Urbandad’s Weblog

Vaccine Take 2
July 27, 2008, 9:58 pm
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I received the following response from my local Assembly Member:

Dear Friend,

Thank you for your email regarding childhood vaccinations. Since there has been no progress on these issues this session there will be the opportunity to study them without the rush of end of session.

The issue of vaccinations sometimes elicits strong feelings. I am comfortable with a public health model that protects youngsters and the general populace from disease that would have caused sickness and even death before the invention of the vaccine. Studies are inconclusive about the cause of certain syndromes like autism, which is the one most often mention in conjunction with avoidance of vaccination.

That said, there are certain vaccines that, when refused, would only affect the child who is unvaccinated. I would support parents’ ability to refuse vaccination on behalf of the child in these instances. All mandates for vaccination need to be thoroughly studied, but I do believe that there are instances where universal vaccination is best for the common good.

I appreciate you taking the time to share your views with me on mandated vaccination.


Deborah J. Glick


Well, it is clearly a form letter and skirts all the issues I have raised, so I was compelled to write the following response. We shall see if anything comes of it.

Dear Assembymember Glick:

I believe the question at hand is, whether or not public health is at risk if a small minority of individuals, for whatever reason, choose not to vaccinate. One must create models based on what level of free-rider defecting from the common good (in a prisoner’s dilemma) to instigate a “tragedy of the commons”. Unless there is data that supports that current or projected levels of vaccine defectors would actually impact public health, I do not see any reasonable rationale as to over-riding people’s civil liberties in defining how to care for their own children. In a pluralistic society, the democracy must protect the minority, even if we disagree with the behavior.

It is understood that other people’s belief’s may offend. We may even see parents’ refusal to vaccinate to be a form of child endangerment. But I feel our democracy is built on erring on civil liberties unless an imminent threat is clear.

If that can be supported by the data, then only vaccines that relate to communicable diseases that are a reasonable threat (Hep B and others obviously excluded here) should be mandated by the state. If one child out of a 10,000 is not vaccinated even against a disease like the measles, how does this threaten a population of vaccinated children?

Ari Nave, Ph.D


My Niece
July 22, 2008, 11:24 am
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July 18th

I spend a few hours yesterday with my niece Rachel. We went swimming. Rachel is very gregarious!

My brother has to change her diaper and I went to help him. He told me to hold her arms. She squirmed and cried in the most primordial display of animal will. She screamed like we were killing her. But two seconds later, after my brother had wiped her bum clean and put on a new diaper, he put her down and she ran around kicking a ball and laughing like nothing had ever happened. My brother said, “It’s just the way it is with her.”

Then this morning she refused to eat any fruit. My brother Jeremy said she does not like to touch wet things. She was a will of steel. My brother didn’t try to force it. She ate dried granola pieces.

It made me realize how little I know about infant psychology. Without having seen this, I would have been way too gentle in trying to change her diapers and it would have been a disaster. I wish I had a little experience with infants before my own shows up on the scene…

July 16th – Flying to LA
July 18, 2008, 8:41 pm
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On a flight from Hawaii to LA,Tara is en route to the International Doula Conference in Vancouver. It will be great to see my family for the first time since finding out that Tara is pregnant. Actually, my Dad and his wife Louis had stayed at our place in NY a few weeks ago. But I will be seeing my mom and brother and sister-in-law and niece.

I had expected to get more of a reaction from family at the news of Tara’s pregnancy. But silence. It is true that Tara and I are the only ones (I think) in my family to have a baby out of wedlock. But for Tara and I, both divorced, this seemed like a very little to-do. The sanctity of marriage as an institution has been broken for both of us. Being both the children of divorced parents, we are keenly aware of the profound and irrevocable connection that children were created between two people. So our decision to have children together has always seemed much more profound than marriage. But maybe others do not see it that way.

I have actually not seen much of my family at all in recent years –- particularly extended family — because of combination of a number of factors; moving to NY then SF then back to NY when my family lives in LA. And in recent years, work has become much more intense. Plus being in a relationship further complicates the trips across the country.

It has been a difficult choice to move away from friends and family and make a conscious decision to try to build a life, extend a life, beyond the folds of the nest. But LA has always been a lifestyle that I have not aspired too – driving day in and day out. But I miss the relationships.

