Wednesday, December 5, 2012

17 needles and 4 children

Today was the day I had been dreading. At one o'clock we were due at the health department for a grand total of seventeen vaccines between the four kids. The potential for things to go wrong was huge. I was nervous.

Actually, I was pretty sure the older two would be fine, and the youngest might cry but then he’d smile through his tears and say thank you. It was my younger daughter I was most worried about. She doesn’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to doctors (or new situations or pain or anything she doesn’t like). I was afraid she’d be a bear for days beforehand. I was afraid I'd have to wrestle her into the van. I was afraid she'd rock the clinic with her screams.

So I did everything I could think of to prepare. Mostly, we talked. We talked about her fears and why we were getting the vaccines. We talked about the pros and cons of watching the needle go in. We talked about the pros and cons of going first, second, or last. I told her about the different parts of the brain and how the limbic system takes over in stressful situations and then we “flip our lids”—flight, fight, or freeze—and have to find tools to engage our cerebral cortex. (Thank you, dear STAR leaders, who taught my Sunday school class this week!)

In the days leading up, she was surprisingly non-fierce. She used words. She cried. She said she wanted to go first which blew my socks off. In situations such as these she typically cuts short any rational discussion with supremely unhelpful statements such as, “I’M NOT GOING TO DO IT."

I had reason to feel hopeful, but I wasn't taking any chances. I called in the reserves. One of the women in our church, a long-time friend and now a church elder and a member of our support team, has been meeting with my daughter on occasion to help her work through some of her anxiety. The two of them were already scheduled to meet last night, so a couple days ago I emailed her the gory Wednesday details. “Maybe you can talk with her about it?” I asked.

“I’ll do what I can,” she wrote back.

My girl came home happy, calm, and—could it be?—ready. They had done some role playing, she said, and she had some little treasures to show me.

There was a tiny jar of M&Ms to take if she felt nervous. There was a necklace with five wooden beads—one for each shot, maybe? And there was an envelope of little cards, each one with a picture of her on it and a scripture about not being afraid.

The thoughtfulness! The intentionality! All for my little girl! I still tear up just thinking about it.

I crafted our afternoon with utmost care. First to the bank to put our years’ collection of coins through the sorter. We got to see the machine rattle and shake and marvel at the big bags of coins in the cupboard and get Hershey’s Kisses out of the little bowls scattered about. All exciting and good and positive. I was really big on positive.

In the car, my daughter noted that she was getting nervous. “I need a pill,” she announced. “Is anyone else scared?” Everyone got an M&M.

My husband met us at the clinic. While we waited, back in our little room, the kids figured out their heights and weights, played Speed, and acted nervous for the camera.

When it came time for the vaccines, I left for the waiting room with two of the kids while my husband stayed with the vaccinate-ees. My younger daughter went first, just like she said she would. She didn’t cry, my husband reported, not until the last two shots (and those were the hurty ones). There was no screaming and no fighting. When she came out to the waiting room to tell me she was done, I could hardly believe my eyes. My daughter was calm, dry-eyed, and quietly proud of herself.

The other kids did great, nary a tear or a fuss. I wasn’t in the room for any of the shots until the very end.

The nurse, a friend from church, had some seriously slick moves. She gave shots so lightening fast—bambambam—that sometimes the kids didn’t even know they'd been stuck! Competent nurses must never, not ever ever ever, be taken for granted.

Afterwards, the nurse had the kids make like chickens to keep their arms from getting stiff. We had a group discussion about our typhoid pills (a discussion in which my youngest was fully engrossed—we had to cut short his questions regarding whether or not it would be acceptable to take the pills with milk or juice or water or, or, or...)  And then we were out of there!

And off to Dairy Queen where the kids were mystified as to why the server flipped their blizzards upside down before handing them over.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (12.5. 11), raisin-filled cookies, the selfish game


  1. Elated. I am so happy for you. And them:-).

  2. Holy vaccines! What all did they have to get?!

  3. Hurrah!! Better than some of my shots stories (read: both brother and I passed out on the floor, me with rugburn on my face...and I'm not 100%, but pretty sure I was out of high school).

  4. Dear M&Ms-and-Worry-Beads Lady (you know who you are): I heard about you. You're fabulous.

  5. Wow, you handled that so well. Congrats to your daughter!

  6. This is so wonderful it made me cry. God not only helped you plan for the day but also put wonderful, helpful people in your path in the days leading up to and all that day long. I hope that I, too, can one day be such a wonderful influence on a young person as the M&Ms/worry bead lady was on your daughter. Vicki

  7. oh my WORD. I was on the edge of my seat and then there was no climax! I'm so happy.
    And I'm going to take your cues about handling a high-anxiety child facing a stressful situation. Thank you.

  8. Surely a true hero: the m&m worry-beads woman!

  9. Those cards with scriptures and her picture... how wonderful.

  10. This struck such a chord with me--my oldest struggles with anxiety in certain situations, too, and the kindness of others is usually what helps the most. What a wonderful gift to have given your daughter--the gift of space, listening, and support that enabled her to SUCCEED. She must have indeed been proud of herself!