What is a mucus plug?

PC Diary @ 31W2D

What exactly is a mucus plug and who needs one anyway? This was the question I asked myself about 8 hours into flight on my way home to the US.  With 40 minutes left until landing I made a final dash to the toilet.  When I wiped, I paused because I felt something warm and smooth stuck to my inner thigh – not like pee or liquid – rather it felt like one of those big blood clots I had experienced when I lost Huckleberry.  I took a deep breathe then looked at the tissue. I breathed a sigh of relief…thank goodness it wasn’t blood, instead it was a globby palm sized cloudy mucusy blob.

What the hell??!

That looks like my mucus plug that I had read about in my pregnancy book.  From what I could recall it was a potential indicator that labour may come any time within the next two weeks.  The other thing I had remembered is that this mucus plug is the thing that protects the cervix from infection. But I had just turned 31 weeks, it is way too early for Rocky to make an appearance!…As I returned to my seat and waited to land, I convinced myself that this was not a good thing!  With no communication to the outside world, it was a long 40 minutes to worry myself up into a head storm.

As soon as we landed I switched my phone on and googled ‘mucus plug 31 weeks pregnant’.  After a few minutes of searching I discovered that it probably was my mucus plug, and that there were many women out there who had lost it, worried, but never gave birth until much later into their pregnancy.  I figured that if I felt any other signs then I would call the doctor, but as I had an appointment scheduled for Monday, I wouldn’t worry.  So I didn’t worry. Much.

I told Chris about what had happened.  He worried even more, and I still had one more flight to catch before making it home!  But the rest of my journey was uneventful.

Monday we went to the OB for my (slightly late) 30 week check up.  I mentioned that I thought I may have lost my mucus plug.  But without any other signs of preterm labour – bleeding, contractions, pain or signs of infection – smelly discharge, then she wasn’t too concerned.  But to be on the safe side as I was flying again next week back to Europe she checked my cervix.  It was completely closed!  Great news!  She could also feel Rocky’s head very low.  Yup…that is what I had thought too!!(Although I’ve been trying to figure out her orientation because I get kicks over the the very far right and kicks to the top left under my ribs.  I think they are feet anyway.  So maybe we have a little yoga baby.  Or maybe she can do super one inch punches and will be a little ninja.

I digress….So what is a mucus plug?  There is a whole website dedicated to it here where you can find out more! http://www.mucusplug.net/

 

 

How to fly when pregnant

As a bit of a jet setter with all my work travels, I have written in the past about the effects of flying and jet lag on infertility….but now I am 31 weeks pregnant I wondered what are the effects of flying whilst pregnant?

I don’t have lots of facts for you on this blog post, I know – unlike me!  However, I can tell you that the general advice is not to fly after 37 weeks or 32 weeks if you are carrying multiples.  Every airline has different rules about letting pregnant women fly, so check before you book your ticket!

Just because it is OK to fly before 37 weeks, this doesn’t mean that you won’t suffer side effects of flying when pregnant!!  Overall you are likely to experience leg swelling, bloody nose, ear problems and motion sickness will probably make any pregnancy related nausea worse.  Deep Vein Thrombosis is a higher risk if you fly when pregnant.

Here I offer you the effects that I have personally experienced and some lessons I’ve learned along the way.

So far, I have taken three transatlantic trips in my first trimester, two in my second trimester and two in my third trimester. Two of these trips in the first trimester have required me to make two connections – that’s three legs of flying!!! These trips were quite intense on my body and took a lot of energy out of me.  But overall, I survived them all!  I would like to say that I got used to flying when pregnant, but unfortunately as I get closer to my due date, it becomes more uncomfortable and I discover new challenges!

Picking the right seat in advance.  Choose your airline carefully!  Check out the average legroom by airline here at these two websites: US Airlines overview & All airlines at seatguru.com.  Even before I was pregnant I would choose an aisle seat because of my terribly weak bladder and Irritable Bowels….but this has never been so important when pregnant.  Even when I was 6 weeks pregnant, I went to the toilet over 20 times on a 7 hour flight.  It was ridiculous!  I use the Seat Guru app to check in advance where the seat is in comparison to the toilets.  I like to choose to sit about 4 rows or so from the toilet – not so close you get the smell, noise and annoying people bumping you, but close enough to make a dash for it when it is empty!!

