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It's Worth a Shot | February, 2014

No shots. No school.

Those are the rules, and our family abides—despite panic around the word shot.

And by panic I mean red-faced-screaming-sprinting-into-the-wall kind of panic.
And not just in the doctor's office with a needle at the ready. It's also in the car on the way to the doctor and at home on the phone making the appointment.

Oh, you think I'm talking about the children's panic?

Sadly, I am not.

My fear of shots arose relatively recently. I survived childhood with a stiff upper lip and a lot of lollipops. I gave blood and plasma regularly in college. When my first baby was born, I was victoriously drug-free—a champ!—though hooked up to the obligatory saline drip via IV. Right after I watched them pull out that IV, I climbed off the birthing table unassisted and said, "Where can a mom get some French fries around here?"

Forty-eight hours later, they pricked my baby's heel. I knew it was coming. They told me it was coming. They summoned me to be there! I went eagerly because it was "baby's first blood draw."

Then they stuck a needle into my baby.

He let out a wail. My eyes rolled back in my head. The lights went out in my brain.

And thus began a dozen years of passing out, or nearly so, any time a needle got near my kids. Vaccinations. Blood draws. IVs. Don't even get me started on tonsillectomies—my child and I were actually wheeled out of a pre-op room in matching gurneys. It was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.

Then something even worse happened. My kids became afraid of shots, too.
And that's how I found myself, the day before the first day of kindergarten, the last possible day to be vaccinated, physically pinning down my screaming boy while the doctor did the deed. He let out a wail. I broke into a cold sweat. My vision got wavy.

"We have a problem with shots, don't we?" The doctor said.

"He's terrified," I replied, my head between my knees.

"Is he terrified, or are you terrified?"

And that was a gentle way of pointing out the real problem: Me. And it was just the shot in the arm I needed.

Right before the next scheduled vaccination, I sat the kids down and said, "I don't like it. You don't like it. But we have to do it. Go ahead and cry. But I am going to be strong."

Since then, shots certainly haven't gone by without crying, wooziness or nausea. (I won't say whose.) But at our last vaccination, the one required before middle school, my son actually made a joke. " Can I have a rag to bite down on?" he asked. We were all laughing when the needle went in.

So hard I even got a little lightheaded.

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