Why you need the flu shot – especially if you’re pregnant

My sister was premature. Because my mom got the flu.

Not only was she premature, her lungs weren’t fully developed. And they collapsed. I was 10 at the time and terrified. Waiting at my Nanna’s house with my little brother while my days-old, baby sister was MedEvaced across the state to UVA Medical Center.


This tiny person was flying through the air, while my parents, in shock, climbed into their car and composed themselves to drive down the highway in the middle of the night to be there with her and for her.

I can’t even imagine what they were going through. Were they prepared for this?

They’d survived my brother getting his stomach pumped at age 3 after guzzling a 2-liter Coke bottle full of MOTOR OIL. (Who puts oil in a Coke bottle and leaves it around for a 3yo to find?)

They’d survived when I missed the first 3 weeks of 3rd grade hospitalized from dehydration – because I had the flu. (So yeah, you should probably vaccinate everyone you know. Especially little kids – they get the added joys of vomit and diarrhea…)

All I remember is that we prayed a lot and everyone eventually came home. My sister still has a telltale scar from where the medical team worked their magic and stuck a tube in her newborn flesh to reach her lungs and inflate them back to life.

And we all breathed.

She’s beautiful and healthy and 30 now. Married, with a fun dog. And a good writer to boot.

We never really thought of her as a preemie…

Y’all, she was FIVE WEEKS EARLY.

But she was bigger at birth than me when I was born at full-term. Plus, she had to make her way in the midst of much-older siblings. We felt her presence daily. And she graduated cum laude from college.

The story of her birth is just a story now.

Or it was until I got pregnant with my first and my doctors pushed me to get the flu shot.

I’d never bothered to get the shot before. Even though I still remember the horror and humiliation of getting suppositories shoved up my 3rd-grade-butt because I couldn’t stop vomiting up the pills they gave me.

I figured if I got the flu, I’d just ride it out. I mean, people don’t die from it these days, right? How bad can it be?

I resisted my doctors. But as summer turned into fall, my mom started in on me.

She was beyond disturbed I’d even consider not getting vaccinated.

Don’t you know what happened? Don’t you know why your sister arrived early?

No, I was 10 and self-absorbed.

She went on to educate me: My sister was due in April. But at the beginning of March, my mom got the flu.

The virus went into her cervix and caused her to go into early labor.

The trip to UVA was just the culmination of the nightmare for my parents. This I didn’t know.

Can you imagine being 35 weeks pregnant and getting the flu? High fever and aches so bad you can’t get up off the couch – when you’re already huge and uncomfortable and it’s hard to get up off the couch?

Then you panic because you’ve heard about the things that can happen to your baby if you get the flu. Like bipolar disorder. And premature labor.

And then labor begins. When it’s not yet time.

And then to watch your newborn child struggle for breath. Only to be snatched from your arms and sent into the sky while you remain helpless down on the ground, trying to figure out if you really need to take your toothbrush with you or not. And how many towels should you cover the car seat with because your body is still bleeding post-delivery?

I tell this story to encourage you to get the flu shot. Especially if you’re pregnant. It’s an easy decision that can save you agony and worry.

And if your doctor won’t provide you with a preservative-free option, go to Walgreens. Tell them you’re pregnant and they’ll hook you up in no time. Because we can all do with a little less mercury in our lives.

Here are 10 tips to help you avoid getting the flu – whether you’re pregnant or not.

1. Wash your hands often. With soap or alcohol-based hand-sanitizer.
2. Avoid touching your face.
3. Avoid sick people.
4. Avoid large crowds.
5. Open your windows once a day to air out your house.
6. Get plenty of sleep – sleep deprivation wrecks your immune system.
7. Change out your toothbrush often. Because it can harbor germs.
8. Sanitize door knobs and cabinet handles that (germy) folks touch.
9. Eat lots of fruits and veggies to build up your immune system. (It’s great for baby, too!)
10. Carry your favorite pen with you at all times. So you don’t have to use someone else’s (icky) one at the walmart, the bank or the OB/GYN.

“An ounce of prevention is worth an ounce of cure.”
–Benjamin Franklin

What are your go-to flu prevention tips? Share them below or on Facebook at MotherRest.

Photo credit: mvorocho from

Just shared this post with my mom, and her response is cracking me up:

Nicely done. Now me and my cervix are world famous.

And I love this comment on Facebook from my SIXTH GRADE English teacher:

I love the conversational style. It reads as tho’ you are present and rapidly relating the story, interspersed with comments as a natural conversation would, with two women of similar age, and young infants, during a flu epidemic. Every reader should feel instantly at home with you. The sidebar suggestion of what’s to come is very tempting.

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