On Sunday night, the wife and I were winding down the day watching the Survivor finale when we heard Greta stirring in the other room. After dinner, the wife thought that our little girl was a bit warm and I of course disagreed. I thought G was fine.
I did G’s bath, got her into her PJs, and filled the night bottle. (I suspect the wife is mortified now that the public is aware we still do a bottle because we have apparently broken some unwritten rule where a 15-month old should have graduated to sippy cups by now. The horror!) As she often does before I turn to leave her crib, G clutched a binky in her mouth, a binky in each hand, laid down on the mattress, and said “bye-bye” before turning over to fall asleep. (Uh oh, now everyone knows G still sleeps with a binky. More shame on us. We're utter failures as parents.)
Around nine o’clock, just about when the jury was listening to the final arguments of Russell, Sandra, and Parvati, we heard G. I got up to investigate. Misplaced binky perhaps? Bad dream? Poop? Lots of potentially harmless reasons.
G was crying groggily. She looked uncomfortable. I felt her head. En fuego. I immediately took off the sleep sack and the PJ pants. The wife came in to see for herself. Our collective red flags were now standing straight up. Eventually, the wife decided appropriately that we take G’s official temp. Fortunately, we purchased a digital thermometer for recording from the ear so we didn’t have to go in through the out door. Unfortunately, Greta equally disliked the ear instrument.
We tested the thermometer on ourselves first by placing it in our ears and pressing the button. A beep activated within seconds giving a reading on the digital display. I was a hypothermal 95 degrees. The wife was somewhere in the same neighborhood. I wanted to huck the piece of crap out the window and smash it with a hammer. Moving quickly because of G’s growing restlessness, we anticipated having to calibrate by roughly adding three degrees to whatever reading we got on G. It came back at 97 and change.
G had been noticeably drooling and teething recently so we knew a higher temp may be the simple by-product of her molars coming in. Even so, G was a bit moody compared to her usual happy self during the past day’s events. To be sure, we decided to be, well, anal and get a more accurate reading. As is generally the case in tough parent situations, mama was bad cop while I was good cop. (The wife’s tougher than me, what can I say? I start to wilt the second I hear G whimper.) I soothed our little girl and tried to keep her still as the wife probed dutifully. 102.7. Yikes! We were nervous now.
My grandmother Grace lost her firstborn son when he was two years old. As I understand it, my grandmother went to the hospital with her baby because of a fever. The doctors sent them home with instructions to take aspirin. He died shortly thereafter, most likely from meningitis. Undoubtedly, my dad’s parents were never the same again.
I have thought often about that family tragedy since becoming a father. I can’t even fathom the level of devastation my grandparents must have experienced. They did nothing wrong. They listened to medical professionals. The medical professionals were catastrophically mistaken. Eventually, the doctors of course moved on while my grandparents mourned their son’s loss for years. I tried to block out that thought and to focus on our little girl. I realized now that she was almost panting in her breathing.
The wife called the doctor's office and consulted with Nana who came down to help. We followed the nurse's instructions: lukewarm bath, Tylenol, and fluids. If the temperature increased, go to the hospital. Otherwise, prepare for a long night. The wife and I did the bath, administered Tylenol, reduced G’s layers, and comforted her back to sleep.
Without saying anything, we both knew the other was part scared and part nervous while trying to remain calm. We tried to distract ourselves by watching Survivor again. Suddenly, these “reality” characters' struggles to “survive” seemed more trivial and less entertaining.
We checked in on G at first every 15 minutes. I volunteered to do the 2 a.m. shift before we turned in at 12:30. G awoke around 1:45 and mama beat me out of bed. She soothed G back to sleep. I checked on G at 4. Sound asleep. Still warm but okay. Hour by hour, we rode out the storm until the morning. After another up and down day, G was back to her normal self by dinner time the next day. Phew, we made it. Cue the big sigh of relief and nervous laughter wondering aloud what we were so worried about.
I know this instance is of course only the first of many fevers, calls to the doctor, and other inevitable scares that will cause us to lose sleep in the future. But as long as we have the same outcome with G laughing, playing, smiling, and otherwise being her normal self, I’ll never complain.
Nice work mama. Thanks for being my partner … and for being the bad cop. Now where’s that damn digital thermometer? I don’t care if it cost 40 bucks, it’s outta here.