As thrilled as I am to my very core to be pregnant and having this baby, her timing could have been a little bit better.
At first, my slight frustration with my being due in February was two-fold. First, it was because it would be mean that I would miss the entire 100th Anniversary of the community centre where I’ve worked for the past five years – and the knowledge that pretty much everything I’ve done there since starting has led to this day. My boss, when she found out that I was going to be on maternity leave likely starting the end of January, went into planning overdrive and the majority of my time in the past 3 months and the next 3 months has been spent on planning and coordinating every little effort that will be required for our organization to pull off the 100th – there are days where I feel like I’m doing the work of two and a half people, this not being a number that I’ve pulled out of thin air – seeing how two and a half people are who my boss will be hiring to fill my position in the coming year. I’ll work my ass off for the next three months and when the 100th rolls around, my 2.5 successors will get the credit when it all goes off without a hitch.
Second? Earlier this year (or was it late last year?) Tay and I had made the decision to attend the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver if we could get tickets and find a place to stay. We purchased our tickets earlier this year, about $3,000 worth, and I re-established contact (and invited myself to stay) with a friend of mine that I knew from living in Vancouver and who still lives there – her apartment, in fact, is in the same part of the city where they’re building the Olympic village. When we found out that I was pregnant and that my due date was two day after the start of the games, and exactly when we were supposed to be in Vancouver, we sighed a little but quickly accepted that this pregnancy, and the resulting baby was so worth it and and so much more important than the Olympics. We tried not to think about the next time the Olympics would be in Canada, or how far off that would be. Because it didn’t matter, and it still doesn’t and once we find out how to turn in our tickets for our refund, we’ll breathe a lot easier.
And then, then H1N1 hit. And I was able to avoid thinking about it for the first part of my pregnancy because a vaccine wasn’t available and wouldn’t be for quite some time. I did some preliminary research, talked to my fertility specialist, took some comfort in her telling me that if she didn’t work in the health profession and was pregnant would absolutely not take the vaccine even when it became available. I’d made up my mind then and there that even when the vaccine became available, I’d not get it. I was 100% decided and felt confident in my decision.
And now, that’s all changed.
I am becoming inundated with information on H1N1 and the vaccine, and advice as to whether or not I should get the vaccine, a lot of it unsolicited. I sat in a meeting last week with a funder from the City of Toronto, who asked me rather bluntly when I would be getting my vaccine. My mother called me twice in the past week alone to discuss getting the vaccine and what my options were – she hasn’t gone so far as to tell me to get it, but the intent is there. I tell her I’m undecided still and try and get off the phone, not because I don’t want to talk to her, but because I don’t want to talk about the vaccine and the risks of not getting it. My husband, who wants me simply to be informed, has been giving me regular updates from the Fluwatch site. My OB, who I saw on Friday, told me very clearly that she is recommending to all her patients to get the vaccine. I’ve browsed pregnancy message boards and have seen posts from dozens of women that have gone ahead and gotten the vaccine, and I, quite frankly, am starting to envy their peace of mind that they’ve gotten from making their decision.
And yet, the decision to vaccinate or not has not come that easily. And this is coming as no surprise to me seeing how I am often in a state of indecision – I can spend 2o minutes deciding what to wear to work in the morning, or where to go for lunch when I’m out with friends. Many times, I’ve deferred to letting others make the decision for me when it comes to simple things like that, and they laugh and shake their head at me because the question is, when the time comes to make a very serious decision, what am I going to do then?
Indeed, what am I going to do?
My OB on Friday expressed her frustration with the decisions that the province has made about H1N1 and vaccinating pregnant women. Pregnant women are being told absolutely, 100% to get the vaccine, but you can’t go into a public health office like the rest of the general public and get a vaccine. We’re considered to be the population at the highest-risk, and yet, clinics are refusing to vaccinate pregnant women. If you’re pregnant, you’re supposed to go to your doctor’s office, and when I asked my OB if she’d be doing the vaccination at her office, she had to tell me no – she had indicated that she would be interested in providing the vaccine in her office but so many other OBs said that they wouldn’t and therefore, her request to do so was denied.
She suggested that if I decided to get the vaccine that I try my family doctor but warned that he may not be doing it because thousands of doctors across the country and refusing to do the vaccine because of the paper work involved. If his office told me no, she gave me the number of a doctor that she is working with who has agreed to vaccinate her patients. I’m familiar with the doctor that she is referring me to, and familiar with the walk-in clinic that he works out of, and familiar with the extreme number of people that are in and out of his clinic on an hourly basis. If he’s agreeing to take her patients then he’s agreeing to take other patients and the thought of sitting in a waiting room filled with potentially seriously ill people while I wait for my vaccine is not very tempting at all.
And that is of course, if I decide to get the vaccine which I obviously haven’t decided to do.
