Everything changes when you see your child for the first time. I will hopefully never forget seeing my daughter Frankie for the first time as she was placed on weighing scales after an emergency c-section.
I was able to see Éamon as soon as he came into the world. I will never forget their colour. Eamon was red, understandably. Frankie was a greyer colour and I was worried upon seeing it. But the medics were not and I took my lead from them. While she had to spend some time under the amazing care of the nurses in the Special Care Unit, there was never anything to panic about.
But in that fleeting moment when I fretted about her colour, I experienced what real worry is.
Work, finances and so on are concerns, but they pale into insignificance compared to the thought, ‘What if anything ever happened either of my children’?
I’m sure most parents can identify with that feeling of being stopped in your tracks when you hear of a tragic death of a child. It is, by some distance, your worst nightmare. How could you cope? And, amazingly, many people do because the power of the human spirit is so strong. But you dare not even think of that.
It’s that love and sense of responsibility for your child that ensures you do everything you can to protect them, whilst, obviously, not mollycoddling them either.
You develop a sixth sense for dangers lurking around the house. Because toddlers have an inbuilt sixth sense for finding dangerous items before safe toys.
If you have any fear about them feeling poorly, you ring the doctor.
In short, you absolutely do everything to protect them from anything that can harm them.
Earlier this month Éamon went for his 12-month vaccinations. He got two, one was the MMR, to protect him from measles, mumps and rubella. The other was the PCV jab, to protect from pneumococcal disease, a bacterial infection.
He didn’t like the needle going in but was right as rain as soon as he got the comfort of his bottle.
It is important to be critical thinkers when making decisions. We did our research before Frankie’s vaccinations and, in the end, for us, there was no decision. All the credible, scientific research we read was in favour of the vaccinations.
But we researched thoroughly because we are well aware of the noise about vaccinations out there. Depending on what quack you listen to, the MMR jab can cause autism, plus a cocktail of other theories. Those autism claims by Andrew Wakefield have been widely discredited but still have traction.
It is frightening to hear those in the medical field say that the number of children getting vaccinations is coming down.
It is ultimately driven by similar motivations to what I have described – a desire to do anything to protect your child. People refusing to vaccinate genuinely seem to think they will harm their child if they do so. If you actually thought the MMR jab could cause autism, what would you do?
But for anyone facing this crossroads and wondering what to do, I would urge them to thoroughly check their sources and the legitimacy of them.
There is a theory out there that vaccines are a conspiracy headed up by big pharmaceutical companies with the backing of governments and doctors. Well if so many people and countries can join forces to do something so apparently wrong yet countries cannot agree on fundamental climate change measures, we have bigger problems than we realise.
More children are dying from measles because children are not getting the vaccinations in the same numbers. That is the stark reality.
Those who have not vaccinated sometimes claim their children have still avoided picking up diseases. What they fail to acknowledge is the immunity of the many is protecting the few whose parents choose not to.
This ‘herd immunity’ is a key component of the success of vaccines. If 95 percent of children have MMR, then the chances of the remaining 5 percent picking up measles are slim.
However, if the figures change to 80-20, the chances increase.
At the risk of sounding preachy, if you really want to protect your child, which I know you do, research the issue properly and credibly. Talk to your GP if you have any questions and do not rely on online scaremongers. Unless you are a medical professional yourself, your GP knows infinitely more than you or I.