Letter to Oscar: Month Two

Dear Oscar,

You’re kind of an old guy now, growing and changing so fast that I want to stop time and freeze this moment and the way you are now forever.  Never again will you be so tiny and new.  I will miss your wobbly head and your crossed eyes and your tiny feet.  I will miss your newborn clothes.  Already you have outgrown most of your hats, and I’m afraid you’re going to have an enormous head like your mama.  Things change too quickly and time goes by too fast.  I think you better pick your major soon, because you need to know that by your sophomore year in college.

But, OH! the smiles…I have died and gone to baby heaven.  I really had no idea that I could love you so much.  I hate to tell you this, but you have me wrapped around your little finger.  You smile a lot now, when we place you on the changing table, when we give you a bath, and when you wake me up at 3:00 A.M. for a late-night snack.  You’ve also started blowing bubbles with your saliva, and I’m sorry, but that kind of manipulative behavior won’t be tolerated for long, I don’t care how cute it is.

Your sweet, soft hair sticks straight up now, even when we brush it down after your bath.  I’m afraid you have Mama’s hair, too.  Your eyes are still blue, and we wonder if they are going to change color.  Right now they are so big they have their own gravitational pull, like little planets, and your father and I are the moons orbiting you.

You’re talking in little coos and gurgles.  You also have this annoyed little yell, like a grumpy old man trying to summon the waitress (Hey lady, can I get some milk over hear ASAP?).  For entertainment you like to suck on your fists, punch yourself in the eye, and scan the ceiling looking for enemy planes.

I love your soft little body and feeling your warmth and your weight when you fall asleep on my chest.  I love nursing you when the sun rises and it’s just the two of us and the world is silent except for your little snuffles and swallows.  I love the little sighs you make while you sleep.

I look forward to all of the amazing changes that are coming and I mourn the time that slips away.  When I’m tired and don’t want to get out of bed to feed you or change you or rock you, I remember that a time will come when I can’t lift you anymore, so I pick you up and hold you in my arms, and keep you close for a little while longer.

 Love, Mama

Vax Pax

Oscar received his first vaccination yesterday, the DTaP, or Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis vaccine.  His mommy and daddy cried more than he did.  This was one of the hardest things I’ve done, which may sound a little melodramatic, but if you are a new parent you know there is an onslaught of information out there both for and against vaccines.

Flagstaff is a community that is as anti vaccine as it is pro home birth.  Just as I thought I would give birth at home, I also thought I would forgo or at least delay vaccinating my child.  How things change!  Before having my son vaccinated, I was terrified of vaccines and their terrible side effects (not just fever and swelling, but also seizures and death).  I became convinced that there was a link between vaccines and autism, as well as a link between vaccines and SIDS.  I am still not convinced that both of these are not true.  Also, the current vaccine schedule is VERY aggressive, consisting of 38 shots against 15 diseases before kindergarten, compared with 11 shots against 8 diseases 15 years ago.

The night before Oscar’s eight-week pediatrician appointment, during which time he was due for seven shots, I read this blog entry about vaccines.  I also read an article about vaccines in U.S. News and World Report that takes a balanced view of vaccines, advocating for the safety and effectiveness of certain vaccines while still questioning the current vaccine schedule and the link between autism and vaccines.  The magazine offers up an alternate vaccine schedule, which still seems too aggressive to me, so I decided to talk to our pediatrician about it.

Our pediatrician reassured us that vaccines are safe (as I knew he would).  However, he said two things that changed my mind about waiting to vaccinate Oscar.  First, he said that the pertussis vaccine can actually prevent SIDS because pertussis (commonly known as whooping cough) is a respiratory infection, and a lot of people have it and don’t know they have it.  It’s very serious for infants, and having a respiratory infection is actually a SIDS risk.  The other thing that convinced me was that he reassured me that it was fine to skip or delay some vaccines, such as Hep B or polio, until Oscar is closer to school age.  If he had taken a hard line on vaccines I would have balked, but his flexible approach and reassurance led us to decide that Oscar should have his DTaP vaccine.

I am moved by stories of parents in third world countries waiting in line for days to get their kids vaccinated, and I am also moved by stories of parents who feel very strongly that their children were injured by vaccines.  Most of all, I feel a great deal of compassion for parents who have to make this decision, which feels like “damned if you do, damned if you don’t…”  Seeing Oscar’s face when he got his shot broke my heart, and while I’m happy with my decision to vaccinate him, and will continue to do so on a modified schedule, my feelings might be different if he had had any kind of bad reaction.

As for Oscar, he is oblivious to this debate and the angst it causes his parents.  All he cares about right now is trying to fit both of his fists into his mouth at the same time.