Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thoughts about The Pox

Do you remember when everyone got the chicken pox? When you could and did catch it at the store or on the playground?  When you were sent back to school while the scabs were fresh? Or maybe you caught it on summer vacation (like my sister and I did) and had to stay out of the sun for a few days, but everyone expected all the cousins to get it too.  Maybe you've noticed, but no one gets them these days, and suddenly there is great moral weight to knowing your child could infect someone else.  

my method of filling the sweatsock with oatmeal for the bath.
very high tech.
I don't think that used to be an issue back in the day when it was everywhere, but now there are, as a friend put it in an email to me, "moral implications of ... knowingly exposing (him) to such a contagious disease that not everyone wants."  I think that was the hardest part of my experience with these pox:  knowing that we had them and knowing not everyone wants them.

chatting with Mormor lifts the spirits
I went online at some point during the past three weeks of waiting for Ani to get them, knowing she might be infectious, wondering if I should really be going to all this trouble to keep her away from the general public.  (She hasn't been to the library, market, the store, choir, coop, piano - anywhere!)  The opinions varied widely - some people felt that disease is just a part of life and either folks have vaccinated or they are fine with their kids contracting the virus.  Others thought it was one's moral duty to quarantine a child you knew had had sufficient exposure to the virus.

Ruby Gloom, Shawn the Sheep, Sabrina the Witch
Early on, when I wasn't yet sure that the girls were getting sick, we wavered back and forth about going to a friend's annual Halloween party.   Those friends - who don't want their child exposed right now because of the particular timing of things happening in their lives - have since said to me, if you had only just brought them to the party in ignorance, she'd just be exposed and we wouldn't have any decision to make about it!! It's the knowledge that's been weighty and kept us at home.  

I think that we have managed the pox pretty well - neither girl has been totally miserable.  They are easily distracted and happy to take the baths every day and endure the greasing-up when I put salve on their pox.  When the girls were babies, I asked our trusted pediatrician about the varicella vaccine.  I think I put it to him as - is there something I don't know about the chicken pox, or is this mostly a vaccination of convenience?  I mean, if you were going to quarantine an exposed child and both parents worked out of the home and the child went to school, it would be a nightmare of a problem to solve.  He agreed - that was really the gist of it. Our lifestyle affords us some flexibility, so we opted out of that one.

sweet company
There are always extenuating circumstances that would make a virus like chicken pox a much worse prospect for someone than it is for us.  Pregnant women who have not had the pox, and newborns, as well as people with immune system challenges would all have much higher risk for complications.  We are very lucky.   The chicken pox virus has been inconvenient.  Friends have called, wondering if they should expose their kids.  It is a completely personal decision, but I advise them to look at their calendars and mark the days they could expose other people - and then add on another incubation and window of contagion for every one of their kids! 

sister party!
Ani told me very seriously today that the chicken pox got its name because it comes from chickens!! Wonder how she figures that works...I've read that it's called chicken pox because the pox look like spots that have been pecked at by chickens; that pox look like chickpeas (so appetizing); that they're the more chickeny (wimpy) of the poxes - as opposed to small pox, which by that reasoning should have been called Hugely Scary Pox or just about anything other than small pox.  

I have loved these days with Ani - the snuggling, the long baths, the stories, the endless pajama wearing - but we will be more than ready to join the world when it's over.


merry said...

I still don't understand why it is a disease that doesn't like company.Why can't siblings get it at the same time instead of one at a time?Why should mamas be forced to stay at home for a whole month too? Oh well, you only have 2 kids, so it's almost over! And I LOVED chatting with Ani!! What fun!!

Phyllis said...

It seems mainly to boil down to the fact most moms work and they can't afford to take off that much work. Our kids are vaccinated at all, so I understand how you are feeling. All of mine, but the youngest who wasn't born yet, got the chicken pox at the same time. No big deal really. Mumps was the same way when I was a kid. Everyone got them, it seemed, one time or another.