I thought Oprah day would feel different. It was exciting to do it, but I watched the show with my husband in our infant son’s hospital room. Not the viewing party I had envisioned.
Early Sunday morning, Rex felt hot and was needy. He didn’t want to sleep alone. We took his temp and seeing a temp of over 101, we gave him Baby Tylenol. He seemed better but drowsy most of the day. In the afternoon, I noticed the fever had returned. I gave him Tylenol and held him for two hours. When I checked, the fever was still there. Odd. When I got ahold of his doctor, I was a little surprised that she said, “Take him to the emergency room.”
At 8:30p.m., Rex and I waited for an hour, and then Mark showed up. He had to wait for our babysitter to be with Vivien and Oliver. The ER waiting room is bleak and dirty. Rex was sleepy in my arms. Sometimes, I could get him to nurse. I looked like hell and was pretty sure some of the sketchy and forlorn folks were getting a glimpse of my breast, but the ER wears us all down so even naked flesh is not appealing.
Mark and I were shocked when (after an hour in the ER exam room) the doctor told us plainly that Rex needed to be hospitalized for 48 hours (I said, “Well, I’m going with him”), have a catheter take his urine, have an IV and blood drawn, and have spinal fluid extracted. Doc, he is 7 weeks old. I just left a hospital after delivering him. Isn’t this an ear infection?
We learned that any fever for a baby under 2 months is a red flag for Meningitis. And I learned that we could all get through what the doctor told us would be “one of the roughest nights of our lives;” he wasn’t making that up.
They wheeled Rex and I on a gurney to another room off the ER. By now, it was close to midnight. Before everything began, I said to Mark, “I’d feel so much better if I could do this instead of him.” “Yes,” he agreed.
I lay on the gurney, sometimes nursing Rex, always holding him. First was the catheter to get a sample. Not pleasant, but not the worst. Now the IV and a blood sample. I knew from Cool Mom readers to ask for the best stick, and one nurse said she was. I felt she was too young to be, but another nurse agreed. I lay Rex down on the gurney, and he was already crying. He knew. As I went to his feet, I saw my husband move Rex’s side. I have never seen Mark cry, but now his face was red, and his eyes filled with tears. We tried to reassure Rex as the needle went in his tiny arm. But no, all she did was bruise him. Not the best stick after all. I picked Rex up and started to nurse him. Within minutes I heard “Ready, mom?” from a middle-aged, stone-faced nurse who had taken the other nurses’ places. “Oh,” I said. “Are you good at this?”
“Yes,” she answered, and she was just old enough to make me believe her. She put the IV in the top of his hand. It worked. They taped a little board covered in gauze to keep it in place. After that, Rex was ready to nurse, which was a relief to me, and it meant we were two-thirds over with this torture. New shift brought a new nurse whom I really liked: a slender man who seemed very bright and compassionate. Later I would learn he was a former Marine who had done two duties in Iraq, which made me trust him more. He and the doctor wanted to wait while I nursed before the spinal.
When the time came, Mark and I wanted to get it over with. The former Marine said we could stay or leave the room. That “different parents do both.” Mark asked me what I wanted to do. I said, “If Rex has to go through this the least we can do is be here with him and let him know we haven’t left him.”
The Marine put Rex gently on his side and held his body in place while the doctor–who I liked- shot Lidocaine into Rex’s back. I got down on the floor and put one hand on his head, stroking, the other to his hand. Rex gripped my finger with his whole fist. Strangely, when the doctor extracted the spinal fluid, Rex stopped crying and his face took on a look of resignation, like, “Oh good, they are just going to keep doing stuff to me.” It broke my heart, and yet I thought him so brave. Then it was over. The Marine said the fluid was clear, and he doubts Rex has Meningitis. But we have to wait 48 hours for the cultures, and while Rex is in the hospital, they will give him the antibiotics by IV in case he does have Meningitis.
It was 3 a.m., and we were still in the little room when the residents asked us the same questions about Rex’s illness. I finally told mark to go home. No point in both of us being ruined. He left to return in the a.m. to bring me breakfast. And he needed to be home when Viv woke up. I had called my sister Carole’s house after midnight, and her dear husband Kevin said right away, “What can we do?” I asked them to take care of Viv the following day, which they did.
I nursed Rex as all our bags and car seat, were loaded next to me and we were finally wheeled into our own room on the pediatric level. Our new home. I so was tired I had to stare at the crib for a minute before I realized I wouldn’t fit. They kindly wheeled a regular bed in as they knew I needed to hold Rex all night.
And I did.