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Both Sides of The Fence

Note: I realize this topic gets people riled up – all I ask is that you read to the end before commenting.  Thank you!


I’ve kept my mouth shut and my fingers still as the vaccination battle has raged and burned anew here in California and elsewhere across the nation over the past several weeks.  I’ve read articles, observed heated debates, seen some people show compassion and others spew hateful venom.

I read the heartfelt plea for parents to immunize, penned in the 1980’s by beloved author Roald Dahl who lost his young daughter to the measles in 1962.  My heart hurt when I saw photos of the infant infected with measles by unknowingly being in the waiting room of a doctor’s office with an unvaccinated child whose parents didn’t know what was wrong.

Sitting silently here at home, I felt empathy for both sides of this passion-filled argument because I am a mother who is not at all sitting on the fence between the two – I occupy both sides at the same time.

My eldest child is fully vaccinated and my youngest is not.  With a family history of having severe reactions to high doses of medications, ~ For example, I went into anaphylaxis from a large dose of Benadryl at age 5, and ever since, have been allergic to the medication doctors give in order to control allergic reactions.  Irony, anyone? ~ I chose to break 11 year old Ali’s immunizations into one and two dose applications over a series of appointments when she was little.  Sure, it meant more trips to the doctor and more co-pays, but her doctor, who had also been my physican for a number of years, agreed that it wouldn’t hurt, especially if it calmed my worries and kept her safe.  It seemed to be a very reasonable compromise between vaccinating and not wanting to harm my child with overexposure.

When Blythe came along, our insurance coverage was with an HMO that would not allow me to break up the inoculation schedule.  I offered to pay for the office visits myself and even the vaccinations, if necessary, but they refused.  When I then said I would take my two month old baby to see our former doctor and just pay out of pocket, they wouldn’t let me leave.  By the time they finally coerced me into allowing them to give her the full set of shots, the room was filled with several nurses and every pediatrician on staff, all of them telling me I was endangering my child.  Although they never threatened to call child protective services, they let me know that they all felt my parenting was not only questionable but negligent.

On that day, I allowed medical professionals to bully me into ignoring my maternal instincts, and I have made sure to never let that happen again.

The problems that began shortly after that couldn’t be directly tied to the vaccinations at the time.  Blythe was fussy and had a weird rash, she had screaming fits, her body would tense up and her eyes would bug out, but then she would be fine.  The doctor’s office said she had colic and eczema, and when the majority of the symptoms faded after a week or two, I felt okay about letting them give her the full course of shots.  Crisis averted, I was just an overprotective mother worrying for nothing, right?  Little did I know that her Central Nervous System had reacted to the preservatives in the vaccines and was on the verge of waging war on my sweet baby’s body with the slightest provocation.

I delayed Blythe’s second set of immunizations by a few weeks because we were celebrating my 30th birthday with friends and family, and would be traveling.  At 5 months old she was still having occasional screaming fits, but was otherwise a healthy, happy baby, developing on or ahead of schedule in every way.

And then.  I took her for her second round of vaccinations and our world spun upside down, around and in any possible direction other than right side up.  It remained that way for the next three years and I lived every moment of every day with the knowledge that I allowed my child to be injected with something that acted as a catalyst for more pain, more heartache, more turmoil than a child ~ any child, mine or yours or that kid over there, even the one who acts like a complete asshole half the time ~ should ever have to endure.

My point is this: We all love our children.  We want the best for them, to keep them safe and healthy and happy. The great majority of us would never knowingly do anything to cause harm to our babies.  Only two percent of the population has an adverse reaction to vaccinations, most of them mild, and that is an amazingly low rate, especially when we consider how many people, scores of them children, died or had long term complications from the illnesses that these vaccinations not only protect against, but have nearly eradicated in our modern world.

