This post is for my sister.
We have our differences, but one of the strands that ties us together is that we are both mothers. Your two boys are now entering adolescence, while I spend my days waddling around after a precocious preschooler, watching my belly swell with her little sister. Your boys pretend to have tea parties and play princess games with my daughter, and she looks up to her big cousins with nothing but steadfast admiration and love. While we are at different stages in the parenting game, we share the same concerns, fears, dreams, and hopes to raise respectful, happy, and independent children.
As my December due date approaches, I didn’t know how to express one of my fears to you. After hearing stories from other mothers of spinal taps, trips to the ER, and even death, I’m terrified that my soon-to-be newborn daughter could contract the flu or whooping cough. I know you typically opt out of the flu shot, whereas I make sure I’m vaccinated as quickly as possible. But with the complications that can arise in infants as a result of the flu or whooping cough, it is my goal to make sure my daughter is protected from disease as much as humanly possible. I tossed and turned for nights on end, wondering if it was reasonable to ask you to get a flu shot. I read news stories and consulted endless online moms groups and forums, and I encountered countless stories of moms grappling with the same issue. On some forums, mothers were shamed for wondering if they should ask family members to get vaccinated if they would be spending time with their newborn child; others were lauded. Instead of helping me reach clarity, I felt even more lost. How could I preserve our sisterly relationship as I grappled with wanting to safeguard my daughter?
Ultimately, I know I drove a hard bargain asking you to either get the flu shot or to wait to see my new daughter. And I was so, so anxious about how you would respond.
And then you told me you decided to get vaccinated. You put the love that we already both share for this little girl above everything else. And I am so glad I’ll be able to watch you snuggle with my daughter at Christmastime with my mind at greater ease.
Parenting is hard. All moms know that. There are no “right” answers, and every mother has to make the decisions that are the best fit for her and her family. So often, though, we tear each other down through the asinine “mommy wars” and sanctimonious Facebook posts. And at what cost? Instead of leaning on one another for help and emotional support, we live in fear of judgment. I was scared you would tear me down, belittle my choice, and criticize my actions. Instead, you understood my fear and respected my decision as a mother. You saw what was in my heart. You lifted me up. And for that, I am grateful.
And so, I thank you for not only supporting me as your sister, but as a fellow mother.