Take a moment. Think about the milestones in your life. What about your child's life? A first tooth, first steps or a first day of school. Now fast forward - first day of college, marriage, and making it big in the real world. I never really used or understood the word "milestones," until recently. I didn't create milestones when I was younger, which was probably good because they would have been ridiculous: high school: find a boy; college: graduate; adult: become famous. Now, I am a new parent and a humanitarian, and milestones finally mean something to me. They relate not only to my daughter but also to my job helping the United Nations save lives around the world. (However, I did pick a pretty great boy while in the Peace Corps - check off that milestone).
As a new mom it suddenly seems that every question I get about my baby girl is about her milestones. It seems inherent as parents that we want our children to be overachievers the second they leave the womb. Does she have teeth yet? Has she started crawling? Does she roll over? Has she been accepted into Harvard? Wait, what? She is only seven months old.
I am sitting here full of caffeine (number one tool to survive a newborn) and thinking about milestones because of something a nurse said when I recently took my baby girl to receive her vaccines. As she was shrieking, and I felt enormous guilt for inflicting pain on her, the nurse said to me that these vaccines are important as they will ensure that she is healthy enough to reach her milestones throughout life.
All this talk about milestones got me thinking about the word. What if the globe had milestones? What would they be? Build economies, advance technology? Maybe the UN's Millennium Development Goals are some of the world's most important milestones; ending hunger, reducing child deaths, and improving women's health...
I started thinking back about the nurse's comment that my daughter needed her vaccines to reach her milestones. Like any worried type A parent, I researched all the pros and cons of vaccinating my daughter. I learned that the risk of any vaccine causing serious harm or death is extremely small, and that getting a disease is much more likely to harm her than the vaccine. In fact, the eight serious diseases that her vaccines are going to protect her from far outweigh any argument to not step forward and pay the co-pay that will result in making her cry (actually, shriek). Any of these diseases would certainly make it more difficult for her to reach her important milestones in life.
What if we decided the next milestone for the globe, was to get every child vaccinated? Millions of children are disabled or killed every decade by preventable diseases like pneumonia, diarrhea, measles and polio. Pneumonia and diarrhea are the two biggest killers of children under five. So we have to check off this milestone - to vaccinate every child.
During the 1950s in the U.S., polio paralyzed about 37,000 people. 15,000 people a year died of diphtheria. Measles outbreaks in the U.S. make news because they are now so rare, but it was once a scourge. Thanks to vaccines we don't worry about these diseases every day in America. However, this year in developing countries, 1.5 million children will die from diseases that have all but disappeared in the U.S. - such as polio, measles, pneumonia, and diarrhea. Why? Because one in five children around the world does not have access to the life-saving immunizations needed to survive. In the 20 seconds it took my daughter to stop crying from her shots, a child died somewhere from a vaccine-preventable disease.
The next time someone asks me about my daughter's milestones, I will proudly say that she is sitting up, almost crawling, and melting my heart (if that is actually a milestone, she is knocking it out of the park). But I will also say, have you ever thought about giving another mom a shot at letting her baby reach their milestones? The cost of a co-pay at the doctor's office could be matched by you to help the globe reach this important milestone. I encourage you to go to shotatlife.org where you can donate, advocate, and help every child on the globe reach their milestones.