Baby’s First Medical Emergency

If you know me in real life, you know that I’m a hypochondriac. One of my fears about becoming a parent was that I’d transfer this lunacy onto my child and become one of those moms who never lets her kid do anything, because germs-sharp things-dangerous machinery-heights-scary news stories.

Instead, it turns out that I’m weirdly chill. When Baboo loses control of her giant dome and bonks it on the rug, I ask her if she broke the floor. When it’s raining, I put the raincover on her stroller and go out anyway.

But that doesn’t mean that I’ve given up worrying as a hobby or that I can shake off actual emergencies.

For example: on Friday, we had our first real health scare.

Baboo’s been trying out people food. So far, it’s going well. Half the time she spits it out and the other half she makes enthusiastic motor noises while mashing food into her face, neck, ears, and hair.

If you’ve never had a baby, you might not know that there’s a protocol for introducing food. You give them one, single-ingredient food — bananas, say — for a few days and watch for a reaction. Then you move on to something else.

Baboo’s tried bananas and oatmeal so far, and we’ve given her a frozen bagel to gnaw on for her teething pain. We were planning to move on to sweet potatoes soon. But then we had a setback.

Friday morning, when I woke up, Baboo was sort of pulling at the collar of her sleep suit. I didn’t think much of it, because this baby is a nudist, and would roll around naked if allowed. If forced, she’ll wear a diaper and a cotton onesie and pants. But she’ll fight you on socks, mittens, hats, and anything that isn’t soft.

We went through our usual routine when Mommy is on baby duty and Daddy is at work. We took a walk and played on the floor a lot and drank a thousand bottles and ate some mashed bananas. Every so often, the teething pain got really bad and I’d give her a frozen bagel.

It’s November, so the days are short. I gave her an evening meal of bananas and formula around 5 pm, but she wasn’t really hungry. She was also really digging at her neck by this point. I thought it was the bib, because see previous re: nudist. Then I took a look at her neck.

A blotchy red rash had started in her neck folds and spread down her chest. I swallowed my heart back down into my chest cavity and took off her onesie. Sure enough, more rash on her arms.

Airway, I thought immediately, thinking about the CPR tips Adam gave me when I remembered at nine months pregnant that I should have taken a baby first aid class.

I checked put my head to her chest and listened to her breathing. I pried her mouth open, as she protested loudly, and checked her tongue and lips. Everything looked all right.

“OK, baby,” I said, as she looked at me quizzically. “Let’s get in the tub and rinse off real fast, in case it’s contact dermatitis.”

That seemed to satisfy her. Or maybe she was just happy to see her little bathtub appear in the sink. Nudist babies love baths.

After a quick wash, I put her in pajamas and called the pediatrician. It was after hours, so the answering service picked up.

“Hi,” I said. “My name is Jennifer Luckwaldt and my daughter is a patient. She’s almost seven months old. She has a rash all over her chest and I’m a crazy new(ish) mom and so I’m worried that she’s having an allergic reaction. Also, I just called you last week, so I assume you have my picture up on your wall of crazy ladies.”

The admin who picked up laughed, and assured me that I was right to call, and promised to have the doctor call right back. Which he did in about one minute.

Have I mentioned that I love our pediatricians? Because I do.

Anyway, long story short, he said it might be an allergic reaction, but if so, it seemed mild, and to give her a tiny bit of children’s Benadryl. I won’t tell you how much, because if you’re ever in the same situation, I’m really hoping you’ll call your doctor and not go by what we did or what any other internet loonies tell you to do.

By this time, it was pitch black out, but still only 5:30 or so. I put Baboo in the stroller and raced around the corner to the pharmacy, where the pharmacist sold us some children’s Benadryl and checked the dosage for us.

Then I went home and loaded her up. With a baby, this means putting your beloved child in a headlock, like you’re competing in the WWE, and trying to squirt medicine into her cheek while she spits at you and screams.

Five minutes after she choked the last bit down, her rash disappeared and she passed out, in that order.

We’re kind of short on sleep around here these days, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t now understand people who drug their babies with Benadryl to get some sleep. (But again, don’t do that. Is bad.)

I still have no idea what caused the problem in the first place, although our pediatrician suggested there might be some strange ingredient in the bagel that set her off. Apparently, babies sometimes have trouble with citrus or tomatoes and have a reaction, he said. So it’s possible that someone in the bagel shop handled a tomato and some juice got on the bagel, etc. We’ll probably never know.

For now, I’m sticking with those single-ingredient foods and keeping the Benadryl on hand.

The strangest part of all of this was that I was scared, but I felt weirdly calm, too.

“That’s how it works,” Adam said when I told him about our afternoon. “You do the scary thing and you get the courage after.”

It helps, of course, that it wasn’t a real emergency. But the other upside is that before this incident, I’d been having some issues with confidence. I felt sort of generally incompetent around parenting things. And now I feel better.

A scary thing happened, but I didn’t make it worse by freaking out. And now we’re fine. So all in all, it was a good day.

“Nice going, Mom.”

Published by Jen Hubley Luckwaldt

I'm a freelance writer and editor.

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