Jason goofing around before the spots took over.
Jason, my 9-year-old who will always be my baby boy, was acutely ill last week. In over fourteen years of parenting, I have never seen either of my kiddos so ill. There was a deep cough that didn't seem very menacing, until it morphed into a 105+ degree fever, extreme fatigue, and a rash that covered his little body from head to toe. I felt so helpless as I sat in the doctor's office, and he suddenly threw up on the floor. Oh, this poor child! What could be wrong with him?
Like many curious mom's might do in the event of their child's illness, I had Google'd "rash" and had come up with a myriad of terrible diseases and sicknesses. My skin was crawling as I perused photos of red marks and bumps and spots of all kinds. I got a very sick feeling in my gut when I read about the measles, especially having been made aware of a recent measles outbreak in December, at Disneyland. I live in California. I have also heard of children who have died from measles, so this was of concern. I knew that it was definitely a disease to be avoided.
"Could he get the measles even though he was vaccinated?" I wondered.
The doctor had the same idea, and said his rash looked quite measles-like. Looking into his early vaccination record, she discovered that he hadn't had the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccination. I felt sheer panic and terror. Back when my kids were babies there had been a lot of speculation about MMR vaccines possibly having a link to autism. My husband and I had decided to put them off a bit until my sons' language skills were more developed. I thought that we had gone back and done the MMR way before kindergarten with Jason, just as we had done with Josh. But we hadn't. Somehow it had slipped by the doctor and the nurses... and me.
"My son could die, because I've made this mistake," I speculated, utterly dismayed.
My stomach began to churn as the the nurse at the pathology lab drew his blood, which in time, would reveal to us whether or not Jason had the measles.
"Has he been exposed to measles? Has he been vaccinated?" she asked, her eyebrows raised in anticipation of my reply.
"No," I replied, with tears in my eyes, "I thought that he had been, but somehow it was missed."
She looked at me and shook her head slightly. I felt so guilty and ashamed, and I wanted to sink into the tile floor and disappear.
Whether or not the nurse was passing any form of judgment, all I could hear in my head was, "You are a bad mommy! You haven't done what is best for your child!"
As I was helping Jason get back to the car, he suddenly told me that his legs wouldn't work anymore, and before I knew it, he was collapsed in a heap on the sidewalk. Thankfully, the nurse saw it happen and rushed out with a can of cold apple juice to hold on his neck in order to revive him. I eventually got Jason settled in the van, and then I lost it.
I silently prayed, "Oh God, what have I done? I need your help. My sweet boy needs your help. I don't know what to do."
After two very long days of watching and waiting and trying to keep Jason hydrated and comfortable, we heard the conclusive test results verifying Jason did not have the measles. After confirming that he also didn't he have strep or a certain strain of flu, we concluded that the illness was some other type of menacing virus. Eventually, his rash cleared up and his temperature dropped, and we were out of the woods, so to speak.
Jason was going to be alright, and yet I still felt the heavy weight of accusation on my heart. When people asked if Jason was ok, I didn't want to tell them that we suspected that he may have the measles. I didn't want to hear the question... Wasn't he vaccinated? I didn't want to hear anyone gasp when I had to say no. And the really ironic thing is, I don't think any of my friends would have judged me at all. They probably would have encouraged me and comforted me, telling me that I hadn't tried to neglect my son's health on purpose, no matter what their particular stance on vaccinations might be.
I think that when it comes down to it, most moms truly want to do what they think is best for their children. Granted, there are moms out there who are selfish, controlling, manipulative, neglectful, and/or just plain mean. There are moms who need their mom card revoked for a while, or forever... but on the whole, we are a sisterhood that just wants to do our best at motherhood.
Whether the subject is...
vaccinations: to vaccinate or to not vaccinate, flu shots or no flu shots
school choice: public, private, or homeschooling
sleep training: crying it out or co-sleeping
food: organic, non-organic, gluten-free, processed or whole food, etc.
baby care: nursing or bottle-feeding, disposable or cloth diapers, etc.
or (fill in the blank),
the list could go on indefinitely,
yet I know that most moms are just trying their very best to weigh their options, to consider their children, and to make the best decisions they can with the resources and information they have. Most moms don't set out to bring harm to their children, yet it is so easy to listen to that little accusing voice that is trying to convince you that you are incompetent, and that you are somehow going to ruin your child's life forever. You end up crying and praying on your closet floor, convinced that you should just raise the little white flag in surrender.
During the midst of this ordeal, I told Jason how sorry I was that I had somehow missed the vaccination.
"I'm so, so sorry, honey," I told him, tears spilling down my face.
"It's ok, you didn't know, Mom."
Oh, the grace that can pour out from a child in response to a parent's humble apology. Grace in little arms wrapped around your waist and in little eyes looking up at you with forgiveness and love.
And the grace that pours out from a God who specializes in second, third and fourth chances, and who is overflowing with wisdom which He is liberal in sharing with those who ask.
And, oh, the promise of a new day, to try this mothering thing again in light of a fresh new morning with a little more wisdom under the mommy belt, and a lot more respect for all the women you know who have learned to do this mommy job well.
Update: Jason will be vaccinated on Monday! Appointment is all set! :)