When I put Zeke to bed that night, I was literally afraid he’d stop breathing in his sleep. I’m not exaggerating my level of maternal fear, although my brain knew that it was highly likely he was going to be okay, as the doctor hadn’t recommended a trip to the E.R. I decided to leave Zeke’s door open after strongly considering sleeping on the floor in his room next to his crib. He woke up crying twice, and both times, I leapt out of bed almost instantaneously. I held my crying wheezing baby in my arms until he finally relaxed and fell asleep, his head on my shoulder, snot dripping onto my pajamas, the hissing sound of his breathing steady (enough).
On Monday morning, we were back at the doctor’s office. We were sent to the hospital for x-rays of Zeke’s chest and a test for the virus called RSV. I never imagined how they might x-ray a baby’s chest, but the process was almost ludicrous. Zeke had to perch on this very strange contraption with his arms squashed up by his ears. Fortunately, a fellow blogger that I found using a google images search took a picture of her baby in the contraption. Check it out : http://raisingbabybee.blogspot.com/2008/06/chest-x-ray.html
The x-ray technicians were amazed at how calm-happy, really, Zeke was for most of the process, his arms squished up awkwardly by his ears, unable to move. Not to worry, he’s not completely docile, he finally got fussy during the second of two x-rays.
After completing the bizarre experience that was the chest x-ray, Zeke got to have a test for RSV. YAY! One thing Zeke is NOT keen on is having his nose messed with, as I imagine most babies aren’t. The nice people in the lab sucked the snot out of Zeke’s adorable, unsuspecting little nostrils. He protested, but briefly. Of course, when we snot-suck him at home, you’d think we are literally murdering the little guy the way he screams.
By mid-day we’d received the phone call that Zeke tested positive for RSV, and that there was fluid in his lower right lung. Zeke and I went to the pharmacy and filled his prescription for amoxicillin.
It’s strange. Even though Zeke is the essence of life and joy, he reminds me that life is so impermanent. It’s not to say that I was actually worried for Zeke’s life with the pneumonia. But I am terrified in general that something bad will happen to him. It’s his very being, his very existence that somehow bespeaks my own sense of mortality. It’s the intensity, the vastness of the love I feel for this tiny person…the reality that his life is as significant and insignificant as any other. He is not immune.
Yesterday, a local radio station did a fundraiser for the Children’s Hospital of Denver. I tuned in to hear one mom’s story of her baby who underwent multiple stints at Children’s Hospital. His name was Able. Able struggled with a disease that caused internal bleeding. This mother stood at the side of her baby’s hospital bed, gently stroking his head while he bled from his nose, a result of just one of the sights of bleeding in his body. She told him that it was okay, he could go if that’s what he needed.
I have to catch my breath as I hear Able’s mom in my head. No mother should ever have to endure that kind of hell, and yet it happens all the time. The truth is, when I hear her story, I am at once profoundly sad for her, but uneasy with the knowledge that it could just as easily been us. Despite the odds, Able survived.
Here’s the thing, though. This fear that I have about my own child is totally useless. I don’t think it helps me parent him better. If anything, it gets in our way. It hinders my ability to be an “in-the-moment” parent.
Strangely, as I was writing this I stumbled on an article written by Katie Granju on Babble.com (an awesome website for parents, by the by). She had this to say, “I now understand at a cellular level in a way I never did before that so much of what happens to the people I love — even my own babies — is utterly beyond my control.”