But.  But…  When your child is in the two percent; when it is your child whose body is tortured every day from within and there is nothing you can do to help or soothe; when your softest touch brings her pain; when her health problems increase with regularity and a flu that any other child would get over in 24 hours is life threatening; when she reaches an age where she can speak and describes the way she feels as being on fire inside; you can’t help but relive that moment in your mind – that moment when you held your happy, healthy baby on your lap and watched her get her vaccinations ~ created to keep her healthy! ~ and as much as you want to, with every fiber of your being, you know that you can’t take it back.  You can’t travel back in time and do it a different way, or not do it at all, because even that would be a better choice than this living hell; you just watch your child live with the pain.  And you?  You live in fear because danger lurks everywhere, threatening to take her from you without a moment’s notice.

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine that life for your child, and for yourself, and before you come back to reality, take a deep breath and be thankful that your child is among the 98 percent.  You don’t ever want to know what it’s like on the other side.

If you were to meet 7 ½ year old Blythe today, or for those of you who know her, to just observe her now, you would never suspect that she is the child I described above.  Believe me when I tell you that I gave the slightest, most gentle description of what life was like for her.  For us.

B face

Blythe is among the few who have been able to make a full recovery, after some other underlying health issues were discovered and managed.  She is, once again, the happy, healthy child I held in my arms so many moons ago.  In the years now that she has been well, I have made sure to thank my lucky stars on a daily basis for this opportunity to have a second chance at keeping her healthy.

I’ve wrestled with the choices several times over the past few years – should we take a chance and try to inoculate her again, now that she’s healthier, older and stronger?

Would it be safer for her to have a known thing – the vaccinations – in her allergist’s office so that we could hopefully deal with the possibility of anaphylaxis quickly enough to keep her health from plummeting back down into the abyss?

Or would it be safer to hope that she won’t come into contact with the illnesses the vaccines protect against and not risk purposefully pushing her into that fiery inferno that we both remember so well, that still haunts our dreams, even now?

But here we are with a measles outbreak.  Blythe is still unvaccinated and is at significant risk.  Her half-sister is three months old, too young to be vaccinated, and we have her to think about, as well.

I can see both sides of the argument.  The protective mother of a child who medically could not be immunized rages at the fact that parents who chose not to vaccinate for non-medical reasons have allowed our herd immunity to break apart in such a way.  I am relying on you, village, to help protect my child and you are doing a shitty job of holding up your part of the bargain!

On the other hand…. I do know what an adverse reaction to vaccines can bring.  I have seen it and lived it and watched my child suffer, and wished a billion times that I hadn’t let her be fully immunized that day.  If I had known what could happen, ~ what could really, really happen ~ to my child, I would have feared it, too, more than anything I’ve ever feared in my life.

Which brings me to my final point.  Blythe and I, along with the other parenting figures in her life, have decided that she needs to be vaccinated.  At this point in time, the risk of catching and/or spreading a life threatening disease is too great.

Can I take a moment to tell you how wonderful and brave my 7 year old daughter is?  And can I also tell you that for the past few weeks, as we’ve discussed this choice amongst ourselves and with her doctors, I have not been able to take a full, deep breath because my heart has taken up residence in my throat?

I am terrified.  I know what can happen.  I didn’t read it in an article or see it on television or hear a story about someone’s roommate’s brother’s friend’s baby.  I saw it with my own eyes and lived with it.  And yet, we are going to vaccinate our child because it’s what’s best for her, and for the rest of the population.

Talk about taking one for the team.

For those who have not vaccinated out of fear of what may happen, or because of previous adverse reactions, please know that there are Pediatric Allergists out there who have developed allergy tests for each and every vaccination.  Blythe will undergo an allergy test prior to every inoculation, which will be administered in the allergist’s office, one at a time.  If the tests indicate an allergy to any one of the traditionally used vaccination formulas, though, we still have options!

Organic vaccines with no preservatives (which are what cause most problems) are now available, and although they can be quite expensive, an allergic reaction to the test means that insurance companies must cover them.  They are mixed and kept on ice as they are overnighted, and must be administered within 24-48 hours of their creation.  Today, right now, in this privileged, scientifically advanced world we live in,  there is no reason for healthy children* to remain unvaccinated.  Research and find a way.  If I can do it, you can, too.

When I broke the news to Blythe that the allergist’s office could absolutely get her caught up on vaccinations and could also make certain she wouldn’t have an allergic reaction (as opposed to attempting to treat a possible reaction), she gave me the biggest smile I’ve ever seen, threw her arms around my neck, and together, we cried.

