s “big-ocity” doesn’t really ever completely go away.  I’m not worried that my son is going to lose a ton of weight suddenly, but I do wish it wasn’t something everyone and their brother wanted me to constantly be thinking about.

And okay, I get it.  If a baby is severely malnourished, a doctor should be urging his or her parents to get thee to the tanking-up station!  I’m all for doctors saying what needs to be said.  What I am not even slightly for is doctors trying to make women who have just experienced hours of pain in an effort to deliver the most precious of cargoes into this world feel bad about anything at all.  That deserves a slap right in the face if you ask me.

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