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A Mother's Responsibility

Newborn and Mom

I was already dreading the eight week baby wellness checkup before I even left the hospital with my newborn son. The visit not only marked the end of my maternity leave, but it also meant my son would be getting his first round of immunizations. The immunizations themselves didn't worry me. What worried me was seeing my little guy in pain. No parent wants to see their kids in pain, even if it is only temporary. And in the case of my son, the pain from the vaccinations was temporary. Yes, he screamed after getting poked three times!!! Yes, he was quite fussy for most of the day. Yes, I cried and felt like the worst mother ever. But after some baby Tylenol and a good night's sleep (10 hours straight!!), he was nothing but smiles the next day.

Even before my baby was born, I took all the steps necessary to protect my son from illnesses. I got my whooping cough vaccination during my third trimester. I knew that vaccine would offer some protection to my son during the first few weeks of his life. My husband and I also refused to take our son out in public until he got his first series of immunizations. Now to some people, this may seem a little extreme. However, as a medical journalist I know that even a simple cold can be dangerous to a newborn. Plus, he was born in the middle of RSV and flu season and we didn't want to take any chances. So we quarantined him in the comfort of our home for the first 8 weeks of his life. I also made sure that family members were up-to-date on their vaccinations as well. It really wasn't a difficult conversation to have either. Everyone (grandparents, aunts, uncles) agreed and even sent me photos of their Band-Aids as proof.

At two months, we took him in to get his first series of immunizations. Now, for those of you who don't have kids, or just recently gave birth, the first series of immunizations is pretty intense. In most cases, babies will get immunized for like eight different viruses. That is a lot for their little immune systems to handle. However, I know it is my responsibility as a mom to protect my kid by getting him immunized. There was never really a question; I just knew it is important and potentially lifesaving. The vaccines not only protect him, but they also protect other children as well. Even after getting poked three times, my little guy is doing just fine.

I've also seen the consequences of these illnesses that immunizations are intended to protect against. I have a family member who got whooping cough when he was a small child. The illness caused significant brain damage and he was never the same. My husband also got whooping cough a few years ago. I have never seen such a fearsome illness. The illness literally brought him to his knees. It was tough to watch it in a grown adult; I couldn't image watching my infant son suffer through that illness. No parent would want to see that. Yet in 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported several cases of pertussis in children under the age of one.

Even as a journalist, I am still surprised at the anti-vaccine rhetoric. I received all of my immunizations as a child and I turned out just fine. Most children do. Yet the recent measles outbreak proved that not all children are getting their immunizations. This frightens me as a new parent. My son is not old enough to receive protection for some diseases like measles. If he contracts measles, or another illness, from a child who was not vaccinated, my infant son could get very sick. When I was pregnant, I came across a child at a local park who clearly had an active case of chicken pox. Chicken pox is another illness that children are vaccinated for during the first 18 months of their lives. And chicken pox can cause serious health problems in children, babies and even unborn babies if a pregnant woman is exposed to the virus.

I know there is no such thing as a "textbook" way to raise a child. It is certainly a learning curve. At the end of the day, the parents know what is best for them and their child. I am certainly not the perfect parent. Some would frown at the fact that I formula feed my infant son or that I have already started the process of sleep training. Everyone has their opinions and in my opinion, I felt that immunizations are important to both me and my son. I've done the research and I've seen the importance first hand. I know I can't keep him in a bubble; I know that there are parents who would disagree with my logic surrounding immunizations. And I know I hate seeing my son cry after he gets his shots. But I know that my child is healthy and still loves me and that is all that matters to me.