Upgrade if you can afford it.  Sounds obvious!  I have tried to upgrade on the red eye (overnight flight) a few times, but have failed to succeed!  Last time I was 5th on the list, and all 4 people in front of me got upgraded!! I was gutted.  Showing off a big bump doesn’t help unfortunately.  I had even saved up lots of my air miles just for this purpose knowing I’d pregnant at some point in the future!!  I don’t have several thousands of dollars to just buy a business class seat, so I’ve stuck it out in economy for all my flights.

Drinking and Feeding yourself.  Carry an empty plastic water bottle whenever possible to keep hydrated, particularly if you get stuck on the plane before takeoff or taxing after landing, it might be almost two hours by the time you get your next drink!

Fill up your carry-on bag with snacks for both journeys.  I also learned that it’s important to keep snacks for the return journey too just in case you are departing a foreign airport and the shops aren’t open, or certain foods make you nauseous.

I made the mistake of relying on the lunch given out on the plane…they cooked a pasta in a tomato herby sauce and before I even got the food I felt sick from the smell of the herby sauce.  That was the only choice, so I went hungry as I tried to force it down me, it just wasn’t happening!  I also slept straight through an entire meal service because of my tiredness so missed out on food, by the time I got off the plane, got through customs and security again for my next flight, I hadn’t eaten for 7 hours.  I was feeling so, so sick.  I didn’t just have the hun-grumps I was feeling light headed and dizzy.  Fortunately I had water with me at the least.

And another tip – don’t carry nuts, seeds, fruit or dried fruit otherwise it is likely you will have to declare them to customs when you land in another country– and ain’t nobody got time for that!

Getting in the Sleep.  In my first trimester I was suffering a lot from pregnancy tiredness, add on a 5,6 or even 7 hour time zone difference and I am screwed.  For my trip to Turkey I travelled through 4 different time zones.  I strongly suggest not trying to follow a routine, rather listen to your body and sleep when you can.  This is not easy to do.  I had to be at work at certain times and so that meant waking up in the middle of my sleep cycle…I was permanently tired and yawning throughout the day.  Fortunately, most people knew about my pregnancy very early on so they didn’t take it personally as I yawned through their briefs!!!

Remembering your Medication.  This was a nightmare.  I got it wrong big time with my second trip.  My first trip I did the progesterone in oil intra-muscular injections and administered them myself.  It was challenging and I hated it, but in terms of timing this one was easy.  Do the injection just before going to bed.  It didn’t matter about the time zone change because the progesterone lasts several hours longer than 24 hours, so it didn’t matter.  However, this time around after struggling with giving myself the injections, I took the progesterone capsule suppositories, 3 times a day.  This was really hard to do, especially with a 7 hour time zone difference.  I think the first day I travelled I took too much, then on my second day and third day I forgot to take my second suppository in the middle of the day because I was so busy with work.  Then I forgot to change my estrogen patches I was supposed to do on the red eye flight to Turkey.  I remembered the afternoon that I arrived in Turkey when I got into the shower.  So I would suggest putting reminders in a phone with the exact timings so as not to forget.

Don’t forget the sick bags.  Have one of those airline paper bags in your bag just in case you are in a queue and you can’t hold it in!  Fortunately, it didn’t happen to me, but there were times when I panicked I might puke and couldn’t make it to a toilet in time!!!!!

Coping with strange smells.  On one flight I was sat near a man who had a bad Bodily Odour problem.  I was trying not to vomit in my seat, hoping I would just get used to the smell for my 8 hour flight.  Fortunately, he moved two rows forward and my sensitive nose was saved!  But I have experienced smells of things I can’t bear with people sat next to me and then generally in foreign countries the smells are just different.  This is something I don’t know how to resolve or overcome.  It’s just one of those things I guess I’ve got to suck up.  Sorry I don’t have any ideas of how to cope with this, it is more of a warning!  Do you have any ideas??!

The swelling and back aches.  Later into my second and third trimesters I noticed that when I got off the plane the veins in my arms were massively swollen!  At first I was terrified, I looked like a freak and worried they were going to burst or a sign of something bad!  But I discovered later that this is to be expected when flying when pregnant.  There is also no avoiding crappy airline seats – I pack a spare feather pillow, fleecy blanket and neck pillow to make my seat more comfortable.  I have also treated myself to a maternity massage where I had 60 minutes of pure bliss focusing mostly on my lower back.  I have discovered in my third trimester that the lower back has quite a lot of tiny muscles I never knew existed!!

