A week or so before we left on the roadtrip that shall not be named, the phone rang. It was the clinic. Apparently their records had indicated that one ‘Percy’ Johnson was approaching the one year mark. [And he hadn’t yet received any vaccinations.] Did I want to bring him in to get his shots? August 10th? At 1.20pm?
In my defense I will say I’d made an appointment to get the kid some shots. In January. But, due to the flu-insanity and hyper-demand for flu vaccines, the clinic actually called me and cancelled my appointment. Yes, they called to reschedule a month later. And I rescheduled, but called to cancel because I thought the boys were sick and, at that time, taking a kid with the sniffles to a place where they administer flu vaccinations would have been the ultimate in social faux pas.
I mean their voicemail actually said: ‘if anyone in your family is sick, please reschedule the appointment.’ Do not pass go, do not collect $200, do not come in for your vaccinations.
So I didn’t and that’s how I ended up with a thoroughly un-vaccinated eleven month old.
At the appointed time, I arrived at the clinic with my littlest spawn. The oldest two had stayed behind with the professor, which means I had the comparative luxury of being a one-child parent.
I guess for security purposes – to ensure you’re not grabbing random children off the street and bringing them in to be vaccinated – the nurse approaches you and, whilst looking at the records, asks you to confirm the child’s name. And birth date. And your own name.
Luckily I had no trouble with his name. But I got stuck on the birthday. Or the birth year, I should say. I rattled off the day and month and then, I panicked. What year was he born? What year is it now? Was he born in 2004? 2006? ‘2009!’ I blurted out, relieved.
After weighing and measuring the lad, we went into the patient room. For the shots. I made ineloquent apologies for not getting him his shots. They pretended not to judge me. The nurse-in-training asked if I’d fill out a postpartum depression questionnaire. ‘It can happen any time in the first year,’ the student explained. I complied. After all, I still had eighteen days of possible depression left.
The first or second question was something to the effect of ‘I feel overwhelmed and/or unable to move forward.’ I thought of my laundry pile. And the state of my house. And all the after-effects of spending twenty five days on the road.
They gave the little man two shots in each thigh and asked me to stay in the waiting room for fifteen minutes afterwards. To watch for sudden, severe reactions, I suppose. We paced around the waiting room floor for a bit, while staring at the public health posters.
Another just-‘shot’ baby joined us, with both of his parents. I suppressed a smile as I thought about those first-baby days. When Jason and I would both show up for appointments. I felt a little smug as I thought about how savvy I’d become in this mothering gig. I mean, there I was, with my third baby at the shot clinic. All by myself.
The thought had scarcely left my head when I dropped all of the pamphlets the nurses had given me. And I had to hold my third baby in one arm whilst trying to gather up all my papers with the other. And then I dropped the lid to the baby food jar from which I’d been feeding my third baby. In the (surely) hygienic health clinic waiting room.
And then I exited the clinic, with my third baby in one arm and a purse, stash of pamphlets, and (open) baby food jar in the other. And then my third baby grabbed the spoon from the open food jar and dumped a slew of peach sauce all over the left leg of my jeans.
After strapping my third baby in his carseat, and almost reversing into a pick-up truck, I drove off.
And all the pamphlets and vaccination records I’d left on top of the van roof when I was putting my kid in his carseat, flew off into the street. Where they were trampled by a yellow school bus.