Think before you pinch those cheeks! A new mother explains why.
“Is there any room for privacy and decorum in a world where content is king?”
I asked myself this question recently, while I toggled between social media apps and my image gallery, where pics of my precious tiny new human made me smile. As a first-time mom, I’m always researching tutorials and info on child development. Reading up on different perspectives around the globe to help me make informed decisions for my offspring. For all the uplifting and enlightening content I find, there’s also a lot that makes me furrow my brows and kiss my teeth. On rare occasions, I have even cried.
One story comes to mind. A young couple here in the US made the fatal mistake of taking their newborn to a family reunion. As expected, the young baby was adored and bestowed with hugs and kisses from his relatives. Just hours into the event, baby became listless and had difficulty breathing, so they rushed him to the hospital. After spending a few days in NICU, his organs began shutting down.
Tests confirmed Herpes simplex-1, the same virus that causes cold sores in up to 80% of the US population. For young babies with undeveloped immune systems, however, this common pathogen can be devastating. In this case, the baby proved too weak to fight off the infection; he was only two weeks old when he died.
Upon reading this, I felt sadness, shame, anger, grief, and fear. Of course I feel sad for the baby. But there’s also an urge to judge the parents’ decision to gallivant to a family function rather than prioritize their child’s health. I could have echoed the opinion of others by saying their child would still be alive if they skipped the event.
But reflecting on my own experience with my mini person during these first 6 months of motherhood, I’ve learned it doesn’t matter where you take your baby – reunions, supermarkets, the doctor’s office – people lack boundaries, especially when it comes to disregarding an infant’s safety and their parent’s comfort.
I wish people knew that 7 out of every 10 adults could shed HSV-1 virus in their saliva at any time throughout their life. Whether or not you see a cold sore has nothing to do with how contagious you might be. Even if you “feel fine”, you are still able to infect a newborn. According to the Department of Health, babies who contract HSV require hospitalization and intravenous antiviral medication for 21 days. With treatment, about 20% can still die and those who pull through can suffer lasting brain damage.
Society loves to dote on babies; just the smell of them jolts the reward center in the brain! It’s no wonder society naturally seeks to embrace the pure innocent cuteness babies have! But pump your brakes! Babies need their space, for their own health and well-being.
It would be great, if society could adapt to a new normal for how to behave around the youngest of humans. When you see someone with a young baby, give them extra space. Do not attempt to hold, touch, or otherwise get in the baby’s personal space. Treat yourself as a potential contaminant, and take the mother’s lead on when and how to engage with her child. Greet and smile from afar.
Mothers will truly appreciate the gesture if you ask for permission to approach their baby. If it sounds like an excess of caution, just allow the health of your loved ones to motivate you in considering saving the next baby’s life.
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