Get yourself Global Entry.  I successfully applied for global entry half way through my pregnancy – this enables you to use the automated passport border control as a ‘trusted traveller’.  The reason I got this was because one time I arrived into Chicago and queued for 2hrs to get through border control…I was feeling very faint by the end.  Nope.  I decided I am not doing that again, particularly for much later on in the pregnancy! I almost punched the woman behind me in the queue because she obviously came from a country where there was no such thing as personal space.  I think the hormones didn’t help me with my patience! So I applied and got a conditional approval after two weeks of applying – then had to wait three months for an available interview slot time that I could get to.  This interview was really quick and easy, it wasn’t so much as an interview for me, more of simply provide my finger prints and have a photo taken.

The other good thing about Global entry is that it also gives you TSA pre-check which is really nice…getting your shoes on and off in the third trimester is a pain in the butt so this has been a nice luxury!!! In my first trimester I travelled to Turkey, and as a result for four trips after I must have been put on a ‘list’ and got ‘extra screening’, known as the dreaded SSSS that gets printed on your boarding pass.  If you ever see this on your boarding pass – it is the ‘not so secret code’ that you will get extra screening.  All this means is that I got a thorough search of my bags, swabbed for explosives and a good pat down.  As long as you don’t fuss about it, the security agents are pretty good about it.

Take it easy and take a taxi.  I learned the hard way that a taxi is a must!  I am usually good and whenever I can get public transport I do.  I personally think it’s a lazy expense that some of my colleagues take.  So for my first trip I took the train and walked to the hotel for 15 mins.  However, this was actually a bad idea.  It was warm and I was dressed for the cold airplane, I almost passed out on my walk to the hotel!  Then lifting and carrying bags up and down stairs when there are no lifts is equally dumb (especially when I had my poor hyper-stimulated ovaries being tender still!).

Know who to call when things aren’t right.  Have a list of phone numbers you can call in case of an emergency, get info on doctors & hospital numbers/names/addresses for where you are going before departing. Fortunately, I’ve not needed this (although I learned this lesson more recently with my experience during the Brussels attacks and the importance of having emergency contacts ready to go and not stored on your phone!).

Not for everyone – telling people you are pregnant.  I know that many people do not like to tell others before the end of the first trimester about their pregnancy, I absolutely get that.  But for me on these work trips it has been really helpful.  I don’t feel guilty for running out of the room to the toilets when I need to, I don’t need to explain the yawning, I don’t need to explain why I am not drinking alcohol when everyone else does, generally I have felt comfortable overall because I have told people I am pregnant.  I don’t need to make excuses or justify my actions or wonder if people are guessing I am pregnant!

So that’s all my thoughts!  There are also some things that Baby Science Project suggested to me from her extensive work travels during her pregnancy…such as flight socks and baby aspirin.  I never used these…mostly because I haven’t been able to find any socks that aren’t horribly itchy.

My OB said I am OK to keep flying up to 34 weeks, assuming I pass all my checkups!  Although it is not top of my list to do when pregnant, it actually hasn’t been quite as bad as I thought.  It is definitely true that the first and third trimesters are the worst for travelling.  In the first trimester it’s the nausea.  In the third trimester, it is just uncomfortable and difficult to move around.  But….I survived to tell the tale.

Entering the thirties…

For some reason I always had it in my head that I wanted to be married before I turned 30.  I don’t really know why, but it was some kind of milestone.  Perhaps I thought I might turn into a pumpkin or something horrifying and wrinkly on my thirtieth birthday if I hadn’t gotten married by then.  30 simply seemed like a pretty scary age to reach.  I can’t remember if I ever told Chris this at the time….but we did get married when I was 29. Phew! It was actually more about coincidence than any secret desire to not get married in my thirties.  Well 30 came and went and it was just another year like any other.  I know, I’m weird. It shouldn’t make a difference.

