Selam came home from Ethiopia terrified of needles. No 3 year old loves needles, but she was utterly terrified. Near as I can tell, she got all of her American vaccines in one day at the American Embassy, from doctors that she didn’t know. Not the best set-up.
Especially since the American doctors here decided not to trust those shots and made her re-do all of them.
Shots resulted in screaming bloody murder and sobbing piteously.
Blood draws–well, blood draws (of which she’s had many) required 2-3 phlebotomists, a nurse or two, and me all involved in Selam control. A nurse would blow bubbles and we would all sing.
You could hear her all the way into the lobby.
Selam scared the other children.
She’d come home from a blood draw so exhausted from this battle that she often fell fast asleep hours before bed time.
As her English got better, and she was able to understand what was coming, it got a little better. It still took emla, more than one medical staff member, plus me and a child-life specialist to keep her calm, and at the end of it all, the haul was often 2 or 3 little toys and roughly 10,000 stickers.
Lots and lots of tears.
Then last year, she just stopped. She went cold-turkey. She stopped screaming, crying, kicking, and flailing. She just sat there.
To be honest, while it was nice, it sort of scared me. I mean, she was 4, she was supposed to be unhappy about needle pricks. I felt a little bit like she’d decided that she had no agency and stuff was going to just happen to her anyway. There was a sort of dead look to her that unnerved me. I told her that it didn’t matter if she cried. I was glad she wasn’t screaming but it was okay to cry. She didn’t seem to hear.
Today, she went in for another blood draw. She hasn’t had one since July. She has her rituals. I have to sit down. She has to be on my lap. The arm has to come down, and I have to hold her belly tight. She looks at the princess display.
But today, she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t look at the princesses. She looked at the phlebotomist and saw the needle and started to shake and cry.
“Sing me a song, Mommy.”
So I did, and she got through it, tears streaming down her face. When it was over the phlebotomist said, “there, now it’s over. it wasn’t so bad was it?”
“It was really kind of bad,” she gulped.
“But you made it,” she said.
“I made it because I have my mommy and because I know you’re going to give me extra stickers today for being brave.”
They gave her 7 stickers, dear reader.