I decided to take Elise and Marie down to the public health clinic to get the inoculation. Clara just turned two months old and was due for another round of shots, so it made sense (in my mind at least) to just get all the pain and agony out of the way in one fell swoop... kill two (or three?) birds with one stone...bite the bullet... go for the gold... you get the picture.
A couple of days ago while James was at work I dressed my children warmly, put Elise and Marie in a double stroller, strapped Clara onto my chest with a baby carrier and headed off to the health clinic.
I should re-state here that Turks in big cities do not normally have children as close together as Americans do. And for reasons that I can't fully grasp, whenever I am out with my three little ones (three is too many kids according to many of my friends) I am stared at as if I came from another planet or am a strange freak of nature. I am asked almost daily if Elise (almost 5) and Marie (2 1/2) are twins, even though Elise is head and shoulders taller than her sister. I think people just can't comprehend me having that many children that close together.
So my freaky brood of kids and I went down the street a few blocks for the dreaded shots. We were stopped 3 times in the 10 minute walk by people who wanted to ask me if I had twins or inform me that my kids weren't dressed warm enough. We arrived at the building to find it crowded with mothers and children waiting to get shots. A nurse noticed the baby hanging off of me and ushered me upstairs for baby shots since downstairs was dedicated to the swine flu vaccine.
Fertile Myrtle (me) and her three kids were put in a small room with two desks, a table for the patient to sit on, and one nurse who first asked if Elise and Marie were twins, then asked if I had all these children on purpose, and why they were so close in age, and then started taking down Clara's information. Another nurse soon joined us with the three shots for poor little Clara, and after getting all the important information (no... not about allergies, medical records, etc... but why I had so many children so close together) she had me get Clara ready for the shots and instructed me on how to hold her still while she administered the inoculations.
The nurse pulled the shiny little needle out and Marie's eyes grew big as saucers. Poor Marie's curiosity drew her closer and closer until she was watching the needles go into her baby sister's arm and legs, and listening to her sad little screams from about 6 inches away. If she wasn't already dreading her own shots, by this point she was pretty much scared out of her socks.
The two nurses decided that since the line downstairs was so long, they would just bring up two H1N1 vaccines for Elise and Marie. So they got on the phone, and soon two more shots and three more nurses were crowded into the small room. I think the new nurses assumed that I didn't know Turkish and so they proceeded to ask the first two all about me. A conversation ensued about how strange and hard it must be to not only be a foreigner, but also to have to look after three small kids. "Why would she do that?" "It had to be an accident!" "They are beautiful... but that's so hard!" "Look at the chart... they are all two years apart! At least she was orderly about it," were just a few of the comments they made to one another... right in front of me. They also laughed about the fact that five of them were upstairs with the yabancilar (foreigners) while only two were left to give vaccines to the masses below.
Marie was next to hop........ er...be dragged... onto the table. By this point I had one nurse still taking down info, one holding Clara, one administering the shot, and two more, plus myself holding down poor kicking, screaming, and struggling little Marie. Screams rang down the hallways, snot and tears flew everywhere and then it was over... well, except the crying.
By this point, Elise had quietly retreated to underneath a desk and was hoping that her freakishly fertile mother and the chatty nurses would just forget about her existence and leave her alone. No such luck. I had to drag her clawing, scratching, and screaming from under the desk, all the while listening to Marie and Clara's cries and to the nurses rehash how close in age my children are. It then took me and two nurses to pry her little hands off her coat, her coat and sweater off of her shoulder, and hold her down so she could have her turn at the dreaded flu vaccine. More screaming, kicking, crying, and snot, and I breathed a big sigh of relief... it was over.
I tried to quiet the girls down with marshmallows and fruit roll ups from a care package from Nana (thanks Mom!), but it was a no go. In the end I had to walk out of the room, down the hallway, past scores of people waiting for shots, all the while holding a baby and dragging along two screaming and crying little girls. More than one person tried to pick up one of my two crying older girls to comfort them, which only made things worse... I mean, really, would you want a stranger grabbing you right after your mom betrayed you by holding you down to be jabbed by a sharp instrument of torture!? Me neither. A few curious people tried to stop me to ask if Elise and Marie were twins... and by this point I just wanted to yell, "Can't you people mind your own business?!! Yes I have three kids! No they're not twins! Yes, I wanted all three of my children, and NO, it's not hard to raise them, I'M HANDLING IT JUST FINE, OKAY!! NOW JUST LEAVE ME ALONE FOR PEET'S SAKE (While throwing chairs, and knocking over tables... yeah, things are fine... just fine. I totally have it all together)!"
It was probably only 30 to 40 minutes start to finish, but I felt like I had just endured hours of torture and was quite honestly just wanting to be left alone when a nurse chased me down, handed me a couple of cards with the girl's names on them, and told me that I needed to come back for round two of the flu shot in a month.
What? I thought this was a one time deal!