A pin-prick of prevention

A pin-prick of prevention

Image: Photo by Aditya Romansa on Unsplash

Whoops! You blink and two months have gone past, and the only real evidence of it is that the baby now seems impossibly long. Where did these legs come from?

I feel like a broken record on the topic which has prompted me to post today, but a golden rule of communications (my day job) is that by the time you’re sick of saying something, someone else is only hearing it for the first time.

So: please, please vaccinate your babies.

In our wonderful antenatal classes the message was very simple: we vaccinate our children against the things we don’t want them to get. I don’t want my baby to get measles, or whooping cough, or polio or HPV. I don’t want anyone else’s baby to get them either. And vaccination is how we make our babies, and everyone else’s babies, safer.

A month ago we did baby’s 15-month jabs, and due to her heart condition, she had to get a full four – one in each delicious little arm and leg. And she was very not happy about this situation, and there were tears and crying and declaring one parent (her father) to be the cruellest villain in all human recollection and the other (moi) to be the second-cruellest for not stopping him.

But it was 100% worth it to know she has protection against diseases that could kill her.

There is so much disinformation out there about vaccinations – and I say “disinformation” not “misinformation” because it’s absolutely, deliberately misleading. A lot of it is focused around the COVID vaccines, but it’s clearly bled into other areas, as this story on Newsroom illustrates. The impact of the anti-vaccine movement is literally counted in lives, and this was particularly underscored for me by learning this week that goddamn polio is back in New York.

Never one to miss a chance to quote Hannah Gadsby (and lament that there isn’t a handily embeddable video of this quote, come on, internet!):

“As difficult as this life is, it’s nice to have a life. And it’s particularly nice to have this life in a world without…

POLIO.

Polio is bad, and that is a fact, not a feeling.”

I know a lot of people who are declining or delaying vaccinations aren’t vicious, or gullible, or too deep in the rabbithole of far-right conspiracy theories. They’re worried, because of course you’re worried when your child is so young and fragile and seemingly beset by danger on all sides. But it’s also true that when it’s too late, it’s too late – not just for you and your baby. When immunisation gets so low that we get outbreaks of measles, and they spread like wildfire because we’ve lost herd immunity (which is a thing you get through high vaccination rates, NOT letting a contagious disease kill thousands of people and crossing your fingers), a lot more children get sick. It’s like putting on your seatbelt before the car starts moving, only the seatbelt goes around your whole community. You just won’t be able to get it on in time when a crash happens.

But we can get immunisation rates up now. Please. Not just for our babies – pregnant people can get vaccinated against flu, COVID and whooping cough, and the antibodies pass to your baby in the womb, giving them protection too.

~

For those with nearly two hours to spare, I really do recommend this video about Andrew Wakefield and his deceptive linking of MMR vaccines with autism, which drives the anti-vaccine movement to this day. Even he didn’t intend to demonize all immunisations, just the combined MMR jab, for reasons that will make you absolutely furious. Slight spoilers, but there is good news: once the disinformation gets taken away, vaccination rates go up again.

In the COVID queue

In the COVID queue

I had a COVID test this week – after being notified via the tracing app that I was a close contact last week. I’ve been self-isolating, monitoring for symptoms, and trying very hard not to freak the heck out about the worst-case scenario. I’m double-vaccinated, I wear KN95 masks whenever I go out (baby pink with ear loops which my mother bought me because I am that millennial), I scan in everywhere and obviously the Bluetooth is working. I even got my booster shot the very day I was notified about the close contact.

So the odds were pretty strongly in my favour. Not that that did anything to reduce the anxiety, especially when it comes to having a small baby with a history of pulmonary issues due to her heart condition!

The queue at the testing centre in Porirua was long. It opened at 9am; I arrived at 8:20 and the line of cars was already around the block; I was out with a sore sinus and very watery eyes at noon. That’s a heck of a long time to be sitting in the car with nowhere to go, and I definitely felt the glute cramp when I got home. But I had water, snacks, a full phone battery, podcasts and knitting.

(And between starting this draft and posting the finished product, I got a negative test result! Yay!)

More importantly, I had someone at home who was watching the baby.

There were a lot of people with kids in their cars, waiting in that queue. Some probably had to get their kids tested, which is a whole other nightmare I never want to have to face. But I’m sure many more just didn’t have a choice. There wasn’t any other option – no one to watch the kids, no one who could take sick leave, stay home from their paid job, spare a completely uncertain amount of time while the driver went and sat in that queue. Nobody available at short notice, or nobody who could take the risk of looking after kids who might themselves be household contacts of a soon-to-be-diagnosed COVID case.

It seems like the smallest amount of support imaginable – just having another adult around, parent, grandparent, uncle or aunt or older sibling or neighbour, to watch the kids for a couple of hours – and yet a lot of parents don’t even have that. Don’t have the financial means or flexibility to manage sudden upheavals in the usual routine. And the consequence of that is spending three-plus hours with that kid in the car, getting increasingly and very understandably hungry, tired and cranky.

The pandemic has really laid bare a lot of problems in our communities. Things that weren’t quite at breaking point but snapped once they encountered all the pressure of anxiety, illness, insufficient infrastructure and inadequate support systems at once. For the rest of us it can highlight the small privileges we don’t even think about on a daily basis.

I was very grumpy and tired and sore when I got home from my COVID test. But there was a whole huge chunk of care and anxiety that I didn’t have to deal with. The question is, how do we make sure no one has to?

Photo by Musa Haef on Unsplash

Here’s to 2022

Here’s to 2022

The past couple of years have been incredibly difficult on everyone, everywhere. Let’s hope 2022 is better!

It’s always easy to feel like you’re not doing enough, and weirdly, it feels even easier to criticise yourself when things are going badly around you. We’re all meant to be writing the next King Lear or renovating our houses and teaching our babies Latin while we’re in lockdown, because obviously a pandemic just means we all have more time on our hands, right? Then there’s the immense pressure at this time of year to be setting resolutions – usually pretty toxic ones about “fixing” the things that are wrong with our bodies and lifestyles, which are doomed to failure and thus make us feel even worse because we’re taught to compare ourselves to wealthy celebrities who have all the time and resources in the world to “eat right” and go to the gym every day and get constant cosmetic procedures to keep looking 35 until they hit 70.

Sometimes, surviving is enough. In a time of global pandemic, surviving is definitely enough. And finding just one or two achievable things to make us feel like we’re making a bit of progress is more than enough. But I don’t make them resolutions – that’s setting up metrics for whether I’m a success or a failure as a human being or as a mama. And one thing I really want to do this year is not think of myself as a failure. At least, not too often, and not without having some strategies to get my brain out of that black hole.

That feels optimistic (and ambitious) enough to me!

Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash