I took Jordan to the pediatrician today to look at a crazy rash that had developed all over her body. She’d had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic for an ear infection over the weekend, and we had discontinued the medication last Sunday, so I was surprised to see the rash (which had faded somewhat) start to get stronger. She was blotchy last night, and I put her to bed hoping that it would be better in the morning. Sadly, it was not.
This morning, her tiny body was covered in thousands of raised red dots. It was the kind of rash that induces full-strength mama-panic, if you know what I mean. When I undressed her during a diaper change, I almost burst into tears when I saw how much of her body surface was affected. If you looked at her legs, there was hardly room for any normal skin in between the rashy dots.
I thought it was some weird renewal of the earlier allergic reaction. I didn’t think it was a disease because Casey was completely unaffected. So I dropped them both off at day care and said I’d come back for Jordan when I’d secured an appointment with her pediatrician.
When I got to work, I couldn’t help but look at a couple of medical Web sites for pictures of pediatric rashes. Suddenly, I was nervous as hell because I found pictures of measles that looked (to my obviously untrained eye) just like what Jordan had. And consistent with measles, she’d had a spiking fever some days before and the ear infection (a common comorbid condition), and the pattern of Jordan’s rash (starting at the head and moving downward) matched the pattern of measles rash development. Not to mention, Jordan is too young for the measles vaccine (as is almost every infant in her day care class), and we had just traveled to and from Florida by way of several large airports where who knows what diseased international traveler might have coughed on her.
Measles? Could it be? And I’d just left her in the class with a dozen other unvaccinated infants.
This. This is why doctors hate it when patients start googling illnesses.
It wasn’t measles. You knew that, right? Measles is actually kind of rare in this country, thanks to a strong national vaccination program. (Haters, don’t even start.) The doctor didn’t specifically know what it was, but she suspected some kind of fairly benign viral infection. No longer contagious, even – apparently, by the time the rash breaks out, the virus is long gone. Or something like that.
I think about what it is to be a parent. In some ways, it is a thousand worries, responsibilities, stressors. It is so much work. I am so tired. When Jordan was having her blood drawn, the lab technician was asking me what was I thinking when I had so many kids at once. “What are you, crazy?” she said, laughing. I had to laugh, too – thinking about the years of infertility. Pouring our hopes, dreams, and savings into IVF. Wishing Meredith wouldn’t grow up alone. Not expecting another successful IVF cycle, at all, or at least not right away. Whoops, pregnant again on our first try for a second baby. Pregnant! With triplets. With twins. What am I, crazy?
I never talked about that here. We lost a baby with that last cycle. We had transferred exactly 2 embryos, hoping 1 would survive to become, as they say in the industry, “a take-home baby.” It was the shock of a lifetime to see 3 heartbeats. I don’t know for sure, but I always believed it was another girl. She made it almost to the end of the first trimester, but at an ultrasound in week 10, there was no heartbeat in Baby C. We could see the outline of a baby – it looked just like the others – but there was no flicker of light at the center. The sonographer said, “I’m sorry. This one is a demise.” We have no explanation for why she died or why the other 2 survived.
Because I had to have biweekly ultrasounds, I also watched that baby disintegrate over time as my other babies grew. I never bled because I was still pregnant. They told me my body was “reabsorbing” the fetus. “Like, I’m eating it?” I wondered to Matt. At one appointment, the ultrasound tech took a picture of the shrinking no-longer-a-fetus. She put a big “X” next to it and labeled it “KNOWN.” Yes, we know what happened to that one. She’s a demise.
I fell down the stairs yesterday night after I put the children to bed. It was a fall worthy of The Lost Weekend. I don’t know what happened, actually. I was just walking, and suddenly, there was no floor under my foot, I was aloft. Then I remembered gravity and my body fell, shoulder first, thud-thud-thud. After 3 steps, I knew what was happening, but the momentum of the drop meant I kept going until I hit the marble tiles on the floor below.
Matt heard me scream and rushed out to find me already on the first floor. I was fine, except for my shoulder, which had taken the brunt of the fall. “That’s going to hurt tomorrow,” he said. So I’m sitting here, nursing my unbroken shoulder, and thinking about my children, what I should do, what I should have done.