Posted by: Hannah | 11/09/2012

trust your instincts

Baby G and I both got sick at the same time.

Runny noses, coughing, fever, general malaise. It lasted a long time, too. At the two-week mark we were both still feeling like crud. But then I started to perk up, while he got worse. A lot worse. Fast.

He couldn’t breathe through his nose. His chest bubbled and whistled. His eyes were red-rimmed and sunken no matter how much sleep he got. I started to think up scenarios whereby I could get him to my doctor with five extra kids in tow.

Then, yesterday. Poor little mite just cried. All day. He had to be touching me every minute, to the point that when I was on my hands & knees cleaning the playroom, he had the waistband of my jeans in a deathgrip and was using me as a walker.

I knew something was wrong beyond a cold. But there is still that discussion you have with yourself before you pull the trigger and call the doctor. No one likes being the hypochondriac who pulls together a strategic plan worthy of General Patton in order to get the doctor’s office only to be told that their baby has a cold and there is nothing to be done.

After second-guessing myself a dozen times (he ate a huge lunch! he must be feeling better! but it took 20 minutes of screaming for him to take a 30 minute nap! that’s not right!) I finally called the doctor. Only to find out that she does her hospital rotation on Thursdays so there are no appointments.

So I gave in, and called Michael at work. The company he works for is one of the most supportive I’ve seen when it comes to employees with families. They didn’t blink when he said he needed to leave early to take his son to the doctor. Within an hour of me calling, he and G were heading out the door to a walk-in clinic.

Two hours later they were home, with a diagnosis of brochiolitis, a puffer, some antibiotics (he’s showing the first signs of an ear infection, too), and a can of saline nasal mist.

Guess what! This is how you give a baby – a baby who screams blue murder and whips his head from side to side if you just wipe his nose, by the way – a nasal irrigation with a can of saline.

The can suggests “lay the baby on his back, tilt his head gently to the left, insert the nozzle into the right nostril and spray”.

It should say “do you have a tranquilizer that will work on a honey badger? If ‘yes’, now would be a good time to employ it.”

We pinned him down. This takes two adult humans, or Ganesh, because you need:

  • 1 arm to hold down baby’s flailing arms
  • 1 hand to hold the spray can
  • 2 hands to hold the baby’s head steady
  • use your legs too!
  • a third assistant to dry your tears afterwards would be nice

There just aren’t enough hands. And once you successfully spray the saline into the nose, oh dear god, STAND THE HELL BACK. *shudder*

I know that there are all kinds of scientific reasons for taking decongestants for very young kids off the market, but just this once I’d like to say “fuck you, science, I WANT MY INFANT ADVIL COLD & SINUS. Grape-flavoured.”

We then moved straight into giving him the puffer, which he also hated, because once again we needed to immobilize his head. When Ron was a baby and had reactive airways I did perfect a technique for doing this alone, and sadly it all came flooding back. Sit on the floor. Position the baby sitting, facing away from you, leaning against your chest. Cross your legs over top of baby, pinning him down. Wrap left arm around him to hold his arms. Grasp chin in right hand while holding aerochamber and puffer, deploy, count in-breaths while the baby screams like a wounded snow leopard.

Within five minutes his breathing had eased. A lot. And his little exhausted body went limp, and he went off to bed without a murmur of protest. He woke again at 2AM struggling to breathe again; that time I managed somehow to administer the saline and the puffer alone, although I don’t recommend it. He woke for the day at 6AM and went for a nap again three hours later; he’s got a lot of sleep to catch up on, poor muffin.

We’re heading into a long weekend, and I’m hoping he feels well enough soon to enjoy some of our break time.

But oy! Sick sad babies are sad.

This is pretty much the face that greeted me at 2AM.



  1. Oh, I don’t know who to feel worse for! I hope he recovers quickly.

    Edmonton is crazy dry at the best of times, so I have multiple saline mists/sprays, nasal gels, and a wee tin of the Body Shop’s Hemp Moisture High Balm (which is like soft lip balm that tastes/smells like grass). All of these things go in the nose. Daily. And, I’ve got to say, the saline may feel a bit like snorting ocean water (so, it can sting a bit if the nostrils are dry and sensitive, like mine), but it works pretty well, both for clearing the nose and making it hurt less.

    Still, I can’t imaging try to get a baby to put up with it.

  2. Poor little one! Awww. But hooray for modern medicine!

    When Mark had pneumonia in grade one, I second-guessed myself a lot. I kept thinking I wouldn’t take him to the doctor for a cold and expose him to everything else. Then I would think – but should he really be coughing for hours and hours at night? But no, he was okay, he wanted to go to school. But wait. Should he be not eating anything? Finally I took him in and pneumonia! I felt like the worst mother ever. But two rounds of antibiotics later and he was doing well. My elderly neighbour said “You’re lucky you live in the modern age, when I was a kid children died all the time from pneumonia!” So yay, medical community.

  3. I feel worse for you. He won’t remember.

  4. Thank heavens I’ve never had to do that. When Owl had the croup they gave us steroids, but they were liquid in form.

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