Irony pronunciation: \ˈī-rə-nē also ˈī(-ə)r-nē\ Function: noun Inflected Form(s): plural iro·nies Etymology: Latin ironia, from Greek eirōnia, from eirōn dissembler Date: 1502 the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning OR Spending weeks and weeks debating whether or not you should get the H1N1 vaccine for your children, making the decision to go ahead and do it, then finding out that you can't get the vaccine anywhere, even if you beg and plead, and wring your hands. ************ I took the kids to the playground last week when T. and L. both had an early release day. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and warm and the kids needed the outside time desperately. I sat on a picnic bench in the middle of the playground and took out my book--one I'm reading (for the third time) along with my Freshman Comp Honors class. Before long two women came and sat on the other side of the bench, and started talking about H1N1. I couldn't help but listen (having a book with you is the perfect camouflage for both eavesdropping and people-watching) because, like most people I imagine, I am seeking out and soaking up any information out there on H1N1 and the pros and cons of the vaccine. Both the women were moms, like me, and both wrestling with this whole vaccine business. One woman had a middle school-aged daughter and she was lumping her fears of the Gardasil vaccine in with her worries about the H1N1 vaccine--two girls at her daughter's school had fainted after receiving the Gardasil vaccine; what dangers lurked behind this new H1N1 vaccine? Maybe the reasoning behind her fears wasn't entirely rational, but I understand her concerns. I haven't spent as much time researching and thinking about a vaccine since L. was a baby and I agonized over the MMR vaccine. I think many parents are in my position. I haven't spoken with a single parent yet who could tell me, beyond a doubt, that he or he was 100% comfortable and confident in their decision to have their child vaccinated. Part of the issue, I know is that many Americans have either been driven to confusion, panic, or apathy over the mixed messages out there these days about H1N1. I flipped channels on the TV the other night and caught the tail end of Lou Dobbs telling his viewers in a grave voice that we are in a crisis, a pandemic of dangerous proportions, and we are woefully underprepared. I read about the importance of getting the vaccine, yet the vaccine isn't available and when it is, clinics run out in a matter of a few short hours. Kids are absent from schools in growing numbers, yet schools are remaining open--a sharp contrast to the panicked closings from the spring. I don't get it: is H1N1 serious, or isn't it? Personally, I think that it is. I didn't always, but I do now. Last week I heard the sad news that a former colleague of mine passed away from complications from suspected H1N1. His illness felled him in a matter of days--a fact that chilled me to the bone. Yes, a dozen other things could have stepped in and claimed his life as well--there is no reason, statistically, to feel overly alarmed. But parents don't often dwell in the land of statistics, but in the hazy, often intangible world of the heart and the gut. We are guided by instincts, and fears, and emotions and have to wade carefully through these to the facts. News of his death came to me just as Scott and I had decided to get L. and T. vaccinated against H1N1. As I mourned the loss of my former colleague, I also spent the next day or two consumed by fear: would my kids get sick? Would I? Would Scott? Would one of us be walking around one day, then in the hospital the next? What could we do? What should we do? Ironically, of course, my office-mate/friend and I spent a good part of a morning that week trying to find a place to get our kids vaccinated, only to discover that we couldn't. My pediatrician had, unlike my colleague's pediatrician, received "dribbles and drabs" (the nurse's words) of the vaccine but it was being reserved for high-risk kids. Would more be available? I asked the nurse. She sighed. Not sure, she said. But if we do get more, we still have more high-risk kids to vaccinate. The more I read the less afraid I am of the vaccine, and the more afraid I become of the flu itself; yet the indecision still creeps in--at night, mostly, when I lie awake confronting a half-dozen fears in the quiet of the dark, listening to the voices in my head run through the pros and cons, the rational and the irrational. As of now, at this moment, we have decided to vaccinate the kids against H1N1--if we can, that is; whether we'll be able to is another question entirely. Of course, if either child (or both) get the flu before the vaccine becomes available, the choice will be neatly taken out of our hands. Word of warning to others, though: according to the CDC, don't assume that just because you or your child had flu-like symptoms you already had a brush with H1N1 and are now immune. If you don't know for certain you had the swine flu, you should get the vaccine anyway. Have you decided what to do?