On the one hand, it's really nice to be in a quiet house. The lights around the Creche glow warmly, the lights around the windows shine gently, and the slow, steady breathing of my Pudge falls on my ear. She is resting peacefully on my chest, the smell of warm milk sweet on her cheeks.
On the other hand, I could totally do without insomnia. Really. I am so tired that I can't even stand it, but my mind just will not let up.
It's been a strange Advent. My heart has been trying and trying to prepare Him room, but it's been complicated somewhat by the turn of events following Pudge's measles.
People are afraid of measles. Think about it--when was the last time you were in the presence of a person with the measles? Probably doesn't happen very often. Most people in my mom's generation had measles when they were kids, and most people of my generation and younger have been vaccinated.
The thing people are afraid of is not knowing enough about this virus to keep cool when they hear that it's "out there."
So the Pudge got measles. We don't know where, and we don't really even know how or when. It could have been at the library, or the grocery store, or even in the Narthex at church. She could have gotten it because some baby slobbered on the handle of the cart at the store and then she touched the handle and then sucked on her pudgy little fingers, or because she was drooled on by a playmate who had just been vaccinated.
So what happened? She had a fever, which we controlled easily with acetaminophen and ibuprofen and tepid baths. She had a rash which lasted a few days and then faded. She had two runny diapers. She may have had a headache and sore throat--both of which would have been alleviated with the meds. She had goopy eyes and a runny nose, which, considering her age, is not so surprising--perhaps what is surprising is that this bout with measles is the second time ever in her little life that she has been sick. And oh, yes, I do count that puny little Piggy Flu as the first.
Oh--and just to get it out there, as soon as we knew that measles was what was had, we were on the phone with those we knew to be at risk, those we thought might possibly be at risk, and those we knew would pray for the Pudge. And for Pete's sake, we kept her home until we knew she was past the possibility of passing it on.
Most of the people with whom we are in contact vaccinate. Some of them don't. Whether we or they do or don't doesn't really matter in this case--Pudge, having just turned a year, was too young to have received an MMR shot, so she fell into the category of "unprotected" by default. And those who choose not to vaccinate do not do so thinking that their children will never get______(measles, mumps, chicken pox, etc......). Generally speaking, they are a very well-educated, well-informed bunch who make decisions after weighing pros and cons, and with the support of their doctors.
But I gotta tell ya, there was mass hysteria out there. Grown, thinking, mature adults absolutely freaked out about this--and mostly because they had no idea what measles is, how it progresses, how it spreads, who's at risk and who isn't, and what they should do about it--because for Pete's sake, we'd better do something!
And why, you might ask, would this affect our Advent?
Well it's like this. We discovered Pudge's measles on Thanksgiving evening. That would be November 26th. That following Sunday (the First Sunday of Advent), November 29th, she and I did not go to Mass (though I was able to go to an evening Mass, thanks be to God). That Monday, Pickle went with My Darling to the boys' club that they always go to on Monday, and someone was very upset about that. Never mind that Pickle is vaccinated and boostered. He cannot carry measles. But whoever was upset about it started The Panic. The Panic spread, the rumors began, the gossip flowed like cheap wine from a box, and the phone began ringing off the hook.
Oh wait--actually, it didn't.
On Sunday, My Darling let a couple of people know that Pudge had the measles, and I received one e-mail from a very lovely woman asking how Pudge fared, and would we like her to send a meal along with her husband and sons to give to My Darling on Monday evening? God bless her!!
The next day, our whole home school group received an e-mail stating that measles was "making the rounds"--because, you know, one child in one family equals "making the rounds." Someone heard about this and passed it on and passed it on and passed it on (because sometimes we women........well, sometimes we talk.). And someone threatened to call a doctor whom they knew who kept track of infectious diseases. And someone called someone else and said that we were using this as an excuse to drop our home school group like a hot potato because we wanted to participate in a different one. And someone called someone else and said that they heard that our daughter said to someone else's daughter that we might not be homeschooling all the way to high school anyway, so what did it matter?
