About two years ago when I was pregnant with my twin boys, the news came out that all new parents should receive the vaccination for pertussis (whooping cough) since most babies contract the illness from their parents or caregivers. I asked my ob-gyn, my primary care doctor, and my pediatrician if they could give it to me, but all three of them were clueless about the recommendation, and I was never immunized. Thankfully, neither of my boys have suffered from the painful-sounding barking cough and strained wheezing associated with pertussis, but I've always thought this issue deserved more attention.
Enter Jennifer Lopez, singer, actress, mom to twins, and generally super-famous person. She's the spokesperson for the March of Dimes campaign, "Sounds of Pertussis," which kicked off on April 22, 2009, and encourages all new parents to receive the adult pertussis immunization, Tdap, to protect their infants from the potentially fatal disease.
When I got the opportunity to chat with Ms. Lopez on the phone about the campaign, I was sure we'd quickly bond over both being moms to twins. Unfortunately, no playdates have been scheduled yet, but I remain very impressed with her commitment to the cause (she's giving up many days with her kids to shoot public service announcements and talk to dozens of reporters like me who want to be her new best friend). Here's a glimpse of our quickie conversation:
You and your husband both received the pertussis vaccination. Is one of you a bigger baby about shots?
JL: Yes, and it's not me! I don't mind getting shots, especially if I know it's going to protect my babies.
You completed a triathlon when your twins were just 6 months old, and you've mentioned before that you did it because you "needed to feel like Jennifer again." What did you mean by that?
JL: When you're pregnant, your body becomes a beautiful temple for two human beings, but at the same time, you don't recognize yourself anymore. I had a wonderful pregnancy, but afterward, I kind of wanted to prove that I was the same person that I was before. And I was always athletic, so I wanted to get back to that and set a big goal for myself.
[Through the triathlon, she also raised $127,000 for the Los Angeles Children's Hospital.]
What is the hardest part about having twins?
JL: As a twin parent, you want to be able to give your full attention to your babies, but you're always divided and feeling torn.
The best part?
JL: Just being able to love them every day. Honestly, that's the first thing that comes to my mind!
Why did you decide to get involved with this campaign?
JL: My sister and I are starting a healthcare education foundation for women and children. It's in the very beginning stages, but you'll see lot more of me in this [mother and child advocacy] arena in the future. And this campaign fit in really well with what we want to do with the foundation. Becoming a parent really changes you for the better and you become more open-hearted, so I want to do more to give back.
Also, it's just such an easy thing to do! You get a shot and you protect your child from a horrible condition.
A lot of our readers at Babytalk are first-time moms of newborns. As a more veteran mom with 14-month-olds, do you have any advice for them?
JL: Well, I'm no expert. And when you're a new mom, you get so much advice that you don't even want! But I do think that you can never give your baby too much love and attention, so don't hold back.
To learn more about the adult pertussis immunization and how you can protect your child, visit soundsofpertussis.com.