We were chatting with our neighbors today about the decision to vaccine or not and I said how frustrating it was for me to be in this position to make this decision and the reason to vaccinate is solely to protect yourself for those that choose not too. You hear about how it’s a person’s social responsibility to get the vaccine, to wherever possible, protect others from being exposed to H1N1 and there’s truth to be had there – I think about all the people that do not exercise preventative measures to keep themselves from getting sick, or who insist on going into work when they are very clearly ill. And I absolutely get that some people can not afford to miss the time from work, that work part-time and can’t take that cut in their pay to stay home and recover. But I also know that there are people that can’t afford to stay home from work because they’ve already used up all their sick time, whether they were sick or not and so they have no choice but to go to work. For whatever reason (none of which are truly acceptable to me – when you’re sick you’re sick, stay home) these are the people that are on public transit, sneezing and coughing and spreading the disease, with no real regard for those that are trying to avoid catching the very illness that they are suffering from.
So get the vaccine, people will say. Protect yourself from getting it. Is it really that difficult of a decision?
It is when you’re pregnant and carrying a baby and they can’t say for sure what kind of side-effect that the vaccine will have on your unborn child. The health profession will tell you that it’s safe, that it’s produced in a manner that is similiar to the regular flu shot and that the flu shot has been tested on pregnant women with no known side-effects. In fact, it’s being produced by the same company that does the flu-shot so the assumption is that it must be okay. And I get that it probably is, but the word that I focus on here is probably. Probably, but they can’t say for sure.
The second you get pregnant, you are given a list of things to do and not do to protect your child and mostly, it’s because they can’t say for sure the effect that it will have on your baby because it hasn’t been tested. Don’t drink ANYTHING because we don’t know what alcohol will do to your fetus. Don’t eat red meat that’s undercooked, don’t eat lunch meat or raw fish, avoid these cheeses, don’t color your hair, don’t run 10km, don’t do housework, eliminate all caffeine from your diet. And yes, I get that I’m being extreme here and that a lot of this is just unproven, mass hysteria (I eat at Subway, I’ve colored my hair, I enjoyed the occasional steak that was still pink in the middle, I was running right up until my doctor specifically told me not to, for a reason other than me just being merely pregnant).
Based on what I have done despite the warnings, you would think that I would be comfortable with getting the vaccine, that it would be easy for me to say that the risks of getting it far outweigh the risks of not getting it. And the reasoning behind my getting the vaccine are a lot more serious than the decisions that I made to get my hair colored or eat lunch at Subway. Those reasons are superficial, the reasons to vaccine are not. And yet, it pisses me off to no end that the conservative experts that have been so adamant that women not do certain things while pregnant because they can’t say for certain what the risk to the fetus is, are handing out recommendations to pregnant women to get the vaccine like it’s Halloween candy.
So where does that leave me?
I very rarely get sick, and have never had a flu shot. The last time I got the flu was probably 5 years ago. I had a terrible cold in September of this year, but prior to that, I hadn’t been sick in a year and a half. Most times, when I feel a cold coming on, I go to bed early and it’s gone in the morning. I’m not a heavy drinker, I don’t smoke, I exercise on a regular basis, I eat fairly well. I am (knock on wood), a healthy person. I don’t have an underlying medical condition (other than being pregnant) that would cause me to get as sick as some people have that got H1N1. The odds of me contracting the disease are pretty slim, and I don’t buy that my health would deteriorate overnight if I did. With the proper precautions, I SHOULD be able to avoid H1N1.
Except that this weekend, I changed my life because of this conscious effort to avoid H1N1. I avoided stopping by the house of some friends who’s daughter was celebrating her 5th birthday because I didn’t want to be around children that have potentially been exposed. I told other friends that I didn’t want to see them this weekend because one of them works in a hospital and hasn’t been vaccinated. I went through the list of my friends in my head that all have children that I would probably avoid seeing over the next few months because of their exposure risk. I think about having to tell people in February to not come visit the baby if they themselves haven’t had their H1N1 vaccines. These are all precautions that I will be forced to take if I choose not to get the vaccine.
I think about the bubble that I will force myself to live in for the next few months, and continue to live in when the baby is born because she won’t have the benefit of the vaccine. How isolated I will be, in general and now through the holidays. How do you tell someone you can’t spend time with them unless they’ve been vaccinated, when you’re refusing to get it done yourself?
Our friend, that’s married to the nurse that hasn’t been vaccinated, told me he understood my hesitation about seeing them this weekend, that it was better for me to be safe than sorry but then wanted to know when we WOULD see them and made a crack about seeing us when the kid was maybe three. And I was quiet as he said that, because there’s a big part of me that’s thinking that I’m being ridiculous, that I’m buying into the hysteria.
There’s a big part of me thinking that I need to make the call, I need to find out where I can go to get the vaccine and then just do it. Get the vaccine and live my life outside a self-imposed bubble and not have to worry about getting H1N1.
And yet, there’s a big part of me that’s thinking, okay, but what if, what if, what if.
What if it’s not safe, what if it harms the baby you’ve wanted for so long, what if it causes some kind of damage that you have to live with for the rest of your life? Will the benefits of getting the shot be worth it then, when there’s a chance that you might not have even contracted H1N1 without the vaccine?
How long is this post, how much have I vented, and I’m STILL no more decided than before I sat down to write it, thinking that if I DID, maybe I could convince myself of deciding one way or the other.
I’m still, after all this, undecided.