I don’t think Meg or I have ever had moments as terrifying as the ones we experienced last week. I don’t know how more bluntly I could put it other than, we thought our little man had left us.
For me, it was Friday night and I had left work. Meg was picking up the little guy that day so that I could head roughly 40 minutes out of town to a convention where I was set to spend most of the weekend promoting my comic book series. I got about halfway to my destination when I got a phone call from my mom.
“Get to the ER now,” she said.
My son had a seizure when Meg was picking him up.
I turned the car around and raced to the ER as fast as I could, behind every slow vehicle you could imagine, turning seconds into agonizing hours. When I arrived, I raced through the ER, the sense of fear eating away at me in those moments being absolutely inexplicable.
I was crippled the moment I walked into the ER and saw Meg holding our little man in her arms, unresponsive, his eyes rolled back, IVs and breathing tubes hooked up to him. Things seemed utterly bleak.
I looked into Meg’s red, crying eyes and knew we both were thinking the same thing – we thought we had lost him.
Before I had arrived but while in the hospital, he had a second seizure. The first time, he had a fever, they determined, the second time he had not, thus causing some questions and confusion amid the doctors. All sorts of tests were performed – bloodwork, urine, spinal tap (for meningitis) and a cat-scan.
Fortunately, all came back clear.
Then, at some point in the night, after test and test, tears and tears, and every terrible thought running through my head, it happened. When he came to and started responding, looking at us and for the first time he smiled again, well, you could’ve cut off all my limbs and I would have still been smiling to the heavens. He was awake.
The doctor decided to admit him and Meg and I spent the night alongside our little man in the hospital. Late into the night, he started showing signs of eye contact again, causing us to finally breathe once more. When he was spunky enough to start pulling the oxygen tube out of his nose because it obviously annoyed him, we were hopeful that our little monkey was coming back to us.
Throughout the night, the hospital staff checked in, even as he slept, monitoring his temperature, making sure he was getting what he needed in the IV, etc. The next morning, he was up and after a little bit of breakfast, was playing and giggling again, even if his fever was still bouncing up and down a bit and providing some concern.
What the doctors think happened is that he caught a virus. The virus caused the fever to hit quickly and to suddenly spike that afternoon, causing the first seizure.
I made a trip home in the night and returned with some familiar friends for our guy – Gerald the Elephant, and Pigeon, hoping that having a familiar face might help him feel more comfortable. In the morning, Gerald and Pigeon made a new friend – Grover, who joined us from the hospital gift shop on my trip down there for something of comfort, and to find Meg a magazine to read. My parents showed up at one point, bringing with them a talking Daniel Tiger doll that once he was awake, the little guy played with again and again in the cage-like crib set up in the hospital room. It’s set up so that they can’t get out in the night, but looks as though they’re an animal in the zoo.
We’ve always called him our little Superboy, and when he started feeling like himself again, that super-strength was in full force. They had that IV strapped into his arm but good, with an almost cast-like casing on his arm to keep it in. That didn’t stop him, though. When he was uncomfortable, he just reached and ripped that thing clear out of his arm the next day, causing a few nurses and attendants to come running to stop the bleeding he caused. Him? He was just so darn proud of himself. Me? I had to laugh. Our guy was on the mend, that much was clear.
When the hospital pediatrician came around the following morning, he said that we could go home. However, as I’m sure anyone who’s been in a hospital knows, discharge never happens right away. So in the hours between when the doctor said we could go home and when it came time to actually go, the fever had gone back up again. This then led to a myriad of paranoid thoughts about what to do. The doctor had already signed off on the discharge, so while we were told we could stay if we want, the insurance company may not cover it because he signed off on the discharge earlier in the day. The hospital said to call the insurance company, which, wouldn’t you know, was not open on weekends and said to leave a message for them to get back to us on the next business day.
After a lot of back and forth, we decided we would just go home. We felt that if he was acting normal again, we could at least be there with him 24/7, be able to administer his medicine without the need of waiting for a nurse or attendant or doctor to come in amid other rounds they need to make. And he just might feel more comfortable back at home.
