[Baby Watch: Day 52]
As I attempt to write my mildly humorous blog posts about becoming a dad, I often take the well travelled route and make the easy joke at my kid’s expense or I criticize my wife for a cheap laugh or I revert to using the word poop. It can sometimes feel formulaic and cheap, even if it’s how I genuinely feel and even if it is genuinely amusing. The problem is it occasionally makes me fear that I will seem too callous or that I may come across as uncaring towards my family.
Of course that just ain’t true. The truth is I do love my family to no end. Don’t believe me? Well, I love my son so much that yesterday . . . I had a thermometer up my butt.
But before I get to that, let’s go back to the beginning of the story . . .
Since his first week, Baby Oliver has had several minor health / medical related issues. Fortunately, they’ve all been relatively common and comparatively mild when I see the struggles that many other parents face. But he’s had a few concerns regardless.
First we had an extreme case of Mr. Sassy Pants at about the 2 week mark. He was under his birth weight until our 4th visit to the pediatrician office. It was determined that, while he was a great feeder (maybe too good?), he just wasn’t getting enough milk from Kristen when breastfeeding. He wanted more. More, more more. This is what’s known in the medical world as Gluttonopathy Newbornus. So, we had to supplement by adding some formula to his breastmilk diet, which means that, after his meal, he has . . . more meal. In unrelated news, I’ve been researching how young is too young to enter your child into a sumo wrestling summer camp. I just have a feeling it might be useful information to have on hand.
So, a week passed with Oliver doing double dinner duty, and everything seemed fine – until Mr. Sassy Pants returned with a vengeance. His screaming was only matched by his squirming and his writhing and his . . . (quick thesaurus consultation) . . . flailing, and nothing seemed to soothe him. After a few sleepless nights and inspiring chats with the ever-so-patient on-call nurse, we determined that he was just generally gassy and maybe somewhat colicky. We started giving him gas drops with his meals and supplementing with a steady diet of prescribed stretching / bicycling his legs and all other manor of contortions in an attempt to relieve his distress. It mostly worked, and he got through it, but not before Kristen lodged no less than a hundred complaints that “he got my gastrointestinal system.” I beamed with pride, and bought several nicely scented candles to mask the smell. We Hemmings men now fart with impunity.
Kristen and I had numerous naive conversations where we tried to blindly guess what was wrong with his eyes.
“Is he just staring at his nose? I mean big noses run in the family, so maybe his nose is big for a baby, and he’s just trying to see the end?”
“Is there a glare in his eyes that we’re not noticing? Try closing those blinds. No turn that light on and that light off.”
“If you cover one eye, does the other eye focus? He’s chewing on my hand, is that part of the eye test?”
Eventually, Oliver sat in all his cross-eyed glory as the pediatrician shined her little light in his eyes. He showed zero interest in following the light or uncrossing those bad boys for his eye exam, so the doc said we may want to visit an ophthalmologist. (Turns out an ophthalmologist is different from an optometrist is different from an optician. I’m just finding this out now. I’m 34.) She also informed us that she heard a minor heart murmur when listening to his chest. She told us not to worry about it, that it was probably no big deal, and it would likely be gone by his next visit.
(Please excuse me for this short tangent: If his heart murmur is no big deal, then WHY TELL ME ABOUT IT?!? You can’t tell a guy with anxiety that his son has a heart murmur, then cavalierly follow it up with the sentence, “But don’t worry about it.” It’s the “whatever you do, don’t look down” of the pediatrician’s heart murmur world. She probably went off to giggle about it with her anxiety inducing co-conspirators while I was left in the exam room in a panic. Anyhow, two weeks later she listened again, and the murmur was gone. Crisis averted. And a month later my eye twitch is starting to fade. But anyhow, back to the cross-eyed stuff.)
So, off we went to the big fancy children’s eye center place (fairly sure that’s the formal name) where we got Oliver sufficiently poked and prodded and given a bunch of eye drops to dilate his eyes into giant black soulless pits (seriously, any horror movie would’ve cast him immediately). Thankfully the ophthalmologist determined that things are mostly normal. He said that, while we should check back in a few months, we shouldn’t worry too much about it now. It was simultaneously great news for Oliver and horrible news for his budding career as the world’s first baby horror movie star.