Anyway…I digress… I am now THIRTY weeks pregnant, and this same number seems equally as scary.  For me, entering the third trimester wasn’t the scary part – it was entering my 30th week of pregnancy!  And to top it off, I have been travelling for work when I hit this milestone.  When I am travelling on my own I have waaaaay too much time to think deeply about life and what the future holds.  And that is dangerous!  It doesn’t help that October is Pregnancy and infancy loss month and I have read MANY stories of women losing their babies.  I have seriously gone through a whole box of tissues this month.

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Plus there has been a lot of discussion after the third presidential debate where Trump and Clinton discussed abortion, particularly on late term abortion.  These issues have really connected with me emotionally, where ordinarily it wouldn’t – perhaps it is just the hormones thinking too much!  I have blogged about how it took me a while to not be in denial over this pregnancy and to accept it, so I hadn’t really thought about the outcome of this pregnancy and how scary everything can seem until now.  It was really around week 27/28 when Chris and I started to seriously prepare for Rocky’s arrival that I have started to truly embrace this pregnancy and fall in love with her, so I feel there is even more to lose with this recent strong emotional attachment I’ve developed to the little pudding I am baking in my uterus.  I guess this week has been when I have started to truly worry about how this child birth thing is going to go down!  But I know that it is natural to worry for most woman who are approaching child birth for their first time (and in fact I will hazard a guess that it is equally worrying for any subsequent pregnancy!).

Getting ready.  We have been busy bunnies – knowing our diaries were getting pretty full over the next few weeks we decided to get all the basics ready for Rocky’s arrival.  The weekend of Hurricane Matthew we made all our big purchases –

  • Strollers/buggies (one jogger, one ‘umbrella’ lightweight style) which all ‘click and connect’ to a car seat.  I think they call it a ‘travel system’.  Wow choosing a stroller is intense!  It was perhaps easier than choosing a new car (Although I suspect Chris would argue otherwise with my multi-criteria analysis for buying my car!!). We chose the Graco Modes Jogger Travel System (bah which I have just noticed on sale) and Graco Breaze Click Connect Umbrella Stroller.
  • Pack n Play – this is basically a travel play pen/cot/changing table/bassinett system.  It even has a a vibrating chair and a mobile with music.  Very cool.  Who knows if it will be practical?!?! We went with the Graco Pack n Playard Nearby Napper.
  • The Layette.  We went to a few consignment/second hand baby clothing stores/boutiques and bought the basics to get us started.  Burp clothes, muslins, sleep suits, sleep sacks, socks, onesies, a few adorable outfits, swaddles, baby health care stuff. And yes, we did actually buy some clothes from the boys section.
  • Baby video monitor.  This one completely overwhelmed me.  There were so many different choices.  In the end we chose one based off reviews online because how else do you choose these days?
  • Baby Carrier/ Sling. We had a bit of fun trying these all on in babies r us.  We tried to find one that suited both Chris and I…basically it is one big long piece of cloth right?  You would think it is easy to choose a sling! Well ummmm no.  We went with the Moby Wrap Evolution Baby Carrier in DENIM!  Oh yes the colour is very important of course ;-p
  • A diaper Genie!  Basically a diaper/nappy bin.  Do we really need one?  Apparently so!
  • Diaper/nappy bag.  Sooooo many different choices – rucksack/back pack/messenger back/giant purse!  Colours, fabrics, goodies, flaps and sections inside.
  • Nursery.  We have almost finished the nursery, we are just waiting on a few items to arrive that we ordered from http://www.thelandofnod.com (wow they have some adorable stuff – at an extortionate price too!)  The majority of the furniture we bought from ikea or is second hand.  So this meant we could splash out on some of the decor items – such as the wall decals.
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I love these decals and rug!!!

Pregnancy woes.  I have been lucky with my pregnancy so far, so I guess it is expected that the last trimester will have a few woes, I can’t escape lightly.

