Have I got a story for you guys today.
(Skipping to the end, I’ll tell you: we’re fine, everything is fine. As you can see in that picture above, Bear is totally ok, but… here goes.)
So, last Friday, when I picked Bear up from the school he goes to in the afternoons, he felt a little warm. A few hours later, his temperature had gone up to about 100 degrees, which is definitely a fever, but a pretty low-grade one. It came down with Tylenol, and persisted for about a day and a half, and then he kicked it.
Almost immediately afterwards, he started getting cold symptoms, which, I thought: ok, not the end of the world. He’s almost nine months old and is around other kids almost daily, so, needless to say, we’ve had our fair share of colds. I called the doctor and they said to watch him for a few days to make sure he didn’t get worse, but overall, no big deal.
So, on Wednesday afternoon, I drop him off as usual and proceed to work for a few hours. Only, when I pick him up, his teacher tells me that he’s fast asleep at 6pm (weird), he hasn’t eaten anything all afternoon (very weird), and when I hold him, I realize that his breathing is super fast, like he’s struggling for air (absolutely horrifying).
I take him home and immediately call his pediatrician’s office and talk to their after-hours line. They get a nurse on the phone, and I tell her what’s been going on. Fortunately, by this point, I’d nursed him and he’d eaten something, but his breathing is still shallow and fast.
I’m holding Bear in my arms as I tell her this story, so his head is close to the phone. And she goes, “oh, I can hear him — it sounds like he’s panting. How soon can you get here?”
And you guys, my stomach flipped. “Five minutes,” I told her (a lie; we live more like fifteen minutes away from their office, but I was basically planning to drive 200 miles an hour at that point).
“Ok. Head over. I’ll meet you in the waiting room and check his vitals.”
That’s, obviously, when I started to cry.
Chad was still at work, so I got Bear into the carseat as quickly as I could and drove us to the office (200 miles an hour seemed like a good idea, but I decided it was probably better to avoid dying in a car accident on our way to the doctor’s office, so I went the speed limit… ish.) Minutes after we get there, the nurse comes out and hooks Bear up to an oxygen monitor to check his breathing, and I was so close to hyperventilating that I debated asking her to check mine when she was done.
But, thankfully, a minute later she announced that his oxygen levels were fine. His fever was back, but only around a hundred degrees. A while later, once Chad had arrived, we saw a doctor, who told us that he’d developed an ear infection — in babies, this is a pretty common complication from a normal cold, and they can come on suddenly, sometimes in a matter of hours. My sweet little baby who had been on the road to recovery at lunchtime now needed antibiotics, but was otherwise ok. (The breathing was just due to congestion, it turned out — his lungs were fine, too.)
Me, on the other hand. All I could think about was that he’d taken a turn for the worse and I hadn’t been there.
The worst part? I’d gotten to a stopping point in the brief I was working on forty-five minutes before I’d picked him up, but since he was safely at school, I’d taken a shower.
While my baby was refusing to eat and so congested that he was panting, I’d taken a shower.
And, obviously, I hadn’t known. But I still felt so guilty — I was still so shaken up by the whole experience and somehow felt like it was all my fault.
But once we got home, and Bear was safely in bed, I told Chad about how I was feeling. And my husband is excellent at kicking some sense into me when I go down a mom-guilt spiral, because he looked at me and responded immediately:
And, you know what? He was absolutely right. I had no idea, and yet I was sitting there, beating myself up. Ultimately, I’d done everything that I could have done — and this experience, while very scary, had turned out fine. Our son had an ear infection, got treated for it, and was now on the road to recovery.
Bear’s illness itself wasn’t a big deal, but my reaction to it, in some ways, was. This situation was almost totally out of my control, and yet my urge, as a mom, was to feel like I somehow failed him. To beat myself up totally unnecessarily, when I had done everything I could for him. To feel like I’d failed simply because this had happened.
I’ve written before about “mom guilt” and how impossible it is to try to be a “perfect” parent, but this week was an extra reminder. I hope this never happens again, and that Bear has a healthy end to his first year. But if it does, I’m going to remember that sometimes these things are out of my control — that even though I’d like to protect him from everything, trying to do that is setting myself up for inevitable failure.
As always, I’m going to do my best.
And I’m going to remind myself that that’s enough.
Besides, you can’t get through a baby’s first year without at least one Urgent Care visit, right?