Almost on cue, as soon as we got the good news about colic and eyes and murmur, etc., Baby Oliver developed a solid case of baby acne. (I wanted to shorten “baby acne” to “bacne,” but if you Google “bacne” you will see that it is a term that is already taken. And, if you’ve already Googled “bacne,” why not go ahead and check out the Google images too. Trust me, there won’t be any disgusting pictures at all. Just totally normal ones that won’t haunt your dreams for weeks.) The now overworked pediatrician has told us that it should go away on its own by the 6th week or so (he told us this on week 7, so I’m not holding my breath), but if it’s still there we can check it out at his next appointment. Until then, he advised us to avoid scented shampoos and lotions around his face. Taking this one step further, Kristen and I have also asked our mothers to avoid wearing perfume around Oliver for the foreseeable future, just in case. Therefore, if you encounter my mother and she isn’t sporting her trademark Estee Lauder bouquet, you have me to blame. (Well, you actually have Oliver to blame, but he’s really little, so BACK OFF.)
Our most recent medical dilemma occurred over the last few days, when Oliver had once again begun screaming as though he was being subjected to a strict diet of klezmer music (we keep our klezmer music to a minimum). And not only was he screaming; he was spitting up way more than he had been. Like, as often as 5 times per meal. But we couldn’t figure out what was causing it. He became a riddle wrapped inside an enigma covered in the stench of spoiled milk. We tried all the obvious things (clove of garlic, stake through the heart, etc.), but nothing worked at all. If anything, our attempts to love and care for our child only seemed to fan the flames of his rage. So, once again, we began discussing making our weekly visit to the pediatrician’s office. (I swear we are not hypochondriacs. No, seriously. Stop laughing.)
But, since we’ve been there so many times already, and because I am very concerned with strangers judging me, we decided to go above and beyond in our attempts to diagnose or even cure what ailed him. At the very least, we wanted to be absolutely certain that something was wrong before subjecting him to yet another round of doctor scrutiny.
This takes us back to the thermometer in the butt. You’d almost forgotten about it, didn’t you?
We’ve been told by countless doctors that if our baby’s rectal temperature is above 100.4 degrees, we should bring him in immediately. So, we pulled out our trusty baby thermometer and opened the directions. On the top of the directions it said in big bold letters ORAL DIGITAL THERMOMETER. It gave directions how to take a temperature under the tongue, and it even had a nifty diagram. But it said nothing about rectal temperatures.
Now, I am a college educated man of at least average intelligence. It stood to reason that, if a thermometer takes a temperature under a tongue, it should also take a temperature in a rectum, right? But let’s add a little context. When Kristen and I were doing our last ditch efforts to diagnose Oliver as officially unwell, he was absolutely losing his mind. His face was purple, he was hyperventilating, tears were streaming down his face. The works. And this is where my love for my family comes into play. I didn’t want to add to Oliver’s misery by just jamming a thermometer up his butt unless I was sure it was warranted. So I did what any loving (somewhat panicked, totally sleep-deprived and delirious) father would do. I took my own temperature under my tongue . . . . then I took my own temperature . . . up my butt.
Low and behold, they were the same. So, oral thermometers work rectally too. Now you know. You can thank me later.
We then took Oliver’s rectum temperature (AFTER CLEANING THE THERMOMETER YOU SICK WEIRDO!), and it was a little higher than normal. It was the final push we needed, so we took him to the pediatrician’s office. Again.
Turns out that Baby Oliver has acid reflux, or, for the medical professionals of the world, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD for short!). His manic screaming wasn’t a product of demon possession; it was simply due to some hardcore baby heartburn. The doctor prescribed us some baby Zantac and gave us several tips on how to reduce his discomfort.
Here’s the actual diagram he drew for us to explain an ideal feeding / sleeping cycle. I’ll be seriously impressed if you can decipher any of it. I see some mixed fractions in there, what appears to be a stick-figure spider, and possible some Yiddish.
Ultimately, we’ll have to give him the meds thrice a day for the next six months or so. They think it will take about a week to fully kick in, but we’ve noticed a difference already. Last night he slept like a . . . well, like a baby, and his parents did the same. And I like to think that it’s all due to the fact that I took one for the team. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.
So, the moral of the story is that I do love my family. It rips my heart out to see and hear my son in pain; I’d do absolutely anything to make him happy. I’d stay up all night holding him (check), I’d clean up puddle after puddle of his spoiled milk spit up (check), and apparently I’d stick a little plastic thermometer up my butt (check). To me it was a no-brainer, because he’s worth it. Oliver gives my life meaning and purpose. He makes the snooze button on my alarm obsolete, both because he cries the nanosecond he wakes up, but also because I look forward to getting up to spend time with him. And I want that time to be healthy and fulfilling for both of us. And I think we’re on our way.
Now please excuse me while I sit on an ice pack.