Or maybe pregnancy is not much news to the family these days. Almost all of my cousins are now parents. Indeed, I am almost maybe the oldest to be having a first child. My mother had tried to arrange to have family members over tomorrow night but apparently no one could make it. Everyone has kids, everyone is busy, and certainly folks are not interested in going out of their way to see me – even if it is to celebrate a pregnancy. It is strange to me as this seems much more profound, much more deserving of celebration, than a wedding. But I am not even sure that my mom has told folks. She seemed excited when we told her — but for all I know she may be embarrassed to tell her conservative sister.

In fact Tara and I do plan on getting married but we are both not pressured by any timing. We plan to have a civil ceremony this time – small and quiet and just for us.

July 15th – Last Day in Kauai
July 18, 2008, 8:40 pm
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Today is our last day of vacation. We spend much of it relaxing by the pool. Tara has had bouts of nausea and other gastrointestinal issues every day, which puts a bit of a damper on the activities.

Yesterday we did do a kayak-hike to a waterfall. It was nothing too strenuous, a few miles each way, but it was really nice to get out and paddle. We got the chance to see a bit of the interior of the island rather than just the beaches.

We both watched with focus the parenting styles of many of the couples at the pool. One father, who was quite a disciplinary with his small boy, made his kid swim laps and then chastised the boy for calling him an idiot. I kept thinking of the difference between power and prestige and how this father was building more resentment and fear than respect. But who knows, maybe this time next year someone will be saying the same thing about me.

The father next to us, Dutch maybe, had every Adidas logo tattooed to his body. It was an odd item to have a fetish about and I wondered if there was some bizarrely romantic back-story. Had his family invented the brand? Had it somehow saved his life? He looks like a runner or soccer player.

From Here to Paternity
July 18, 2008, 8:39 pm
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Over vacation I have been reading a book called From Here to Paternity by Andrew Cullen. Written in 2006, it is one of the only pieces of literature aimed to a male audience that is written by a fully developed human being.

I would strongly recommend reading this book. It gets repetitive and if you were not having a baby the repetition would become a bore. But the repetition actually becomes a bit of a comfort. It makes you realize, by hitting you over the head with it again and again, how normal our pregnancy has been. Tara’s symptoms are remarkably similar to Andrew’s partner.

She develops a bionic sense of smell like Tara’s which is truly outstanding. It makes Tara complain that I have bad breath. Tara vacillates between feeling like I am smothering her and feeling like I am ignoring her. She makes me sleep on the far side of the bed so that I am not touching her, but then wants to cuddle. All these things are recounted in comforting detail by Cullen.

Tara has some unique pregnancy symptoms as well. She gets nausea each late afternoon and goes to bed at around 6 pm. I think we had dinner twice on our entire vacation in Hawaii. On almost each day, we went back to the room and watched TV around 4-5 when Tara started to feel ill and queasy. Soon enough she fell asleep. I’d stay up watching TV a few more hours and would then hit the lights – maybe around 9 pm. So we were waking up early. Like 5:30. We’d be the first people down at the buffet at 6:30.

Now I am a morning person but Tara had always slept in. Now she feels great in the morning, full of energy and in a good mood. Before the pregnancy, it was quite dangerous to ever speak to her before a cup of coffee. Apparently there is a genetic root to this behavior. It was so shocking to me early on in our relationship that I did some research, and read a book called Sharing the Bed. A number of people in Tara’s family have this trait of extreme morning grumpiness.

I have learned to just slip out and walk the dog in the morning. The morning has always been Ari time. Hours later I would get to making coffee. She sound of the kettle bubbling and me whipping milk for cappuccinos would rouse Tara. Still, I’d give her a wide berth. But now she takes a light coffee or none at all and is chipper and smiley in the morning.

FOB : Father of Baby
July 18, 2008, 8:33 pm
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July 12, 2008

Tara and I are in Kauai on our Babymoon. Apparently this is when you go on vacation before the baby comes, to devote some time to each other before the baby comes and demands all so much of the attention to the baby. Of course, we did not know about the baby when we booked the vacation – but it has turned into it.

Of course, Tara has to abstain from the pina colatas and is feeling a bit nausea, but hey, better to feel crummy in paradise. We are going all out and staying at the Princeville Hotel, which is stunning.

