Saturday, June 14, 2008

Baby's Got a Bug.

The last couple of days have been instructive in the art of parenting. Baby E. has contracted some type of viral infection, and the days and nights have become especially long for M. The big question is, "how and where did he acquire the nasty bug?" Unfortunately there is no obvious answer. He could have gotten it from a number of places, and one of the only clues is that his two-week-old cousin had to make a trip to the emergency room last Saturday with similar symptoms. It started with a bit of a cough, and then we noticed that he was puking more than usual. There was just something about the outpouring of partially digested breast milk that seemed to be a red flag. Perhaps it was the frequency and amount of vomit.

Really though, it's kind of tough to decide what is 'normal' and what needs to be closely attended to. After all, babies are (to a large extent) simply spit-up machines. It could come out like a cottage cheese dribble, and still be considered healthy. The same thing would apply to the quality of the bowel movement. Should we be taking into account its color? It's often yellow, and sometimes brownish. What about that earthy forest green tone? Is that something to worry about? I've had that type of thing myself at times when I wasn't particularly sick. If you've ever kept track, certain types of kid's cereals can result in such discoloration. Have you ever eaten half a box of Boo Berry in a single setting?

Then there's the question of consistency. One of the signs of a viral infection is diarrhea. How the hell am I supposed to know what distinguishes that affliction from the ordinary watery stuff coming out of his butt? When M. took E.'s temperature and found it above 100 degrees, she promptly called the doctor for instructions. The mild fever likely would have been of little concern had not E. had other symptoms. It was suggested that E. pay a visit to Children's Hospital. At some point the good doctor examined his stool, and determined that he had "the runs". Now I'm not going to claim that I closely examine Baby E.'s shit every time he drops a load in his organic diapers... but I'm frankly mystified how one can make such an assessment.

Either way there was no confusing the fact that E. was sick. And naturally this was extremely worrisome for both M. and I. Our son would have intermittent bouts of melancholia, and would lapse into crying fits whenever he couldn't sleep. Occasionally he would get smiley and lead us into the false hope that he was getting better, only to relapse into another round of regurgitation. I made my first trip to the store for Pedialyte. E. seemed to like that OK. He even drank it out of a little plastic cup. Interestingly, despite the mess he was making, E. rarely lost his appetite. We just had to go very slow with him. The worst part of it all is that he started spitting back the medicine he takes to fight his acid reflux. That made him more uncomfortable at bedtime.

All of this time M. has been confined (basically) to a single room on the second floor. She hasn't been able to get anything else done. Of course that has provoked an intense cabin fever. That, along with the sleep deprivation, makes for a very edgy Mommy. It's lucky for all three of us that she isn't working now. It's possible that he contracted this thing during the single day we had to use daycare last week. Babies are certainly susceptible to all kind of maladies under those conditions. That's why the daycare staff prohibits parents from bringing their sick kids in until after the obvious symptoms have cleared up. We can't help but wonder how many days we'll need to take off next year to care for E. I don't know how anybody does this alone.

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