Environment may very well play a role in how our minds work when it comes to health, because it seemed as though he perked right up when he got around his familiar environment, his kitties, and his toys again. The fever was still there, but they prescribed medicine for that. Ah, there was the rub, though. A quick trip by me to get the medications led to me going to three pharmacies, all closed by 7:30 on a Saturday night. Hannaford, closed. Rite Aid, closed. Even Wal-Mart (despite my not liking Wal-Mart…I was desperate at that point), all closed. I was at my wits’ end. I called Walgreens. There was one 20-25 minutes away, but I’d make the drive. Closed. I told them we had just gotten out of the hospital and I needed this medicine for my child, asking if they could please recommend SOMEPLACE to get it.
Fortunately, there was a local pharmacy that was open, and open until 10 p.m. I put my foot to the pedal and drove 25 minutes to that pharmacy and got it filled, along with some other items needed – including A+D Cream for the poor little guy’s heiney. All that temperature taking left him very, very sore. I also bought an ear thermometer so we could hopefully give his little bum a rest.
Luckily for us, Meg’s sister came by and lent a hand while I was out on this hour and a half long journey for medicine.
In the end, it turned out I ran myself ragged for nothing. That prescription the hospital pediatrician gave us? Turned out if was for child’s ibuprofen to treat the fever. All that time, I could have just picked it up over the counter.
My mind was in an utter fog, so I’m not surprised that these little things alluded me in the midst of panic.
That night, we slept in the little guy’s room, alongside his crib. We broke out a sleeping bag and laid it out, threw a few blankets down and set the alarm so we would make sure to get up at the right times and give him his medicine for the fever and monitor his temperature (something made a lot easier in the middle of the night with that ear thermometer). We did this two nights in a row, and saw his pediatrician the following Monday, who said it all appeared to be viral.
After the first few days home from work to monitor the little guy, my wife has now caught the virus and is fighting it off herself. We’re pounding the vitamin C (orange juice as well as powdered C inside water), and some Elderberry (great for the immune system) on top of the usual soup and tea.
It’s hard to be a week out and not think back to the horrors of seven days ago. I could sit here and worry about a million and one things. Yes, I know that I’ve always been slightly paranoid and a worry-wart before this. I know that I’m going to be very much airing on the side of caution even more than normal because of this. And yes, my mind keeps bouncing back to the words of the doctor telling us that now that this has happened once, he’s at high-risk for it happening again until he’s about five years old.
But I’ll try very hard not to. I know we all will. His fever has since subsided, and with the exception of a croupy-like bark that we’re working on, similar to what he had last February, he is playing and laughing and smiling and just being our little guy again.
And it’s absolutely wonderful.
I don’t care what superstitions anyone has about Friday the 13th. It was the day he was born and as of last week, it was the day he came back to us. It’s the luckiest day in the world to us.
After our boy got his very first bath in the kitchen sink, I sat him down on my lap and watched some classic 1940s Donald Duck cartoons. Even my previous blog post was about cartoon watching, discussing wanting to watch Inspector Gadget with him, only to be disappointed it was no longer on Netflix.
Fate works in mysterious ways, and it’s a good thing it’s not on Netflix, because I have, since that day, deeply regretted exposing my little boy, just three weeks old, to television. I just couldn’t shake the nagging feeling inside me that what I was doing was more for myself than for he, and was nothing but detrimental to his development. “What was I thinking?” I keep asking myself. I fear I’ve made a big mistake, and truly hope that there is still time to make sure he is not negatively effected by this weekend’s couch-potato activity.
I’ve done a bit of reading since the tinge of regret has slipped in, and have come across a great deal of work by Dimitri Christakis of Children’s Hospital in Seattle and how babies can be harmed by watching television and video. Here’s some information on Christakis’ studies from the website www.raisesmartkid.com
According to studies by Christakis, the first 2 years of a child’s life is a critical time for their brain development and watching television takes time away from a child exploring, interacting and playing with parents and other, as well as actively learning by manipulating things around him. These are activities that help your kid develop the skills they need to grow intellectually, socially and emotionally.