Yesterday I went diving off the coast of Niiahu Island. It was a remote dive in some difficult conditions. I have always been fearless in the past but suddenly I actually am having some worry about being safe. I kept tracking my depth. I made longer decompression stops.

It was an incredible series of dives, including a very close encounter with a monk seal who laid on the sea bottom and let me approach. But he growled underwater the entire time and I couldn’t help keep a bit more of a respectable distance then I would have in the past.

It did not help that as I was walking out the door at 4 am, Tara said “Don’t die and leave me alone with the baby.” Both of us have become much more conscious of being more then an autonomous individual. We are suddenly interdependent in a very different way.

Meeting the Midwives
July 18, 2008, 8:18 pm
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This weekend, Tara and I drove of to Rhinebeck to spend the weekend at a friend’s place. It’s a bit surreal in its perfection — a group of tight young friends staying in a large farmhouse from the 1700s, on acres of rolling green hills. Red barns, horses, fox, deer. We swam, played volleyball, grilled. We drank and chat and played dominoes into the night.

Friday afternoon we drove up from NYC. We got lost and ended up in Coxsackle NY. We were to attend a production of Romeo and Juliet at Bard College. It was a Mark Morris modern dance interpretation of the play with a, yes, happy ending. Apparently, it was a Russian production originally by Prokofiev and Stalin demanded the ending be changed.

We arrived just on time only to realize I had forgotten my outfit! So I borrowed Tara’s friend Joey’s linen pants and polo shirt and got dressed on the side of the road. It worked out but the pants were an inch short and definitely too tight in the waist. We then dined and partied in a big Spiegel tent.

Early the next morning Tara and I woke while the house slept, ate, got dressed, and left for a small town south of New Paltz where the midwife lives and works. Our midwife is someone who Tara has long respected and envisioned as our midwife. We drove through Woodstock-like quaint towns and soon enough arrived at their office.

I was not sure really what to expect. Soon we were in their office, an intimate space with some chairs, an exam table, one of those plastic exercise balls, and a microscope. The midwife, and her partner, introduced themselves and explained how they work as a practice. We discussed what to expect, month by month, what the birth period would entail, what would happen in case needing to transfer to a hospital, etc.

All in all was close to what I had expected, without having had a lot of vision about what the actual experience would have been like. It all seemed very matter-of-fact in a comforting way.

That seems to be the thing about pregnancy. It is oddly matter-of-fact while at the same time being so utterly precious and out-of-the-norm. Tara’s frequent napping, sudden cravings, and sudden bionic sense of smell all seem strangely grounded and familiar. But then the idea of having a baby, having a child, is just too big to really get your mind around.

So here we are in the midwife’s office and one question comes up and it is the only one that really catches me off-guard. Tara and I had had some discussion about it, but not in depth. The question was what genetic and diagnostic tests would we be doing and what would we be doing with the information?

It is a question that I struggle with.

I will state right here that I am a rabid atheist. I simply have no belief in any kind of god that is reasonably meaningful to any traditional sense of the word.

So I do not possess any religiously-based overriding belief in the absolute preciousness of life. This is not to say that I am not utterly awed by the nature of the world around me. But I have been pro-choice and do not see a big moral dilemma of at least very early abortions.

So what information would we get that would constitute a reason to terminate a baby, and at what point does that decision become morally ambiguous and then outright offensive?

Honestly, I had not thought about it. And still don’t have that much information on the matter. We are already at 8 weeks. At 12 weeks, knowing that your unborn child was going to have Down Syndrome, or Spina bifida, would that be a reason to abort?

Tara believes strongly that there is no information that would instigate a termination. While I respect her feelings, I am not sure what quality of life is worth perpetuating?

So this for me is the biggest leap of faith, as it were. Choosing not to know, hoping that the universe smiles upon you, hoping that our genes, our lifestyle, and chance work in our favor. It is also a recognition of not being in control.

I guess for Tara, this happened when she realized that she was not fully in control of her body. For me it is about realizing that I am not in control of the outcomes either. This is hard for anyone to face who is a proactive “control freak” but there you have it. You are not in complete control.

I get a sense that this is just the beginning.