Of all the tears we’ve shed over this battle in the past 7 years, at last… we are crying tears of joy!  The world is finally hers.

B back

*I specified healthy children because there are some with medical issues and compromised immune systems that would not be able to handle immunizations of any kind.  These are the kids we need to help protect!

CSF Pockets

There’s no way to know, for sure, which of Blythe’s special needs were caused by meth exposure.  It’s very possible that some of them would have occurred anyway, regardless of meth’s presence in her life.

The drastic improvements, though, tell me that at least some of them could be common among meth exposed kids, and so I’m going to discuss each of them, and the things that helped us to cope with them, one post at a time.

CSF Pockets:

Until recently, Blythe had two lumps on her head that were pockets of Cerebrospinal Fluid, trapped between her scalp and her skull. 

Most of the time, they weren’t noticeable to anyone who wasn’t looking for them, although they would often swell with major changes to the barometric pressure in her environment.

Any time the pockets would expand, or if the one closest to the base of her skull would shift to the area directly above her spinal cord,  she would get terrible CSF headaches.  A lot of times she would just be especially cranky during the day, but when she would lay down to sleep at night, the pressure would become extreme and cause her an immense amount of pain.

There were also times when the pressure from the lumps would cause her to have some random symptoms of neurological problems, such as blanking out for short periods of time, or aphasia, where she would use the wrong words for things without realizing her mistakes.

One time, she asked repeatedly for “Bar-be-que” and got very upset with me for not bringing her the ice she was asking for.  Good times!

Managing the CSF pockets was all about preventative maintenance in the form of daily therapy.  The first step was to locate the pockets, which was fairly easy given that I could feel the lumps with my hands.  Sometimes heads are just naturally lumpy, though, so to confirm that a particular lump was a pocket of CSF fluid rather than anything else, I used what I refer to as The Reverse Stud Finder Test.

With the pointer and middle fingers pressed firmly together, a firm tap to the head would normally sound solid, as it would when tapping a stud.  A tap landing on a pocket of CSF, however, sounds hollow, the way a wall sounds between studs. 

The daily therapy involved tapping the lumps, off and on, for about ten to fifteen minutes.  When I kept up with the therapy, the taps didn’t hurt at all, and would actually release endorphins that put Blythe  in an incredibly good mood when the session was over. 

If I skipped days, though, or if the lumps had expanded for some reason, the initial taps were painful and she fought them.  I’ve been smacked, punched and yelled at more than a few times.  What I would typically do, in that situation, was to engage her in some sort of activity and do one tap every few minutes until the pressure dissipated and she stopped protesting.

Most of the time, whenever I told Blythe it was time for taps, she would climb into my lap and allow me to do the therapy without any problems.  Occasionally, she would even ask me to do her taps, or would grab my hand and guide it to her head.

It’s strange for me, now, to massage her head and not feel those familiar lumps that were a daily part of our lives for so long.  I still watch for them, just in case, but it seems that they have disappeared along with so many of her other symptoms.


My Baby Girl,

It’s been a year.  Three hundred and sixty-five full days. 

I’m not a superstitious person by any means, but these dates – November 10th, 11th and 12th – have been looming in my mind. 

When we came home from the hospital, a year ago today, I made a deal with myself that if I could keep you healthy for a year, I could stop worrying so much about your future. 

A whole year.  A lofty goal, if ever there was one.

But here you are, my gorgeous little girl, smiling and laughing without a care in the world.  We made it, me and you.  A year.  Nearly a third of your life without a major illness. 

What a milestone, and you don’t even know you’ve reached it.

Just looking at you, today, brings tears to my eyes.

Parents aren’t supposed to have favorites, you know.  And I don’t.  I don’t prefer you or your sister over each other.  But my love for each of you is different.  Custom made, day by day.

So much of life before you was filled with what the future held, with making plans, with expectations, with tiny little details that didn’t really matter.

Since you came into my life, though, I haven’t taken a single thing for granted.  Not for a moment. 

We’ve had to fight for this, haven’t we, baby girl?  From the very beginning, nothing about your life has been simple or ordinary. 

