Our kids are healthy.
Last year when our son’s blood work came back wonky at his six month check up, we were reminded just how healthy and blessed our family is, because for a few weeks we weren’t sure we were that healthy and blessed. We spent all of three hours in the pediatric hematology center at Mass General Hospital and realized just how good we have it, as our (at the time) 96th percentile baby waited for his exam and, thankfully, clean bill of health.
And yet, because we’re parents, we worry.
And sometimes even colds make us worry.
And the now that I really look at it strange way the toes on her foot line up cause what if it’s more? What if there’s something WRONG.
But since there rarely is, my husband and I have learned not to call the doctor unless our kid is gushing blood and running a fever of 106.
So this time, we played it close to the hip.
Just before Christmas our three year old caught a cold, which spread to our seventeen month old. So much snot I used large old cloth diapers from their spit up days to chase them around the house, trying to wipe and pick at them. When the fevers spiked I knew what to do. When the snot thickened, I took it in stride. I did not even entertain the thought of calling the doctor.
The only thing this long two week trail of snot seemed to put a damper on was my vow to kick my beautiful but still night nursing son out of our bed. For good this time. No more caving. No more oh, I guess you can still this one time. Knowing my show and the holidays would be over come December 27 (New Years is just no longer a holiday around here and I’ve found I get slightly irritated by even the thought of plans. Give me my take out lone glass of wine! Let me do all my laundry on the first!) I deemed that day the start of my brand new mommy life. A life where I do not sleep in a pretzel shape and can freely go pee without my bed mates crying.
But the 27th slide right past me on a slimy snotty road called hell.
With the odd exception of Christmas Eve, both kids have been waking up every hour for over a week. While hippier parents than I see this as a wonderful way to snuggle and enjoy warm winter nights in a cozy family bed, I see this as a cruel reversion back to when I was trying to figure out how to get my mother to adopt my newborn because I didn’t think I could take the lack of sleep. Foolishly I had spent my last trimester thinking I would be so happy to give birth so I could finally get some sleep because I was going to train my baby to sleep so I could sleep, too.
As the snot began to wane, I began to envision my salvation.
On the 2nd, I fashioned a plan.
“I’m really tired,” I told my husband. I always announce this as a declaration that seems as though it should be a revelation to him. But it’s been four years. New info this ain’t. “If he wakes up,” (I am always foolishly hopeful he will magically sleep) “comfort him and then leave the room, okay?”
But there was a football game on.
And this is what happened instead: around one, my son woke up. I sprang from the bed, went out to where my husband was watching TV, and said “okay, just comfort him and get out of there.” And off he disappeared. But around 1:40, I woke up realizing my husband had never come back. The monitor was silent. Was he asleep on the floor, out for a beer?
A few minutes when by and then all hell broke loose as my husband came in to the living room, my screaming son in one arm.
Sleep deprivation chips away at your maternal instincts.
My gut reaction was not to cuddle but to yell “I SAID PUT HIM BACK AND GET OUT!!!”
But I didn’t.
“He threw up.”
“All over the floor.”
But will he still wake up at 5:30 after this?
“Tonight’s just not the night for this sleep thing.”
Well of course not NOW, NOW he’s AWAKE and out of that CRIB!
So my mommy self sprang into action and temperatures were taken and Tylenol was given and dang if that kid did not end up right where he was angling to be in the first place: in my bed.
The next night I was too tired to fight. When he woke up yelling MaMa, MaMa, I acquiesced and he spent the next three hours tossing and turning and making creepy faces at shadows like the kid who sees dead people in The Sixth Sense. Finally I realized he was not babbling to me but repeating CRIB! CRIB! to me and I placed him back and enjoyed a delightful sleep until five, when my daughter crawled in beside me and began moving the mucus around in her nose next to my head. They are angels, they really are.
So last night I decided this was it.
I am too young to look this old.
And I decided I would not cave.
