They say that a little while after having a baby, your brain makes you forget what it was like – that it makes our memory of childbirth a little hazy – and they also say that the reason that the brain does this is to make it more likely that we will go through it again.
I’m not sure of the science behind this, but there definitely are things about pregnancy, childbirth and – well – the first few years of parenthood, that feel hard or terrible or upsetting when we’re in the thick of it, but a few months or years later, if asked about it, we might merely shrug our shoulders and say “Oh yeah, I think that was pretty tough!”
One of these things is taking your baby for their vaccinations. We took our twins for their ‘1 year vaccinations’ this week, and even though I’ve done it seven times before, and even though the last time was only a year ago, I’d totally forgotten about how traumatic it is.
Perhaps it’s a coping mechanism of the brain – after all, we can’t possibly hang on to all the terrible things that happen to us, or we’d all be wallowing in a pit of despair.
But as it stands, my brain made me forget. Until the moment this week, when we walked into the small nurses’ room at our local GP surgery. I found myself making ultra-chatty and bright chit chat with the nurse, as if that would set the tone for the whole appointment. (My brain: If we’re super nice to the nurse, maybe the injections won’t hurt?)
But as I stripped off a baby, I could feel my heart rate increasing, and as I gripped her leg tightly (“Hold it really tight, Mum,” the nurse was instructing me) tears welled up in my eyes. As the injections happen, it’s the baby’s screams that get you – the confused screams! The tears spilling down her face. She doesn’t understand why you’re letting this person hurt her like this. Then come the sobs, gulping for air. And it’s all over, so you can give her a big cuddle (but not too hard because she’s just been treated like a pin cushion).
And the worst thing about that day? We then had to immediately do it all over again with the second twin! Strip, grip, cry, cuddle.
There aren’t many times in life when you purposefully do something which will hurt and upset your small child, are there? It feels so awful. But here are some things you can do to make the day a little less awful…
- Make sure you take someone with you. Whether you’re taking one baby or more for their vaccinations, it’s useful to have someone there to strip the baby, dress the baby, listen to things the nurse is telling you, and give the baby cuddles while you’re signing consent forms.
- Check with your surgery whether they recommend you give Calpol to the baby before the appointment or not – for some vaccinations, they do.
- If you can, book the appointment on a day when you have nothing else on. The baby might be feeling a bit rubbish afterwards but so might you! The best thing you can do afterwards is go home for a big cup of tea and cuddles.
- When you put the appointment in your diary, write in ‘THIS MIGHT BE AN EMOTIONALLY TOUGH DAY!’ as a reminder to be extra kind to yourself.
- Consider getting the following ‘Vaccination day kit’ in:
Calpol (for the baby)
Tissues (for you and the baby!)
Snack/treat (for the baby – we gave ours some breadsticks immediately after their injections and the distraction helped the sobbing subside)
Cake (for you, after the appointment)
Wine (for you, that evening)
- Dress your little one in a really easy outfit – top and leggings/joggers or even a onesie – so that getting them dressed again afterwards is a stress-free as possible.
- Be ready to just go with the flow, for the next 24 hours. Your baby might not have any side effects from the immunisations – ours were off their food, had a slight temperature and just seemed really grumpy and tearful for an hour or so before bed, but (thankfully) once in bed, they slept well.
- Repeat the mantra “We’re doing this to stop them (and others) from getting really poorly in future”. I kept telling myself this throughout the whole experience and it made me feel better. Vaccinations are a great thing and we’re so lucky to have access to them.
I’ll clearly forget all of this in three months time when we need to get the second set of MMR vaccinations, and then again in two years time when it’s time for the pre-school boosters. So if you could remind me, then, I’d be most grateful…