Victoria Jelinek

The Baby Diaries – 12

Never go on trips with anyone you do not love. Ernest Hemingway

coach class on an airplaneWhen my boy turned six months old we decided that he was old enough to make the big trip to the west coast of the USA for a visit with my family. Life a good Frenchwoman, I utilised the healthcare services before leaving: I took my boy to the doctor to confirm everything was okay, particularly the ears, I have problems with my ears, too; got a few ‘in case’ prescriptions, then went to the chemist and bought saline solution for the boy’s nose, Doliprane for any pain or fever, cortisone cream for any skin irritations, and his regular creams and soaps. Luckily, my husband went to the US with me. I could not have done this trip alone.

Before boarding the plane in Geneva, we cleared the boy’s nose and gave him Paracetimal to help him relax. When the plane descended, I nursed him to help prevent pain in his ears from altitude pressure changes. It was the long-haul flight out of London that was rough. In the first instance, the airline provides either a cot or a little seat for the baby to have on take off and landing. Our boy was too big for the cot and the seat made him sit up and therefore not get comfortable for sleep. All around us babies and toddlers slept, but not our boy. By the end of ten hours, he was fussy and folks on the airplane kept giving us dirty looks as though we were pinching him. By the 12th hour of flying, I was about ready to pull my hair out.

Shortly after arriving in the US and settling into my family home, the boy came down with a fever. He was listless, hot, and clung to me as a baby monkey clings to its mother. We decided to visit a doctor and were only able to see a paediatrician because my nephew has been going to him for ten years and recommended us to him (really). The doctor told us that our boy had had an ear infection before the flight (?), which had worsened during the flight, now necessitating a ten-day round of antibiotics. We followed his instructions. Ten days later, my boy was not much better and we only had another few days before making the flight back to France. Should we cancel? We booked another appointment with the paediatrician who advised that he be given a strong dose of antibiotics shot into each of his little thighs.

The hardest thing for me was that I had gone to the doctor’s office without my mother and without my husband The doctor told me that, as the next level of antibiotic, an injected antibiotic, would be very strong, it would be best if I stayed at his office under supervision for an hour to make sure that there is not an epileptic fit, seizure, or heart attack (?!). I was terrified. I desperately tried to call my husband at my mother’s to consult him, but he was not picking up. I then tried to get my mother’s attention in the car outside where she sat waiting for us to leave, in order to get some advice and encouragement, but the doors to the clinic were closed and she did not see or hear me. I made the decision alone to do it. The two nurses came into the room while he was laying calmly on his back with his little legs in the air. They put on blue plastic gloves and held up the shots. At this moment, he realised something was wrong. They simultaneously gave him the injections in each of his little thighs and he began screaming. Afterwards, I took him to my breast in order to nurse him and calm him down. It was the very first time he bit me, which hurt and caused me to cry out, but I figured it was fair. I sat worried and alone with my little person that whole hour, wondering whether I’d done the right thing. Worried that his body would reject it. Worried that his ears would not be better for the flight back and he’d be in so much pain or he’d go deaf.

The flight back was gruesome. He did not sleep, and I was in a chair that had a broken armrest and video. But we got back to France. My boy did not go deaf. The infection was cured. The French doctors told me that it was best to have given him the injections, that it was not the Americans’ being overzealous about the administration of antibiotics.

It will be a year before I make that trip again.

Your MMR Vaccine and Another Round of Antibiotics…
January 5, 2012, 3:41 pm
Filed under: Letters to Leo | Tags: , , , ,

You had your MMR vaccine last week (measles, mumps, rubella) and haven’t been the same since. First you broke out in what looked like hives (though the lazy women at crèche sent you home with chicken pox – varicelle. I asked them where you would have got it and they admitted that there had been a case at crèche two weeks prior though they weren’t sheepish about it, they still acted like you were ‘typhoid Mary’). The skin on your face which is always dry, red and chapped (everything is dry here, I must get better about using your humidifier) got worse. Then your eyes swelled up. Then they started oozing yellow goop and you’d wake up from your nap or in the morning with them sealed shut, scared and crying. Normally calm and easy, you were suddenly fussy and needy, crying and whining if I left your side for even a moment. Of course this all happened on Friday evening and over the weekend, so I couldn’t make an appointment with a doctor. And of course it was the busiest workweek for your father, so while he’s often at home, he wasn’t during this time.

