A tiny, hot hand is curled around my finger. The other is desperately clutching a damp muslin security blanket. I remember buying that blanket, long before Little Bug was born. I never envisioned that he’d be holding it while he was this sick, and I was this scared. I think to myself that it’s probably time to wash Mister Blanky, but Bug has it in a death grip and it’s giving him some small comfort, so I’m happy to let him keep it.
It’s funny how much personality is packed into 16lb 7oz of boy. We spend most of our time dealing with Monkeypants, a wild, cheerful, silly little thing that blows raspberries and laughs with his whole entire body. And then there’s our Baby Bug. Bug comes out when he is sad, or scared, or not feeling well. He burrows into my chest and makes himself as small as possible, all while making the saddest sounds imaginable. And the faces – oh, the faces. But we’ll get to those. All in good time.
This week, Daddy is away for work, and it’s just Mommy and Monkey. Best buds. Monday evening finds us singing silly songs and taking silly pictures (do you know what it looks like when a monkey outgrows a size 2 diaper?)
Bedtime comes at the usual time, 7pm, and Monkey and Mommy coo at each other over one last tummyful of milk. Then Monkey stretches, yawns, and tries to roll onto his side. It’s sleepy time.
Fast forward 90 minutes. I’ve done dishes and packed schoolbags, and am just sitting down to a lovely homemade flatbread pizza. There’s a blood-curdling scream over the baby monitor, but the mama in me would have heard that little voice even if I had been on the moon. This is not our usual “but mama, I don’t *want* to be in bed” cry. Something is wrong.
I head to his room, wondering what has managed to go wrong now. Is there a little foot stuck between the bars of the crib? Has Mister Blanky been tragically lost in some far-flung corner of the crib? Is it another of the ever-present night-terrors that plague my household? When I reach him, it’s immediately clear that something is wrong. This isn’t my Monkey at all. This is my sad, scared, hurting Little Bug.
I pick him up and hug him – normally a no-no in our Ferber-friendly household. His tiny body is hot – hotter than should be possible in our generously air-conditioned apartment – and I wonder to myself if we’ve finally come across our first fever. The ridiculousness of that thought won’t really strike me until later. For now, I’m just thinking that we’ve made it to another milestone. Sick baby? Check.
A quick check with our trusty Temporal Artery Thermometer reveals that he is feverish. 103. Nasty and uncomfortable, for sure, but nothing too scary. Nothing Tylenol won’t fix, right? I lay him down in bed while I dig up some infant Tylenol, and when I return, he has thrown up. It’s everywhere, and he’s miserable. I mop things up as best I can while holding him, trying to comfort him, and hoping I don’t go deaf. The volume in this household is unfathomable. He takes the Tylenol well – he has always enjoyed the taste – and I walk him around the house bouncing him gently, just the way he likes. It isn’t helping. He’s still screaming, and he’s so, so hot. His temperature is edging upward and he’s too sick even to care that I’ve gotten out the dreaded rectal thermometer. 103.6.
And then it happens. I’m holding him, and we’re walking, and he’s crying, and suddenly it all stops. His body goes rigid. His head shoots back and his body starts to shake violently. He’s not responsive, his eyes have rolled back in his head, and I have never seen anything even half as terrifying. And as quickly as it started, it’s over. 30 seconds of terror, replaced by an even sadder, sicker baby. He’s still crying, and I am desperate to reach the doctor.
I lay him in bed – he’s safe in bed, right? – and call the pediatrician’s answering service. It takes me several tries to get through and it’s almost ten agonizing minutes before I can get back to my baby. When I do get to his crib, he’s asleep. Peacefully asleep, it seems. Do I let him sleep? Do I take him to the hospital? When will his doctor call me back?? A quick phone call to Daddy makes the decision for me – we’re going to the hospital. I’d rather overreact a hundred times than underreact once.
Bug sleeps for another ten minutes while I pack a diaper bag, but wakes himself up screaming and reaching for me. Why is the hospital so far? And why isn’t Daddy here?
It’s a tense drive, but I manage to calmly talk with the doctor, Daddy, and even some very supportive friends on the way. It helps to pass the time. Bug seems better when we get there, but I’m not going home now.
After a couple of hours of constant screaming and hysteria (and Aidan wasn’t happy either!), we are ready to be discharged. Maybe he had a seizure. Or maybe he was just very, very angry. Sometimes very, very angry children hold their breath. Dr. Condescending (Sorry, Physician’s Assistant Condescending… let’s not give titles where titles are undue) feels that he has likely had a temper tantrum.
I can’t think. I can’t ask questions. I will be so disappointed in myself later, but now I am just clinging to my sweaty, screaming child and needing to get him home. And I do. I take him home, pumped full of Motrin and zofran, and rock him to sleep. I haven’t rocked him to sleep since he was – well, okay, I haven’t rocked him to sleep ever. So I’m not the nurturing type…
The morning brings no relief – we head out to the doctor’s office and await further lecturing on my infant’s temper tantrum. I’ll never forget that visit though. We are taken right back and greeted by Gail, who clearly remembers us and knows what we went through last night. She’s as nonplussed as I am by the ER’s diagnosis and feels that, given our family history, febrile seizure is the more likely culprit. We talk about how to make him comfortable, what to watch out for, and how long to keep him out of school. And we talk about the ever-present specter that is the “Food Allergy” – she assures me that our upcoming allergist visit is with the best. She promises that it gets better, and easier, and that in time I might come to enjoy feeding my son. I am hopeful that the dread that I feel when I hear the word “food” will begin to lessen over time, but that’s another story for another day.
There are two solid days of misery.
Aidan can do nothing but cry and wrap himself around me. I can do nothing but hold him and pretend my heart isn’t breaking right alongside his. And finally, we are where we started. It is Wednesday night. A tiny, hot hand is curled around my finger. The other is desperately clutching a damp muslin security blanket. I know that he’s not going to daycare tomorrow but I’m eternally grateful that Daddy can stay home with him. I hate leaving him, but I need to work. He’s in good, strong, capable hands with Daddy.
Morning comes. He’s better. He’s beginning to smile.
I go to work and think of him every spare moment I have. 6:30, I walk through the door. I hear giggles. I hear chatter. My Monkey is back.