Note: This post is about 18 months old, but still relevant. A little explanation: My oldest son, Tyler, experienced a serious, (albeit rare) brain injury at both 2 and 4 months of age from his pertussis vaccine. It has had life-long devastating consequences. His youngest sister contracted pertussis when she was just two years old and aside from coughing so hard that she threw up every night for 3 months she has not suffered any long-term effects. I realize that is not the case for everyone.
Having experienced both the consequences of vaccinating and delaying the vaccine schedule, I would choose the latter. It's a personal decision and I speak from the perspective of a mother who has watched her son suffer year after year from that initial decision to "follow the herd" and vaccinate.
I realize I am opening a whole can of worms here. Please understand that I am not anti-vaccine, but I do believe parents have a responsibility to read the damn vaccine information sheet. Actually read it before you agree to it and think about it, pray about it, know if it is right for your child, your family. Had I done all that, I may have still gone ahead and had my son receive his vaccine, but at least I would have been educated about the risks and may have recognized what was happening and sought treatment for him sooner.
And please don't lump everyone who chooses not to vaccinate into one big category of anti-government conspiracy theorists. Some of us are actually relatively normal people who have experienced the tragedy of being the "Ounce of Prevention" sacrificed for the "Pound of Cure." I hope the sacrifice was worth it.
And now for the actual post:
Tyler's 16th birthday came and went last week without the usual accompanying 'Sweet 16' celebration. In fact, I hate admitting this, I didn't even wish him a Happy Birthday on his birthday. (I know! What is wrong with me?) Ever since I filled in the dates on the fridge calendar last month I have been thinking about it, so it's not that it hasn't been on my mind - it has. Oh, how it has.
I remember when we first started taking him to Early Intervention-speech, physical and occupational therapies-he was 6 months old. A case worker brought a video for us to watch entitled, Mourning the Loss of your Dream. She expected us to break down and sob, let it all out so we could "move on."
It's strange, but at that time we felt no real sense of loss for the life he might have had if he'd never had his shots at 2 months resulting in a life-altering brain injury. Instead, we had a strong feeling that he would lead us on a journey of much growth and love. And oh, how he has.
However, that sense of loss has snuck in like a stranger in the night a few times since then:
when the neighbor's baby started walking
when the kids in his class started being invited to birthday parties
and reading, writing and learning arithmetic
when the kids in his scout troop (the one he would've been in) started getting their Eagles
and, now, when they are driving, dating, and discovering their talents
I think about how it might have been - the friendships he'd have made, the girls he'd be crushing on (or who'd be crushing on him), the kind of big brother he'd be (definitely sweet), the miles of running and walking he'd have done by now, the sports he'd have loved to play, the food he'd be devouring during his teenage growth spurts, and yes, even the musical instruments he might have taken up.
On milestone birthdays, these thoughts and dreams raise their heads and give me pause. I am sad for him and also, selfishly, sad for me. Sad that the only conversations we have are the ones in my mind or with our eyes, sad that he cannot (right now) have the dreams in my heart for him or become independent and have these same dreams for his own future children.
I let myself mourn what might have been and then, carefully, I tuck those dreams back into their treasure box to store up against some far distant future where God will breathe Life into them. Then I come back to how it is, rejoicing today in the many lessons he's taught me, all the many ways in which he has stretched the corners of my soul - filling them up with love and gratitude for a life so precious.
He is my Sweet 16. Happy Birthday son!
**As a post-script to this: Do you realize that adults who were vaccinated as children can spread pertussis without even knowing it? Pertussis is especially dangerous if contracted by children under 1 year of age (keep those babies home, limit their exposure). It is recommended that adults receive a Tdap booster every 10 years. Are you part of the herd?