On Vaccines and the Chicken Pox

“But I don’t wanna have the chicken pox, Mom!”

After a full MONTH of being sick, I’m happy to (cautiously) say that we’re all finally healthy here in the Shove household. (Great, now I’ve jinxed us…) Last winter, E.V. was still so young and had very little interaction with other kids, meaning we had a relatively illness-free season. You can imagine, then, how mentally unprepared I was for the bout of disease that has swept through our house this year! Between the flu, a sinus infection, the flu again, a cold, a head cold, the stomach bug, the stomach bug and THE STOMACH BUG AGAIN, by the time we were finally runny-nose-free and vomit-less (and on our way to New York) I was done. Like DONE-DONE. I really can’t handle any of us being sick for a while; I’ve paid my dues for October/November, and I’ve decided that I’ve earned a break from playing nursemaid. I vowed to skip the gym daycare this week, have politely inquired about colds before agreeing to playdates and have shielded myself and my child from anyone with congestion, and so far it’s worked…well, kind of.

The other day the youngest Russian girl and her mother were playing their backyard. This particular Russian sister likes to tease Oscar and Olive, so I’d been avoiding letting the dogs out to go potty all afternoon. At the first sight of them walking indoors, I quickly sent Oscar and Olive out back, and E.V. quickly scurried after them (which is normal). Unfortunately The Littlest Russian came running back out, causing the dogs to bark like crazy and Emma Vance to start crying at the fence to play with her. I sucked up my frustration and scooped up E.V. to walk her next door. The Littlest Russian doesn’t speak great English, so she mostly just played with Emma Vance while I watched, babbling in a foreign language all the while. Eventually I asked her where her sisters were, and she responded that they were inside. I thought this was strange because they’re such an adventurous bunch, so I asked if they were in trouble. She shook her head, then started to say, “No, they’re…they…they have…{long dramatic pause as she searched for the English word}…chicken pox.”

You’ve GOT to be kidding me.

At that horrible revelation, I looked closely at The Littlest Russian’s face and noticed a very clear, very exposed and open pock on her lip. Ugh. I quickly scooped up E.V., told her to give her sisters our best wishes and ran inside. I was panicked. I threw Emma Vance in the tub and scrubbed her head-to-toe. I sanitized my hands and face as well as hers and put a frantic text into my resident nurse/friend (Abbey Busch!). I trust my medical friends way more than WebMD, mostly because WebMD ALWAYS ends with “and may cause death.” :) She reminded me that Emma Vance may have already had a vaccine for chicken pox, so I contacted my pediatrician’s office. Waiting for a response was AGONIZING…

At this point in the story, let me remind you of my initial (and, truthfully, somewhat ongoing) hesitations about vaccines. I struggled a LOT before E.V. was born about what our vaccine choices would be, and eventually decided to only take what seemed to be necessary vaccines and on our own schedule (so she wouldn’t get a ton of shots at once). Over the past year, we’ve pretty much accepted almost all of the standard vaccines (except a flu shot) and have slowly fallen into line with the CDC-recommended schedule. Every night before she’s set to get shots, though, Ryan and I pray extra fervently for them to work accurately and to not cause any harm, and so far, so good. Even though we’ve finally decided to essentially just follow the norm, I do have to admit that I’ve felt uncomfortable at times with pumping my child full of “stuff” and have often left vaccine appointments feeling scared and unsure of my decision. HOWEVER, our encounter with The Littlest Russian and her pox germs was the first time I ever realized how thankful I am for vaccines. This particular shot was one that I hesitated about because our generation grew up getting the disease, and “we turned out fine.” (Do I sound like an old, crotchety lady?) What I didn’t envision was her possibly getting it so young; it was one of those illnesses I imagined her being exposed to in elementary school. The thought of my 17 month old having itchy pox and my being unable to communicate with her about being sick was terrifying, and as I waited for the doctor to return my call, my attitude on vaccines changed in an instant. C’mon vaccine! I hope I didn’t doom her to getting the chicken pox because of my fears!

And then they called back.

She has had the vaccine! Hallelujah!

I felt such a sense of relief in that moment. Although there’s a small chance that she could still get the chicken pox because nothing’s 100% effective, I feel good knowing that she has a fighting chance. I feel great about my decision despite my previous discomfort, and moving forward I’ll feel a bit more confident about her vaccinations. Now if only we can avoid another month’s worth of headaches, fevers and runny noses–and The Russians for a few weeks–I’ll feel really good. :)

The upside to having The Russians as neighbors? They keep us fed with fun treats that are always intriguing… ;)

“Yay! No chicken pox!”

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