The Closer

Rowan is finally up to date on all his vaccinations. He won’t need another needle for a good ten years. And this is a good thing, given his latest doctor’s appointment.

We’ve been reluctant but resigned passengers on the vaccination train — the result of a certain amount of neurotic over-education that kept us researching the ideal way to balance the risks and benefits of shooting up your kids with altered versions of serious illnesses.

On the one hand, we were suspicious of Big Pharma’s agenda to sell as many drugs as possible to doctors, parents, and governments, as well as unhappy about the idea of assaulting a six-week old baby’s immune system with four or five different strains of disease.

On the other hand, we weren’t happy about relying on other children’s immunity to protect our own kids. And in the absence of any convincing literature that suggested that vaccinations were inherently dangerous, we finally decided on a compromise: wait until at least a year, and/or until the kids were weaned or weaning, and do one vaccine at a time until done. It also helped that our vegan, home-schooling family doctor had vaccinated her kids. Although, apparently, our midwife hadn’t. To each her own, and we made our decision.

Since embarking on project immunity, we have spent a small fortune on Emla patches, in order to minimize the pain for our little hothouse flowers. Two Saturdays ago, we took the boys in for the latest round of sticks. Isaac had been napping during the Emla applications, so he was patch-free. I took him in, while Rachel and Rowan watched Thomas videos in the waiting room. He didn’t even flinch.

Then Rachel took Rowan, while Isaac and I waited outside. And waited. And waited. And waited. Just as I was beginning to wonder, Rachel emerged. “Your turn,” she said, taking Isaac from me.

I went in. Rowan sat on the examining table, a lipstick case in his right hand and his left palm planted firmly over his left thigh where the Emla patch had been. “I want lipstick but I don’t want a needle,” he told me. I looked at the doctor, eyebrows raised. “Well,” I began, “they’re not mutually exclusive...”

Apparently, Rowan had stated quite firmly but calmly that he was having no needle that day. They had discussed why he was getting a shot, that it wouldn’t hurt, but it would keep him from getting sick. “But I not sick,” he had said. Rachel had rooted through her handbag to find something to distract him, and had come up with lipstick (usually a winner). I tried to lift Rowan’s hand from his thigh but it wouldn’t budge. “He’s been pretty focused on not moving that hand,” said our doctor.

Finally, I climbed up on the table, and pulled him, facing me, onto my lap so that he was straddling me. “Close your eyes. Hide your face in my shoulder,” I told him. Then I pried his hand off his thigh, tucked the hand under my right armpit, held his head into my shoulder with my left hand and his left leg down with my right hand and our doctor gave him his needle. He didn’t feel a thing.