  • Vaccine OUCHIE. I’ve already written about the side effects of the TDAP vaccine!!  That took several days before it wore off!  But I survived, that is the most important thing.
  • Turning into a Whale overnight.  I am struggling with getting out of our bed – I have to roll off the edge and clamber back in with a lot of huffing and puffing – it’s a platform bed so it’s not easy to get in or out at the moment, I may need a ladder soon and I suspect this is only going to get worse over the next few weeks!
  • The smallest bladder in the world.  Which means I rarely sleep more than three hours in a row, maybe two or three times a week I might get three hours of sleep.
  • Hemorrhoids.  The past few weeks my poo has slowed down to one a day (from three a day) and this has meant that I am now also suffering from hemorrhoids.  They are literally a pain in the arse!  I am afraid of them bursting and bleeding suddenly and freaking me out that the blood is from somewhere else!
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Some mild relief from Hemorrhoids 😦

  • Anemia.  I had a follow up blood test after my initial results came back as slightly anemic during my 24 week appointment.  At my 28 week appointment my results just came back to say I am still anemic despite taking iron supplements.  But the cause remains unknown because my iron stores are good.  So!  More blood tests! Perhaps I’m actually anemic because they keep stealing my blood for all these tests 😦 In the meantime I have been told to keep taking my iron supplements (YEY these cause even more constipation which I am trying to combat with fibre supplements) and of course my prenatals (which I have been religiously taking for almost three years now!).

 Other exciting things whilst we countdown to R-Day (i.e. Rocky’s arrival!).  

  • Maternity leave planning.  I get 20 weeks of maternity leave.  In addition I have normal annual leave to take, home leave (where I get to fly back with my family to the UK for 2 weeks) and normal holidays such as Christmas, Easter etc all to account for.  My last day in the office will be 4 weeks before the expected R-Day, so 2nd December will be my last day!  This means I only have 2 weeks in the office because the rest of the time I am either travelling or training!  Whaaat?!!  How am I going to keep myself occupied for those 4 weeks?!  Well I have my Executive Development Program work to get ahead on before Rocky arrives.  Plus I have some knitting to do 🙂  I guess you might see me write a few more blog posts!  And we are still writing our book on infertility for friends and family.  Plenty to keep me relaxed.
  • Maternity photo shoot.  Although Chris will probably take some maternity photos of me, he can’t do photos of the both of us easily, so we decided to hire a photographer.  I selected 6 local photographers, and of course let Chris decide which one to go with as he is the pro! Naturally, he picked the most expensive one ;-p We paid our deposit and selected our location, so the photo shoot will be in a couple of weeks time! All we have to do now is figure out what to wear!
  • Travelling to Europe.  I have two more work trips to fit in….Bavaria, Germany and Luxembourg City, Luxembourg.  I love love love Bavaria at this time of year – the colours in the mountains are simply amazing!  And I am excited to be going to Luxembourg because I have never been before.
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My 30 week bump flying to Germany- and the plane’s seatbelt JUST fits round it!  I hope next time I fly I don’t have to ask for an extender belt :-s

  • Nesting.  You may recall we bought a new house earlier this year.  We have been slowly fixing things, decorating etc.  But the past week or so we decided to get as much done as possible – new sofa, new patio furniture, new kitchen table, hanging pictures, selecting photos to hang, organising the study/filing etc.  Chris has also been batch cooking sauces, chillis, stews etc to fill up our chest freezer. Bless him – he has been amazing at getting things ready because I have been, quite frankly, useless! This is what is called nesting!
  • Party planning.  I am not having a baby shower…but we are having a house, baby and birthday party to celebrate our new home and to enjoy some time with our friends before our family grows into three.  Oh and it is Chris’s birthday soon too.  So why not have a big bash?

That’s a long post – I’m sorry! But it has been a while and I wanted to capture everything that has happened in the past few weeks.  Signing off with a bump pic!

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It had been 11 weeks since the last bump pic!

Is the TDAP Vaccine safe?

PC Diary @ 28W 1D

Is the TDAP Vaccine safe?  This is a question I asked myself AFTER I had the vaccine when it was offered to me at my 28 week appointment. How unlike me to not look into it before hand!!!?!

I was given a bundle of information at my first OB appointment – it all went into a folder and I occasionally check through it to see what is coming up next in my pregnancy.  It is pretty handy!  But for some reason I didn’t bother reading the info about the TDAP Vaccine.  Why?  Well I thought, I’ve had it before so – blah. whatever.