Everything kind of happened behind closed doors and spilled onto keyboards and screens.
Now, I love e-mail. I use it all the time and think it's groovy that I can send quick updates and notes to my Grams, and print off menus for Mass when I'm scheduled to cantor. But when something like this happens, I truly wish that all e-mail service in the 100 miles surrounding us would crash. People grew not only afraid of measles, but of the phone.
Some of the e-mails we received were near threats--"Don't show up to First Friday Mass!" Some of them were piggybacks of gossip--"We hear MamaMidwife's Lovey and Flower have measles, too--we're praying for them!" (.....except that they didn't have them....not that anyone bothered to call her to find this out.......) Some of them were directed to MamaMidwife, and were Just Plain Hurtful--"Don't come to this event because I'm terrified that you'll give measles to others there!" (.....even though she's vaccinated and cannot carry measles.....)
The fear, I tell you, was palpable.
The worst e-mail--the kindest, but the worst--was the one from our beloved Monsignor. Someone had called or e-mailed him very, very late on Saturday evening, the night before the Second Sunday of Advent. We had already made the decision that the big three were going to Mass with My Darling and the little ones would stay home with me. And at 11:00 at night, I received an e-mail letting our family know that we had all been dispensed of our obligation to attend Holy Mass, the Holy Mass celebrating Immaculate Conception, and all Masses until we were confident that the risk of exposure had passed.
And what was the risk?
The risk was that because the Monkey, who has not been vaccinated, lives with his dear sister the Pudge, he might carry the measles and hand it off to some unsuspecting unvaccinated child.
Not that we could arrange to not have him at First Friday Mass. Not that we could make sure he stayed--literally--within our arms at Sunday Mass, and in the back of the church, or on the side where very few people ever sit because the lighting is horrible. Not that we were out to expose the families whom we know and love like our own families, for Pete's sake, wishing them all to suffer the wrath of the measles!
And how long was this a risk? Well gosh, I don't know. It probably still is, because here it is, December 17th, and he has yet to get the fever, the Koplik's spots, the rash, the goopy eyes, the sore throat, the headache, the diarrhea, or for pity's sake, the anything associated with measles. But, you know, it could happen at any time.
This Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, REJOICE Sunday, we went to Mass as a family, in the parish to which we belong.
Not the First Sunday of Advent. Not First Friday. Not the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Not the Second Sunday of Advent. And Heaven knows, none of the daily Masses in between.
And as a result of the fear, gossip, panic and lack of communication, we are now considering leaving the home school group with which we'd felt such a strong bond. We hadn't considered it before this whole thing erupted. But having been on the receiving end of a lot of muck being slung about, we're not sure it's really the place we want to nurture our children. (Our children, who, by the way, were witness to their mother reading e-mail after e-mail, talking with friends and those whom she thought to be friends, trying to sort out and assure that we were not trying to infect people with some deadly disease, and for Pete's sake, would they please ask us what our plans for our family are, rather than relying on what someone's daughter said that our daughter said months ago??!! Yes, REALLY!)
A lot of damage can be done when people allow fear to take hold. With the refusal to ask questions, research anything, talk with any doctor who actually deals with measles, rather than studying it from a book, so much has been accomplished on the side of evil--hurt feelings, motives questioned, friendships destroyed, faithful people alienated.....
So it's been a strange Advent.
I'm trying so to keep it all in perspective, to focus on the joy of this season. It's been mighty difficult. There's so much other crud going on that Mass has been all I've had to look forward to...and when you're told not to come to Mass, it's like a stab to the very soul, with a twist of the blade for good measure.
Thanks be to God, my Pudge is well. Thanks be to God, the Monkey is, too. Thanks be to God we can now fully focus on Advent, on preparing our hearts to welcome the Lord Jesus, the Infant King, Emmanuel, God with us.