Well-meaning moms here told me you had conjunctivitis (pink eye) and that it’s highly contagious. I had to suffer through lunch with a smug mom whose three-month-old son slept the entire time and the only time he woke up he ate from her breast and then looked cutely around while you fussed, threw things everywhere, and scratched and itched at your eyes and face. The waitress repeatedly remarked on how cute the other little boy is without thinking how that’d be for me, or you (I didn’t tip her for this and because she was an awful waitress). Granted, my gorgeous boy (you!) wasn’t up to par and looking your best, but still.

Bright and early Monday morning I called the doctor and when they told me it was ‘complicated’ to get an appointment for the same day, I begged and prevailed. I then got lucky and got a parking spot not hideously far from the office so that I could slowly and carefully carry you through, and over, the snow and ice. The doctor determined that you have an ear infection and bacteria on your face and in your eyes, and prescribed a general antibiotic. I took it, thanked him, and left. But then I got to thinking that you’d just had the MMR vaccine (and had had a cold when given it) and that takes a lot out of babies…and that you’d had antibiotics – twice – in September, a mere three months prior…and that you’d just seen another doctor the week before (for the MMR and 9 month check up) and she’d not noticed that your ears were infected, and she had looked…so then I got to thinking that I’d maybe done the wrong thing by starting you on the antibiotics, that maybe I should have questioned these things more when they were prescribed, that I shouldn’t have had the MMR done while you had a wee cold (though I did mention this to the doctor), that I am a ‘bad mommy’ and I’m hurting my wee boy.

Panicked, I was up till 2am last night reading various articles online that scared the living hell out of me about the MMR vaccine being linked to Autism, and antibiotics and asthma…I had made fun about the trend in Seattle for intellectual mothers NOT to vaccinate their children due to fear of autism, and even the doctor who prescribed you antibiotics for an ear infection in the US then, had hesitated as they were worried I’d protest, loudly. I’d thought then, and still do think so (but you’re my little one and I want to do the best by you) that by not vaccinating one’s children folks are sending us (western society) back into the dark ages, and that vaccines are the best thing to have happened in the last century.  Yet here I am, worried that I’m wiping out your immune system and that you’ll get autism and my sweet, gregarious, sociable child will withdraw from the world and be ‘lost’ forever…

A friend of mine in London who is smart and modern, I respect her, told me when I told her about my fears, that there’s a rise in children getting measles and mumps, that death from measles is on the rise again in England ‘cause middle-class moms aren’t vaccinating their children and that I did the right thing. Your nu nu (Emma) that I trust and respect (two very hard things for folks to get from me) said that she didn’t vaccinate her boys due to all the information, too, and one of them got the measles. That she also knows that once you start antibiotics you have to finish them, so maybe this will wipe whatever is in your little system out once and for all, and she advised I go to the chemist and try to see if there’s something I can get to help your intestines build up their ‘good flora’ again.

Well, I didn’t sleep much last night and today I was looking at you carefully in a paranoid manner to make sure that you still look one directly in the eye. But for the first time in several days it’s a gorgeous day and as my mother says ‘all things seem possible’ on days like this. So, I will make a point of going to the chemist after part 5 of my root canal and asking them about building up your ‘good flora’ again after telling them what the issue is (in French – bon chance!) and I’ve scheduled a doctor appointment for ME in a couple of days and I’ll cheekily raise a couple of my concerns regarding you, then.

I wish I’d studied medicine. Or car mechanics. Something useful.