If a hypochondriac’s baby falls asleep in the woods…
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“Cowards die many times before their deaths,
The valiant never taste of death but once.”
Julius Caesar (II, ii, 32-37)
Maybe hypochondriac is a little strong. It’s more like I go from Point A to Point Z in a flash and then I have to talk myself back to somewhere around Point B, although I’m pretty sure my bff Bernadette is reading this right now and thinking, “No, hypochondriac is about right.” So during the first few weeks and months home with the baby, here are some examples of my baby’s symptoms, my initial panic-stricken “diagnoses,” and the actual explanations.
He has projectile diarrhea and he is going to dehydrate!
Babies produce more poop than anything their size should ever be capable of producing. It definitely takes a while to get used to it. We’ve come up with a scale, based on the DEFCON scale used by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to describe the threat level posed by military situations. For example, during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the US was supposedly at its highest DEFCON level, Level 2, meaning the next step was nuclear war.
We call our scale the DIAPCON scale; Level 5 is a clean diaper, Level 4 is wet, Level 3 is less pleasant and requires at least 3 baby wipes to clean up, all the way to Level 1, which is the worst. This is where we have experienced what we call “catastrophic diaper failure,” and containment has been breached. This usually means that everyone who has come in contact with the baby is contaminated and clothes need to be laundered.
Catastrophic diaper failure happened a lot to us in the early days, and mostly for some reason to poor D, who is more squeamish than I. The baby also seemed to wet through a lot of diapers in those early days, leaving me to worry that he had some sort of overactive kidney problem.
It took my sister-in-law Lisa to troubleshoot this one for me. I started crying one day when I picked the baby up and he had wet through the diaper and the crib linens. I told her I thought I needed to call my pediatrician, but she said, “Of course you could do that, but have you tried bigger diapers?” Solved.
After a few more weeks, I decided to switch from disposable diapers to a more green option. Cloth diapers were out of the question for me since I don’t have a washing machine in my apartment. There is a laundry room in the basement of our apartment building that looks like a set from “The Silence of the Lambs.” Seriously, the first time D took me down there, I thought I was going to end up in a pit rubbing lotion on its skin.
There are some great alternatives to disposable diapers. I bought a set of gDiapers, which are reusable cloth diaper covers that hold a disposable, biodegradable refill pad. One day as I changed him, I noticed in horror this gooey, gel-like substance all over him. I started to scoop him up to run the 2 blocks to the emergency room when it dawned on me: it wasn’t necessarily some rare bladder condition causing his urine to turn to gel. Maybe, it was the diaper refill? I checked the pad, and sure enough, it was so wet that it had started to biodegrade while still on my baby! So, although I love these diapers and highly recommend them, I don’t use them for overnight and I change him every 2 or 3 hours.
But I couldn’t help but wonder, after my heart started beating again, if I would have been the first new mother running into the ER with a melting baby, or if this has happened to other “green” (in every sense of the word) moms?
He’s having a seizure!
Utter panic, until my mother pointed out that he was stretching.
He has scarlet fever!
He was always so hot and sweaty when I picked him up from his naps. His little cheeks would be bright red. I thought he must have night sweats or scarlet fever. Then D asked, “Maybe his pajamas and the blanket are too much?” Again, the simplest answer turns out to be right.
It’s easy to laugh about it now, but those first few weeks were just terrifying. I have managed to keep it to a reasonable level, I think. We’ve only been to the doctor twice for other than routine well-baby visits, and both time were legitimate reasons. We are so lucky.
Next time: D takes over as full-time parent
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