Time & time again my parents tell the infamous story of me, age two, a few weeks after having my MMR, repeatedly banging my head off the floor, distraught with swollen glands.
Twenty-four years on, my mum friends who had had the MMR before us warned me it would be bleak; fever, crying, the usual fall out of a jab but up a notch or two now they’re older.
In the UK, babies now get the MMR around their first birthday. However, I delayed ours by about a month as we were going on holiday, then I had some freelance work on… Safe to say I’m very, very pleased I waited for Baby Girl to get her MMR when I had the time to deal with the reaction rather than trying to deal with it on a plane to Italy.
The MMR is a live vaccine. That means the reaction isn’t immediate. The virus stays in your baby’s system for some time, ‘working it’s magic’. It’s hardcore. And hellish.
Phase 1: Measles
Baby Girl just gave up and put her head down on the changing table for a nap.
Between five and ten days after the jab, measles begins to rear its ugly head. Baby Girl had a rash down her back and around her mouth. She had a light fever, looked a bit sorry for herself, seemed a bit under the weather & was a bit grumpier than usual.
But this felt manageable.
Phase 2: Mumps
Between three and five weeks after the jab, the mumps part of the MMR comes to play.
The NHS website says:
one in 50 children develop a mild form of mumps. This includes swelling of the glands in the cheek, neck or under the jaw, and lasts for a day or two.
Just take that in for a minute. One in 50. That seems a low chance doesn’t it?
Well dear reader, I’ve taken bullet for you. Because Baby Girl was that one.
Oh sweet Jesus.
Baby Girl was in a fowl mood for about three days. Cried at almost everything. Didn’t want to be held, didn’t want to be put down. Didn’t want to eat, but then would bang at the kitchen cupboard, howling, as though we were starving her. Nothing was right. At all.
On the Tuesday, I was house hunting in the afternoon then going to an interview so my mom was coming about 11am to hold down the fort. By 8am, Baby Girl was absolutely inconsolable. The crying started, honestly, for no apparent reason. She was playing on the bedroom floor while I dried my hair then just started wailing. She was red in the face, tears streaming down her cheeks, her voice hoarse with the screaming, rolling and writhing around on the floor. If I went near her, she crawled away, crying louder. I was beside myself. I didn’t know what to do.
I tried forcing paracetamol down her neck with a syringe (a baby friendly one that comes in the packet I hasten to add!) but she just batted me away, flailing & flopping this way & that, nearly whacking her head numerous times. So I gave up.
By 9am, I simply grabbed her & tried to clasp her tightly to me, rocking her gently, desperately trying to sooth her. The screaming reached new decibels & in her desperate attempt to escape, she kicked so hard she smacked her head off the floor. I let go defeated and let her crawl away from me once again, still crying.
And that’s when it started.
She knelt up, threw her head back then flopped forwards, banging her head off the floor. Again & again & again. Exactly as my parents described me doing 24 years ago. No matter what I did, I couldn’t make her stop.
By 9:45am, we were on opposite sides of the room, both sobbing. I was completely spent & I felt utterly useless. What good is a mother if they can’t make you feel better?
NB: I don’t usually take photos of Baby Girl when in distress rather than helping her. This was taken to send to the OH while he was a at with the caption, “I don’t know what to do!”
Some time after 10am, she finally calmed, lying on her side, whimpering quietly. I slowly crawled towards her & started stroking her head, singing softly. We stayed like that for some time.
This was the only morning it got this bad. The following morning we had about an hour and a half of solid crying, though thankfully no head banging. After about three days, she was just a bit grumpier than usual but otherwise back to normal.
Phase 3: rubella
Things quieten after phase two for most bambinos. You might be dealing with Leap 9, just to add insult to injury, but usually, you wouldn’t have had as severe a reaction to phase two as Baby Girl did & you’re on the home stretch.
Then BAM! Rubella swoops in & ruins everything.
Up to six weeks – six weeks! – after the initial jab (giving you just enough time to forget about it…) your baby can suffer from a rash & fever. On Saturday, Baby Girl woke up with a runny nose. By bedtime, she had a fever and a rash around her mouth & creeping up her right arm. Bedtime was long & arduous. She screamed for someone to comfort her, then cuddled Ewan the Sheep like her life depended on it while you rubbed her back softly.
But fingers crossed, this is it now. We’re done & dusted…
We’ve had more than a few long, loud, nights as a result of the MMR & a few long, tough days as well.
So, I do believe we’ve earned another badge. And that’s about the only silver lining there is to the MMR.