What is the TDAP vaccine? It’s a combination vaccine to protect against Tetanus, Diptheria and Whooping cough (Pertussis).  Well that is where I made my first mistake.  In 2007 I had a Tetanus, Diptheria and POLIO vaccine. Not Pertussis.  Silly Ps.  Anyway that is irrelevant because that needs a booster every ten years or so if you are travelling to some countries, so it was about due.  But actually here the issue is the Pertussis part – whooping cough.  This is the part that pediatricians are most worried about.  Babies can’t get vaccinated and start building protection against whooping cough until they are two months old. So to reduce this gap the mummy gets the vaccine during the third trimester of her pregnancy as there is some evidence that immunity may be passed on to baby.  They also ask for dads, grandparents, caretakers etc visiting the baby in the early 2 months to also have the TDAP vaccine – to create a safety bubble around the baby.  It all makes sense.

So when I was offered the vaccine I said – sure, yes! And signed my life away to receive it.  I also said yes to getting the flu vaccine too.  I have never had a flu vaccine before but thought as I am responsible for the baby I’m carrying I should probably get that too.  So I had one injection in each arm.  They were painless.  In fact, anything compared to Progesterone in oil injections seems easy!  The nurse asked which arm I would like my TDAP in because it can get a bit sore.  So I asked for that one in my left arm.

Several hours later my arm started to ache as the nurse warned me.  The arm with my flu shot also was sore a little bit, so sleeping was proving problematic.  I like sleeping on my side so I struggled to get comfortable and had the worst night’s sleep EVER.  Half way through the night I woke up in extreme pain, I was crying.  My left arm had gone practically numb and the rest of my body ached like I had run a marathon.  The next time I woke up (an hour later or so) the whole of my left side of my body was numb and tingly.  What the ??!!  I was exhausted and couldn’t face going into work.  I was achey and shivery.  I took a warm Epsom salt bath and a couple of paracetamol (acetaminophen) -the first time this pregnancy I have needed any drugs!  The internet suggested Ibuprofen, but we know that is not recommended so I stuck with the paracetamol.  After the bath I fell asleep for an hour and woke up feeling much much better.  the drugs, sleep and heat must have worked!  So I decided to take myself off to work because I had a lot to do and didn’t want to fall behind.  Honestly, it wasn’t a great day at work, I would have done better working from home, but Chris was already working from home so that wouldn’t have worked out.

I came home from work feeling like crap.  I wondered if this was normal.  So I decided to read the info about the TDAP vaccine.  Oh yeh – this can happen to 1 in 10 people who take it. WHAAAT?!  So I then looked into it more online to see how people were fighting these side effects.  Then I discovered the articles about TDAP in pregnant women.  Seriously, googling this stuff had me FREAKED out.  I came across websites dedicated to the dangers of TDAP in pregnant women.  That the CDC was citing one trial on 48 women in 2013.  Even I know that is statistically a pile of CRAP especially as this is about the effects on the unborn baby, not the woman.  The recommendation for women to have this vaccine in their third trimester has only been around since 2012.

Headlines like: “TDAP vaccine pushed on pregnant women despite fetal risks” and “Is your unborn baby part of a vaccine experiment?” are some of the first to come up on google results.

So I started to freak out at my lack of due diligence.  I had no clue when taking the vaccine how long it had been recommended for or what the evidence was.  I asked Chris – did I just do something naively? Was this something new?  Was I part of an experiment?

But after some more searching, I discovered that a lot of these stories are old and pre-date some much bigger studies that have been done over the past two years and recently published in 2015 and 2016.  You have to look hard to find these, I guess because of google’s algorithms with popularity the hype stories and anti-vaccine pages come up first.  Which is disappointing.  Here are two recent studies that show that the vaccine is safe, with much more confidence than the CDC had in 2013.

Pertussis vaccination in pregnancy is safe, study finds and Infant outcomes after exposure to TDAP vaccine in pregnancy: an observational study.

Admittedly, scientists do say if the baby is exposed to whooping cough early on, there is a good chance the baby will still get whooping cough, but evidence indicates that if mummy had her vaccine in the third trimester the symptoms will be less severe or life threatening.  So something to be aware of.

I only discovered all of this because I had a side effect to the vaccination, otherwise I wouldn’t have questioned it or thought otherwise!  I’m pro-vaccinations.  The only vaccination I ever turned down was anthrax, just before I deployed to Iraq.  Why?  Because even the Army nurse said I wouldn’t bother if I were you.  Chris and I both want our children to be vaccinated as our pediatrician recommends, but perhaps I will be a bit smarter about reading up on what is actually being given to my baby – just so I can have an informed debate on the whole vaccination thing with people who don’t vaccinate their kids.