I sit back and watch you sometimes, doing your little girl things, and I’m amazed that we have reached this place.  This point in time where you can just wake up in the morning and go through your day like it’s no big deal.  As though tomorrow is guaranteed. 

I am so happy to be in this place – this now – with you.

You amaze me, my sassy second child.  You are filled with the kind of fire most people only dream of, and you’re only three.  Three! 

Today, I dare to think of what the future holds for you. 

And now here you are, sleeping next to me.

Of course I needed you near me on the anniversary of the most traumatic night of our lives, didn’t I?  The night that haunted us for months.  The night that changed the lives of every single person involved.

I had to have you close to me, so that I could smell you and hear you breathe and bury my face in your hair.  So that I could reach out and touch you and know that you are here, right here, with me.

I am so glad you’re here, baby girl.

And you are well. 

Yes, you are.


To read the story from a year ago, go here, here and here although, reading those posts again, a year later, I can’t believe I left out so much of what happened.

Fitness – Week 3

This week was all about learning to pose. 

Week 3

Week 3

What I learned: This shit is harder than it looks, y’all.  My entire body would start shaking after only a minute of holding each pose.  I had a really hard time getting the arm and leg placement right, so I ended up holding the poses for a few minutes each to get them just right.  The good news is, I got to use my favorite Q word, quiver.  Always a silver lining, right?

** Many thanks to my talented photographer friend Kelly, who is learning more about fitness photography than she ever wanted to.  Especially since I shove my camera at her every time she happens to stop by.**

Questions & Answers:

disclaimer: I am not a doctor.  I cannot tell you what is healthy or appropriate for your unique situation.  Always check with your physician before starting a diet or fitness regimen. 

Rachel asked:  What kinds of exercises can I do at home to “engage my large muscles” since you say that’s really important? 

For legs, I highly recommend squats and lunges.  The great thing about these is that you can do them anywhere, although if you’ve never done them before, you should start out doing them in front of a mirror to make sure you’ve got the correct form.  You can seriously hurt yourself if you cheat on form, and you won’t be engaging the muscles the way you want to, so pay attention to foot and knee placement, on both of them.  Click on the exercise to go to a tutorial: Squats and Lunges

For back, Dumbell Rows and a Reverse Fly are the easiest to do without benefit of exercise machines, but do require hand weights.  If you don’t have access to any kind of weights, good old fashioned Pull Ups will do the trick.  Again with the importance of correct form, so watch yourself in the mirror at first to make sure you’re not holding your body at a funny angle.  Click on the exercise to go to a tutorial: Dumbell Rows, Reverse Fly and Pull Ups.

You can also go to youtube and find hundreds of examples and variations of those exercises.

Cindy asked:  What made you suddenly decide to get in shape?

Fitness and Nutrition have been a passion of mine for nearly 15 years, and have been a huge part of my lifestyle for the majority of that time.  Life being what it is, though, I go through periods where things are chaotic and I fall out of some of my good habits and pick up a few, shall we say, bad habits.  Typically something will trigger my desire to get back on track, and this particular time it was the cancer scare I had earlier this year.  There’s nothing like being faced with your own mortality to make you appreciate your health!


Any questions?  Bring ’em!  Just leave a comment or email me: meatfordinner (at) gmail (d0t) com

Find Week One *here*

Find Week Two *here*

Fitness – Week 2

It probably would have been wise for me to do a little research before announcing to the Internet that I was planning to compete in a Women’s Figure Competition. 

It turns out that in the years since the huz was involved in the bodybuilding community, figure competitions have become pretty hardcore, resembling women’s bodybuilding a little too much for my taste (click to see up-to-date Women’s Figure Competition Photos).  There is a new category now, called the bikini competition, which is more my style (click to see Women’s Bikini Competition Photos) .   Unfortunately, though, the competition coming up in October doesn’t actually include that category.  Of course, right?

So…. what I’m going to do is follow the 8 week training regimen for the Bikini Competition just for the hell of it, and that twenty-something blonde can go ahead and have the figure competition to herself.  I am just not interested in having 10% body fat.  Ick.

