asking uncomfortable questions

25 weeks

From the moment we knew you were in my belly, Daddy and I have focused all of our energies on keeping you safe. I spent those 10 months being extra-careful so that you could have the best possible chance of growing up strong and healthy. I washed all of my fruits and vegetables with a totally organic anti-pesticide rinse; I stopped drinking coffee and eating sushi; I took my steaks well done (blech) and my tuna chunk light; I downed prenatal vitamins religiously; and Daddy cleaned the kitty litters day in and day out so you wouldn’t be exposed to the germs that can grow there.

In these past five and a half almost six months, we’ve been known to check the video monitor obsessively and even stand over your crib to make sure you’re still breathing. We’ve insisted on giving you as much breast milk as possible to help your growth and development. We’re so careful about strapping you into your car seat, your stroller, your high chair and your swing exactly right. And you’ve been vaccinated from the get-go: I got a Tdap vaccine when I was 36 weeks’ pregnant so you could benefit from some of my immunity. All four of your grandparents and Daddy got theirs, too, so there was no risk of the adults in your life passing along whooping cough. And we all got the flu shot as soon as it was available because you aren’t old enough to get your own. I think you’ve gotten more shots in your short life than I can count on both hands, and it’s all to be sure you stay healthy.

We know that this is our job–to keep you safe until the time that you can manage your own well being, and that’s still a very, very long way off.

What’s just around the corner, though, is your introduction to daycare. We’ve been so very, very blessed to be able to keep you home all this time, thanks to Nonna and Mimi, and if all goes according to plan, you won’t need to start daycare until you’re seven months old and we’re beyond flu season. You’ll be going to see Miss Gina full time, Monday-Friday, at her home; we chose it last May after multiple visits and about 1,000 questions asked. We liked her immediately; she is warm and open and adores children. We also liked the space she offers to the kids she cares for: It’s clean, well organized and bathed in natural light. And it doesn’t smell like a daycare center (yuck).

Her daycare is governed by the Maryland Department of Education, so she follows the same rules the schools do; the meals and snacks she offers conform to the Maryland Food Program, and she’s required to collect the same health inventory that schools must. Looking through the packet of information we received from Miss Gina the other day, we noticed an exemption clause in the health inventory related to vaccinations: “Exemptions … are permitted if the family has an objection based on their religious beliefs and practices.” There’s also an exemption for children who may have a medical reason that they cannot be vaccinated.

For some vaccines, that includes you. You’re just not old enough yet to be vaccinated. So you’ll rely on the other children at daycare to be vaccinated so that you are protected (what they call “herd immunity”) from some of the diseases you cannot yet be medically protected from: chicken pox, mumps, rubella and … measles. This is a touchy subject these days. This past winter, while we were counting your age in months on a single hand, the United States experienced its worst measles outbreak of the century.

Let me say right now that this blog’s intent is by no means political but archival. I’m simply keeping track of your world, measles and all, so that I’ll remember what to tell you when, some day, you ask me questions about what life was like when you were born. And part of that life is, unfortunately, navigating a new era in which many, many children are going unvaccinated. This scares the crap out of Daddy and me, as we work so hard to keep you safe.

So we have to ask questions, perhaps somewhat uncomfortable ones, of the other people who take care of you. Are there children at your daycare who are unvaccinated because of religious reasons? If so, we need to know. And what would we do then? (Thankfully, we don’t live in a state in which “personal beliefs”–other than religious ones–constitute a valid exemption from vaccination.)

We know your pediatrician requires patients to be vaccinated, but has she had to treat anyone recently for one of the diseases that you’re not yet vaccinated against? What about these religious beliefs that people can claim?

When you were born, the Ebola outbreak was the big story in the news, but let me tell you: Measles is way scarier. Still, somehow I think that if there were a vaccine for Ebola (or for AIDS, say), I bet the people who are so vehemently refusing to vaccinate their children against the more “traditional” diseases would be first in line to get their kids inoculated. Maybe in your lifetime …

As Daddy and I have fretted away (which we’ll never, ever outgrow) over these grownup concerns, you’ve focused your energies on major breakthroughs: trying banana (woohoo!), apple (meh) and parsnip (spit out and thrown on the floor); playing, for the few minutes you lasted before you completely passed out, with your friend Claire, just 11 days older than you; drinking from a cup; practicing standing; and bringing your knees up under you and using your forehead, of all things, to inch yourself forward. Crawling may be just around the corner.

You had a delightful first Valentine’s Day, which involved no fewer than three costume changes, a visit from your Aunt Audra and tons of cards and gifts showered upon you. Nonna treated you to a new Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit, the 6- to 9-month size in a lighter-weight fabric. You’re back to sleeping through the night without it, but it does seem to make a difference in your napping.

We love you so much, Love Bug. Wish I could put in words how big a love it is. Suffice it to say that it’s so big we’ll spend the rest of our lives making sure you’re safe–and happy.

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