The night was long and the wails were loud, but I thought we made some real progress.
It was not until the afternoon when things went sour.
While napping my son proceeded to flip the f out.
His crying was frightening, as if he was in pain, and when he would not stop and could not stop and kept indicating his ear was killing him, my husband called in late to work, I decided not to take our daughter to dance, and we were lucky to have my mom be able to meet us at the doctor’s.
I should have had an inkling.
While waiting, I heard a nurse as she looked at the receptionist’s screen: “Crying?”
“Yep” “What does that even mean?” “Hunter.” “Well okay!”
Well we’d show them.
Once in the exam room, however, my son had different plans. Once in the exam room my son turned on the full charm. Smiles, sweet baby babbling, knowing looks. As I gave the doctor the run down of his symptoms, he looked at her and said “yeah yeah yeah yeah” and pointed, which made the doctor smile and my heart sink.
“I don’t see anything,” she said as she washed her hands.
“We always wait to call!”
“It’s the magic of the doctor visit.”
“This always happens. Nothing’s ever wrong.”
“He’s our second,” my husband added, as if to say: we’re not as stupid as this makes us seem, we know what we’re doing.
“Even with the long cold, I’m not worried, no fever—“
“We’re never coming back here again, we promise.”
“You did exactly what you should. We love to see you.” This struck me as particularly embarrassing because she was not even our regular doctor, she was just looking at out file and how many times we used to call and zoom in before we toughened ourselves up, once, of course, we realized it was much harder to yank two kids into the sick baby visits than one kid, which is what we should have stopped at because clearly we are crazy Munchhausen-by-proxy parents who will next be insisting our kids have Ebola, Typhoid, and leprosy just to get the attention we so clearly crave.
“Maybe he had a nightmare,” she offered.
“Maybe…” I looked down at my son, who was nursing with a huge shit eating grin on his face until our eyes met, and then he laughed at me.
“Maybe he’s going through something,” she offered again. “Babies go through things, we just don’t know.”
“Maybe it’s behavioral.”
So our kid, at seventeen months, is a maladjusted hypochondriac.
“He might be working something out.”
Chagrined, we put his shoes and socks back on.
My husband took my mom’s car to go get ready for work and the rest of us drove back home.
“We’re never going back there again.”
My mother is slightly amused by this all.
In the back seat my son babbled and giggled.
“Poor baby,” my mom gushed.
“Poor baby, whatever. He’s happy. Listen to him. He is LAUGHING at me."
My mom let out her own laugh.
“What could he be working through? Everyone else is working through! He’s the one person whose plans did not change today!”
My mom laughed harder.
“You think he’s mad at the C-I-O?” [Current lingo for cry it out—controversial but oh so effective sleep training. And until you have been so tired you shake on a continued basis, don’t try to talk me out of it. My kids are mules. We’ve tried almost every method out there. They don’t drift off. They don’t deeply slumber. They need 4 hours of wind down time and adults saying get out of my bed if our household is going to sleep for more than two hours in a row. And that is something I have not done in months. Literally. Sleep for more than two hours in a row….].
We both looked back at him.
He laughed back at both of us.
“Will you do it again?”
“Of course I’m going to do it again. He’s got to get out of my bed. If it doesn’t work, he’s already messed up by it anyway, another week won’t matter we can deal with his psycho issues then. Right now I need sleep.”
This made my mom roar. She is a therapist and was married to a manic depressive. She gets and likes crazy-pants humor.
“I do feel bad maybe he is just remembering last night over and over maybe. Maybe he is just really pissed off today.”
And while many would say it is impossible for a seventeen month old to fake it, I am not so sure.
Cause I’ll tell you what: despite hours of screaming and ear holding, once he shined in the light of that sick baby visit, he has not once held that ear or screamed his take me to the ped’s office right now you abusive parents, or I am calling DSS cry.
The little stinker. Having one over on his sleep deprived mum and dad.
We are really never taking him to the doctor's again.