Yesterday we went to the pediatrician. Daniel has fallen into a pretty decent routine there, mostly because they have been very accommodating and let him opt out of the dreaded finger poke and frankly, all of his shots for the past 12, yes 12 years. When we were in the office yesterday and the nurse looked back to his last vaccinations and I heard his last one was in the year 2000, I just thought, of course it was! I hadn't thought much about it, but there it was in front of me 2000.
So many things happened in the year 2000. Besides the obviously new century and all, my wonderful son Zach was born in January. That was a fantastic way to start a new year and century. Later that year, we moved back to East Lansing. No small thing with a newborn and a 3 year old who was very perplexing and spent a lot of his time screaming and crying, much to my confusion. I was excited to move back to East Lansing and get back to our original pediatrician, the one we had after Daniel was born. I wasn't getting any answers from our Dr's in the Detroit area and I was frustrated. I had a new baby and I was finally ready to "hear" the answers. So yes, when we got back here, our pediatrician was the first (and it's unusual for this to happen) to say "he's autistic". With all of the changes that were happening, during this first visit Daniel screamed the ENTIRE time he was in the office. It was a huge change that at the time, I had no understanding how upsetting that would be for him. I didn't understand (yet) how big of a problem that change would be for him. I hadn't put together until yesterday that he had never gotten a shot in THIS office. That first trip to the pediatrician screaming set a long standing precedent. Which brings me back to the fact that he has not gotten a vaccination in 12 years. That is NOT because of the vaccination groups who say it is what causes autism. I take the same stand as A Diary of a Mom, when I say, while I have nothing but respect for those who think this caused their child's autism. They have every right to their own feelings. Nor can I have any say in THEIR journey. We have all traveled down different paths. Every single child with autism is different. I know of a few people that I have heard their stories personally that it does seem like a vaccination contributed. In my opinion, there are many different factors that contribute to autism.
There, I got THAT out of the way. BUT I will say that if I had a baby today....I would choose to vaccinate, but carefully. And by that I mean, one vaccination at a time. I would not allow three or four at a time. Ever. I have learned along parenting journey that we as parents have the last say about everything and one of the people who taught me that is our pediatrician. I adore him. We have had very intelligent conversations about vaccines. He has not been comfortable with Daniel being so far behind, and really, neither have my husband and I. But I remember one talk with my pediatrician and I said, "I am not against it, we just can't do it now. If we hold him down and inject him, he will never come in your office again. He may destroy it in a fit, and if he has an ear infection he won't trust us. Ever. Again". And he understood that. We both agreed him having access to medical care was more important at the time than a vaccine. He respected my opinion and for that I will always be grateful. Not all kids with autism are the same (I'll say it again) this is just DANIEL. So I waited. I waited until I felt he was ready. I waited for him to understand. And over the last year I have seen things change. We got a puppy and I told Daniel the PUPPY got vaccinations. Daniel was shocked. He said "Oscar did?". I took every opportunity to have a calm discussion. Usually it would end with Daniel saying "I will NOT get a shot". But I could see his wheels turning.
People will tell you they HAVE to have these shots for school. It is not true. You can get around it. I have. For years, and it's not that difficult.
This all prefaces that yesterday my boys had pediatrician well visits. I purposely scheduled them together. At the same time. This was a bit overwhelming. I am becoming less successful at juggling many things at once, so trying to talk to the nurse, fill out paperwork, help Daniel answer questions, and keep him calm and trying to give equal attention to Zachary was challenging for me. I do feel a bit guilty that I was exposing Zachary to yet another challenging situation and using him as a guinea pig. But I have to say, I couldn't have done it without him. I hope he understands. I hope he doesn't hold it against me.
I walked into the appointment and told the nurse we were going to try to give Daniel one vaccination today. I won't go into detail but there was some back and forth with the nurse. She doesn't know him. I do. I have mastered the art of conveying this in a polite yet firm way. I know how to work Daniel. I told Daniel before we left our house he was getting a vaccine. This spiked his distress. But I have to be up front with him. He has to trust me about all else. He began protesting. Yelling. I will probably get judged for this, but I gave him a Valium. I had one left. Our Dr. gave me two back when Daniel needed a tooth pulled. I used one then and kept the other for a special occasion. That being yesterday. I could tell as we were walking in to the office it kicked in. He got giggly and started singing. Zachary smiled at me. But before you judge, the Valium relieved DANIEL's stress level. It helped make him not so terrified. Not completely, but it took the edge off a little bit. He was still mad at me and protesting. But it was manageable. When it came down to it and to make a very long story (shorter) Zachary got a vaccination first. I pulled Daniel over to watch it. The nurse said to Zach "think of a happy place". and in an animated voice, totally for Daniel's benefit Zachary said, "I'm going to think of the beach, it is my happy place, I love the water it is so relaxing" (GOD I LOVE THAT KID!) and the nurse stuck him and Daniel said "that's it?". Zachary said, "that's it, it is SO EASY!!!!!"
The nurse left the room and Daniel sat down. She brought in another tray. We decided on the Meningococcal vaccine because 1. it's required. and 2. it doesn't hurt for days like tetanus does. and 3. the MMR still scares me as he is allergic to eggs. Daniel figured it out immediately and started escalating (keep in mind he is 6'1" and 219 pounds. A tantrum is HARD to deal with!) I walked up to him and trying to get him to hear me over the "nononononononononononono" yelling from him. He came down enough and I said, "what is your happy place?" he answered "the circus (?)" He continued to protest and I said we were doing it. I was sure he could. We started taking about the circus, I was holding his arms firmly but not pinned. The nurse was worried about him grabbing her and I don't blame her. Daniel upset can be SCARY due to his size. I told him she was wiping his skin and he was upset and boom. It was over.
He said. "That's all? That was so easy." And here he is.
All he said all day. "it was so easy!" I know my child. I knew he was ready. I also knew that once he did one, he would calm down and realize it wasn't what he thought it was. I knew that it had to be done in a not so traumatic circumstance so he could process it and not remember the trauma around it. So yet another door is opened. Nancy our nurse was fabulous. She offered that if we come into walk in immunization times to ask for her and she would help. She followed my lead and respected what I knew would work. Now Daniel is a little more protected then yesterday which makes me feel good. He also has learned a bit more. He learned that he could do it. He learned again, most importantly, that I was not misleading him. That what I said was absolutely true. That his brother is there for him, always. That we can guide him through a difficult time and he can trust us and rely on us. That even though it wasn't easy. It will (probably) be from now on. He learned that his could do it, and that opens up the door to so many other things. Next to that Belle Tire guy, he conquered his next most overwhelming fear.
Last night we went out for ice cream (which I promised him after he did it) and we clinked our ice cream together in celebration of a job well done.