A lot more notes on the negative effects of television on child development:
- When your kid plays, he is actively learning about how the world works. He wires his brain by experimenting with cause and effect. When your kid interacts with people, he meets his emotional milestones. TV keeps your kid away from these activities.
- The first 2 years of your kid is also a critical time for learning language. Language is only learned through interaction with others, not by passive listening to TV. If you not respond to your kid’s attempt to communicate, your kid could miss this important milestone. Also, your kid will not learn to talk by listening to TV characters baby talk or talk down to him. Your kid learns to talk by mimicking adult language. He learns from the adults’ simplified but correctly pronounced speech.
- Note that when your baby smiles at the TV, the TV does not smile back. This may affect him socially and psychologically.
Researchers have found that over the last 20 years, an increasing number of 9-month-old children are having trouble paying attention to voices when there is also background noise coming from the TV. This may affect their paying attention in class when they go to school.
Also, when kids who watch TV go to school, they have to make a change from being primarily visual learners to listening learners. If a kid watches more TV than interact with the family, he will have a hard time making this transition, and his school learning will suffer.
Dr. Christakis has found that children who watched television as babies are more likely to have shorter attention spans, problem concentrating and impulsiveness by age 7. He also states that although Attention Deficit Disorder is genetic, TV can also trigger this condition because TV rewires the baby’s brain. The still-developing brain adapts to TV’s fast pace and overstimulation.
Also, in his study, Christakis found that children who watched TV as babies are less able to recognize letters and numbers by the time they go to school. A 2005 University of Pennsylvania study found that watching Sesame Street before age 3 delayed a child’s ability to develop language skills. This may be because babies are wired to be active and not passive learners.
- Many TV shows and videos geared to kids are actually teaching them the wrong things. They distort reality with their cartoonish and unnatural depiction of the world. Also, the pacing of these shows is fast and teaches the baby’s sponge-like brain to always expect fast-paced input. The real world, as they will soon find out, is much more boring and requires patience to adapt to.
- Many other studies have found that long-term exposure to television diminishes children’s ability to communicate via reading and writing. It can also lead to attention and learning problems in the long term.
In 2008, France’s broadcast authority has banned French channels from airing TV shows aimed at children under three years old. The High Audiovisual Council of France have found out that “Television viewing hurts the development of children under three years old and poses a certain number of risks, encouraging passivity, slow language acquisition, over-excitedness, troubles with sleep and concentration as well as dependence on screens.”
There are tips that are suggested regarding babies and TV watching:
- Child experts agree that children under 2 should not watch any TV at all – and this also includes videos, computers and video games.
- If you have to do work that requires concentration and you cannot multitask, do it at a time when your baby is napping. If this cannot be avoided, let your kid play with toys on the floor or in the playpen instead. Arrange a caregiver who interacts with your child if your child craves for human companion (which he naturally does).
- Interact with your child as much as possible. He needs this to build his brain. Respond to his smile, speech and actions. Entertain, recite rhymes, and sing to him in an engaging way. No show on TV can beat what you have to offer. Your voice, touch, smell, and your reaction to things he does are what he craves. Don’t let your baby be passive.
- Do not expect that you can use TV and video to tutor your child or will have any positive effect on his brain. At best, it should be a means for you to take a half-hour break from interacting with your child in a way that will help him developmentally.
- If your baby has to watch TV, watch with him, and make watching an interactive event. Reinforce what he sees on TV by talking or singing to him.
I’ve got a lot to learn about the dos and dont’s of parenthood, I fully admit that. However, I hope that I can take these feelings of regret of what I perhaps SHOULDN’T have done, learn from it, and educate myself as to what I CAN do to make sure my little guy becomes the magical child he can, and can live up to all his wonderful potential.