This week was really hectic, so unfortunately I missed a few workouts.  Such is life! 

Week 2

Questions & Answers:

A couple of questions came in this week, and I’ll do my best to answer them without putting the interwebs to sleep in the process.  If you’d like more details, let me know and I can either elaborate in next weekend’s post, or we can carry on a private conversation.

disclaimer: I am not a doctor.  I cannot tell you what is healthy or appropriate for your unique situation.  Always check with your physician before starting a diet or fitness regimen. 

Erin asked I know back then you mentioned a site….what else is your secret?!?!

The site I mentioned in a previous post is, and I highly recommend checking it out if you need help figuring out how to reach your fitness and/or weight loss goals.  You plug in your information and it calculates everything for you, and keeps track of your food intake, exercise and progress, all in one place.  It’s completely free and easy to navigate, so why not take advantage of a great fitness tool?

I have several “secrets” that I am more than happy to share with anyone who is willing to listen to me talk about them.  Today I’ll share the three I consider to be the most important.

#1:  Engage your large muscles.  A lot of people stick to a cardio-only exercise routine when trying to achieve weight loss, and that is a huge mistake.  When you prod your back and leg muscles (and chest muscles if you like working them – personally, I don’t) into “production” mode, rather than “idle” mode, your metabolism will speed up.  Any cardio you do, once your large muscles have been engaged, will be two to three times as effective. 

#2:  Take your vitamins.  Because of my complicated medical history, I take nearly 30 vitamins every day in order to keep my body functioning at its best.  This is fairly extreme, but if I skip my vitamins I feel it within twelve hours – they are that important.  Take at least a daily multivitamin formulated for your gender and age, and talk to your doctor or nutritionist about adding any other vitamins to help you feel your best.

#3:  Clean up your diet.  This is huge, my friends.  A clean diet is rich in lean protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and gallons of water.  I realize that this is easier said than done, and a complete change in eating habits can take time.  Start small by just asking yourself, every time you think about putting something in your mouth, whether it’s helping or hurting you.

Please note: I do not mean that you should consume “diet” foods that seem to fly off the shelves at every store in the country.  A clean diet is (at least relatively) free of preservatives, and if you look at the nutrition information on those “diet” foods, you are consuming a bunch of shit, pardon my language. 

Think about it.  Preservatives were created for the sole purpose of preserving.  You eat them, and they don’t just forget about their job.  They just change their focus.  Instead of preserving whatever food they were put into, they go looking for something to preserve inside your body.  Namely, fat.  A fat cell surrounded by preservatives is going to be ten times harder to lose than a free-floating fat cell. 

As a side note, if you’re serious about getting rid of the preservatives and toxins that are holed up in your system, a cleanse is a good place to start.  Trader Joe’s has a great one that is pretty inexpensive, and all natural to boot!

Ellie asked:  What is your workout schedule?  I am ready to start toning.

I try to work out for a minimum of twenty minutes every day, with one hour-long, full-body work out once a week.  I call these my “marathon workouts” and they seriously kick my ass.  Working from home, my schedule changes not only by the day, but by the hour.  So I squeeze in my workouts whenever and wherever I can.  

I plan my rotation based on when I have the time to do my marathon session.  The next day I will do low-impact cardio and a good long stretching session.  The next work out will be abs plus cardio, followed by upper body plus cardio and lastly legs plus cardio, lather, rinse, repeat. 

I love going to the gym.  I walk in the door and I’m like a kid in a candy store: so many options!  But the fact is, I rarely have time to get in there.  So, I work out at home 98% of the time.  I have a mat, hand weights in 3, 5, 8, 10, 12, 15, 20 and 25 pounds, and several DVDs that are incredibly effective – for me, anyway.  The one I recommend the most often, because I use it the most often, is Jackie Warner’s Power Circuit Training DVD.  It’s great for beginners, because you can start out doing everything without weights and add them as you’re ready.

I also just want to add that you don’t have to work out every day to see results.  Doing something is always better than doing nothing.  Set a reasonable goal, start small and work your way up.  You’ll be glad you did!

Any other questions?  Bring ’em!

You can find Week One *here*