My unbroken shoulder

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.

20 thoughts on “My unbroken shoulder

  1. Injuries suck. Is your shoulder really broken? Gosh, I hope not.

    You are a fine writer, really conveying what these experiences are like for you.

  2. The whole rash thing gets easier — really truly. I can tell the difference in a moment between a heat rash, a rash from eating tomato, a rash from touching a tomato, a rash from eating chocolate, a rash from eating wheat, a rash from a fever… I fell down the stairs too — traumeel helped. Hope you mend quickly.

  3. Hi June,

    Remember me from Devonshire, Old Orchard, Niles North, orchestra, Mr. Sklar, etc.? I found your blog a while ago while I was experiencing my own infertility issues. If you’d had an email to link, I might have dropped a line then, but as it was, I didn’t get around to it. In the interim, you had such beautiful girls, and I had my precious baby boy, Nathaniel, 7 weeks ago. I’m glad to see you’re doing so well. Feel free to drop me a line!

    — Sharon

  4. Ack, what I meant to say, was I didn’t get around to posting a comment in lieu of sending an email, partly because I was pretty emotional at the time. The original way I put it totally came out wrong!

  5. Wow, what a story! This right after Rob got spots on his face from shingles – no fun at all for him.

    Hugs and be strong.

  6. So many worries! I hope your shoulder heals up quickly. I’m so glad Jordan didn’t end up with measles, I hope she recovers from whatever allergic reaction!

  7. So much of what I want to say here seems painfully inadequate, but it does seem to me that we use the word “journey” so often and so lightly, and you and Matt have really been on a journey – I’m glad it’s turning out well, and free of measles and broken bones.

  8. Kee your chin up, June! I think it’s harder knowing something about medicine. I’m a surgeon and all kinds of crazy things get in my head when certain symptoms show up. My son will be two next month, so there’s any more years of that to come. I had my son at 40. “What was I thinking?!?” I’ll say what I usually tell my patients. Have no regrets. Life is too short. Appreciate every thing that happens — good or bad — there is something to be learned. You were given a wonderful opportunity (x2 plus a bonus =3). It’s ok to mourn your loss, but I hope you have no regrets. Congratulations on your hard work!!!

  9. Mourn. Be sad, remember. Move on. We live in such confusing times. Such high expectations. Everything survives. Or everything SHOULD survive. Kids (and parents) should never have anything bad wrong. None of that has ever been true, and I so endorse what the surgeon said, to treasure every moment. Every day. What you have.

  10. You dear sweet precious soul. I had no idea of all that you have endured. I do know that you and Matt and those little girls are very lucky indeed to have each other. I miss you, June.

  11. Hi!

    There are days where I want to kick health technicians … really really hard. There should be class on tact and empathy. You never know another persons situation even when they explain it to you as eloquently as you did.

    You have kids … wee kids … and the ability to scan the internet and freak yourself out. You also possess the ability to seek out the advice of those who will know more than you and calm those fears and the support of family to comfort you during those times.

    So the next time a tech says something quite rude imagine giving them a swift kick in the shins … it may make you feel a bit better:D


  12. I’m glad you felt able to laugh! I think a few women would have wanted to punch that tech. No, not crazy, just lucky in love. For a given value of luck –as many people wouldn’t feel lucky after having to go through infertility treatments and having to watch a fetus dwindle away, but anyone looking at your beautiful family would envy you and deem you lucky indeed. We’re very happy with our “easy” singleton pregnancy and plan at stopping at one, but I don’t know anyone with twins, or “irish twins” 😉 who would change their family one whit.

    Ha! Weirdly apropos captcha key: hanta emotional. 🙂

  13. I love reading your blog, seeing your crafts and learning about your children. Being a parent is always fraught with anxiety but you’re handling it well! My daughter (adopted, so no known medical history–I had completely flunked fertility tests) got chicken pox when she was 8 months old (too young for the vaccine). It was terrifying seeing the rash on her (and it was ALL over–i’d never seen a small baby with that sort of rash). You’re doing a wonderful job and have a beautiful family. Good luck with the shoulder.

  14. you’re brilliant, amazing, and extraordinarily capable–you’ll make the right decisions for you and your family. sending virtual *hugs* your way.

  15. Hey June,
    It’s been a while since I’ve posted a comment on here. I’ve watched your blog for years now and we’ve talked via email before. I started writing something on here about I too do that, but then I decided to just let you know that there are people out there that are inspired by your sharing your joys, your hardships, and your experiences as well as your sense of humor. Please continue to share and know that they are appreciated.

  16. Thanks for sharing about your baby that didn’t make it, as it will inform many others and the sharing is dear to all of us mothers/parents. You impress me in so many ways- as a mama, a knitter, a blogger and a powerful woman.
    That Sand Dollar Shawl is truly lovely on you! I really like the size you made and I am just amazed that you did that, what with babies, toddler, job, marriage, sleep…! I may be a stranger, but I am a fellow knitter, and mama (of grown kids), and I just wanted to let you know I care and I appreciate your blog and how you share. So glad your shoulder is okay!! I have taken so many dives to the ground, myself. I love what Byron Katie said in her last book, loosely quoted- ‘When I fall, I am grateful for the floor being there to catch me’

  17. “Measles is actually kind of rare in this country, thanks to a strong national vaccination program. (Haters, don’t even start.)”

    Your phrasing cracked me up. A couple of people have tried to use me in their personal ‘vaccines are evil’ campaign. I didn’t have vaccines as a child, mainly because I Had all the illnesses before the shots were due. Everything — whooping cough, diptheria, measles (both kinds), mumps, even had serious pnemonia several times.

    “But you lived and now you’re a healthy adult.”

    Um, yeah, but I was hospitalized pretty much the first five years of my life, and it was hell on my parents to have such a sick kid for so long.

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