The package, with its familiar “half-smile” logo from Amazon.com contained the very first Christmas present that I have purchased for my little boy. At only a few weeks old, he’s too young to know what it is or for him, I’m sure, but regardless, I scurried it away to the top of my closet shelf, where I keep Christmas gifts I want out of sight.
Inside was the 40th Anniversary, hardcover set of Roger Hargreaves’ “Mr Men” children’s book series.
If you’re unfamiliar, Mr. Men was a series first published in the United Kingdom that would yield 49 books total over time. It began back in 1971 and featured characters with names like “Mr Tickle” or “Mr Bump” with colorful characters whose physical form looked like what a child might picture a tickle to look like, or messy to appear.
The books spawned a female version of the series called “little Miss” and continued beyond Roger’s death in 1988. After that, his son, Adam, who had inspired the series by asking his dad “what does a tickle look like?” took over with new stories and characters.
This is a series that i have loved ever since I was a kid, and remember time and again the amount of glee I would get taking one out of the library and looking at the incredibly colorful, very geometric characters in Hargreaves’ world.
They were simple stories, but each one with an important message, and drawn in a very simple style with bold colors that were striking to any child, as well as any adult with an imagination.
My wife and I came across one in our Barnes and Noble this past year that we decided to pick up well before our little guy was born, Mr. Cheerful. We used it one night when he was antsy in his cradle, showing him the bright, colorful drawings splashed across the pages to calm him down. I probably had more fun reading it than he did sitting there staring at me acting so goofy.
Unfortunately, though, we recently learned that Barnes and Noble was no long carrying the books, which made me Mr. Sad.
So, when I saw the 40th Anniversary set containing the original ten volumes (Mr. Tickle, Mr. Greedy, Mr. Happy, Mr. Nosey, Mr. Sneeze, Mr. Bump, Mr. Snow, Mr. Messy, Mr. Topsy-Turvy and Mr. Silly) and for the bargain price of just over $13, I could not resist snatching them up to add to the little guy’s book collection this Christmas.
What fun awaits us in the world of Mr Men when he will be able to pay attention to what’s being read to him, let alone when he starts to read on his own. Perhaps we’ll come up with a unique name for him too, like Mr. Yeller, or Mr. Poopy. 🙂
First off, I should mention we are not finding out the sex of our child ahead of time, so that automatically means any list of names was immediately two lists – one for boys and one for girls.
People often thought we were nuts, or that I was lying when I’d tell them “nope, no names picked out yet.” It was often met with a look of disbelief or a raised eyebrow that I was being secretive. My own mother said to me once when I had no answer on names that “you guys are so secretive.”
People just have an incredibly hard time believing that we didn’t have our final names picked out within the first two months of pregnancy.
So, here we are. 34 weeks and only last week did we come up with roughly four possibilities for each – found through the use of exercises in “The Perfect Baby Name” by Jeanine Cox.
We never thought we would be “baby book” people and in the beginning scoffed at the idea, to be quite honest. “We can figure it out on our own,” we thought. “Who needs a book.”
Sure, we had no trouble naming our cats – Beardslee, Winston, Jasper – but they all have names that sound like British butlers. We soon found that trying to come up with names for a human being we have yet to meet is not so easy after all.
So we bought the book, we did the exercises, ranging from names of friends who’ve made a difference in your life, to family names, to names from your family ethnic backgrounds, we had pages and pages of names. Then, both mother and father are asked to go into separate rooms and jot down the ones they liked best from those lists. So, we did.
So, we have two lists of names we both had jotted down…but afterward we both agreed, none felt like “the one.” You know, that moment when an idea strikes you and you just know “this is it.”
That just wasn’t there.
This morning as we woke up, my wife said to me “what if we meet the baby and they don’t look anything like any of the names?” It’s a thought that has occurred to me time and time again. However, as is often the case, there’s things that I don’t verbalize (but probably should) until I realize she has the same fear.
I never thought the question “who are you” would carry so much weight to it.