The flu and death strike against me in tandem

Nobody in my family died from the flu – thank goodness. This post is about the flu that my daughter contracted (as well as every other kid in her daycare, literally). It’s also about the death of my grandmother, and the spread of said flu to everyone in my family as we gathered over our loss.

First, let me say something about my grandmother (because I’m going to get whiney and focused on my own problems soon). She was an amazing woman. She lived to be 95, and was more or less healthy up until the end. She liked to do adventurous things on her birthdays. When she turned 92, she rode on the back of my uncle’s motorcycle to Port Dover for the annual Friday the 13th motorcycle rally. When she turned 94, she did the CN Tower walk (leaning backwards, in a harness, over the edge of the CN Tower, 1168 feet above the ground), and on her 95th birthday she went zip lining at Canada’s longest series of zip lines. My grandmother was the only grandparent I came out to, and she was always incredibly supportive of my sexual orientation and loved my wife. She was also my only grandparent who lived long enough to meet my daughter. She will be missed, but when I think about her now I don’t feel sad – I feel happy for her that she had such an amazing, adventure-filled life, and I feel lucky to have been related to such an amazing woman.

Now on to how the flu attacked my entire family. It’s unknown whether my wife or my daughter caught it first, but Avery’s symptoms only revealed themselves when I was visiting my grieving family on Thursday through Saturday. My parents were hoping I could help sort through my grandmother’s apartment, but Avery became absolutely miserable, tired, lots of snot and a cough, not interested in eating, had diarrhea, and a fever. I stayed alone with her at my mom’s completely un-baby-proofed house (wine glasses, crystal decanters, poisonous plants, a hot fireplace, and an open stairwell all within toddler limits). It was exhausting. My heart always breaks for my baby when she’s sick, and it was exhausting to have to keep saying no to the things she couldn’t get into when the resulting tantrums were equal parts angry and pitifully sick sounding.

I spent one night sitting upright with her to help her breathe. She was utterly miserable. Back home, my wife was just as sick, and had no one to take care of her.

On the day I left my mom’s house, myself, my mom, and my dad were all sick too. My wife was still so sick when I got home that she spent 3 hours holed up in bed while I continued to solo parent a sick toddler while I got progressively sicker. It sucked.

Yesterday we thought she MIGHT be starting to feel better, but she broke out in a full body rash that we feared was the measles. We took her to the doctor today and it turnes out it was a post-viral rash.

This is good news. It means the virus is gone, and she is on the mend and no longer contagious. Tomorrow she is going to daycare and my wife is going to work. I am going to take the morning off and sit on the couch with a pot of tea and fucking relax.

It’s going to be great.

Kids are dying from the flu in our town

It’s making the breaking news headlines today. Two children have so far been confirmed to have died of the flu, and both while in school.
*edit a week later to say that the first news article was misinformed – both children were taken from school to the emergency room where they passed away. One of the children (only 7 years old) had cerebral palsy, the other (12 years old) had no reported pre-existing condition to put them at higher risk.

My heart is absolutely breaking for the parents of these children. I know that kids die all over the world every day, and that is tragic, too, but I can’t bury my head in the sand and avoid thinking about these deaths. They’re happening in my town. My small-to-midsized town where we know our neighbours and our community members.

The details of these deaths haven’t been released yet, but I am terrified and clinging extra tight to my also sick baby. At least two kids at Avery’s daycare have had the flu since last week. One was pulled out of school and taken to the emergcy room on Wednesday.

Avery has a yucky cold again, and she also has a stomach bug. I hadn’t thought it was the flu because she didn’t have a fever and she hadn’t vomited. I blamed her diarrhea on teething. But now I’m extra vigilant.

How could these kids have been well enough to be at school, and then just die, without even making it to the hospital? How can it come out of the blue like this? I’m so unsettled.

30 Days of Blogging, Day 30

My blogging challenge has come to a close. I’ve loved writing for 30 days straight, and I’ve learned a lot about what’s most important/pressing to me in life by what I’ve chosen to recount. Lots about sleep and breastfeeding, not surprisingly. That’s mostly what you get from me if you follow my blog! That, and a spattering of chicken talk and pics of homemade bread.

Tonight I’m going to write about something we haven’t been plagued with in quite a while – teething. Avery has started teething her 2-year molars. Last night she woke up at 1:30am crying (which she hasn’t been doing for the past couple of weeks – she wakes and asks calmly for me to come in and give her milk). This time she was inconsolable. I tried offering milk, I tried cuddling her, I tried bringing her back to our bed, but she wasn’t having any of it. I tried taking her downstairs to watch tv but we have a basement tenant and she was still crying downstairs, so I figured that wasn’t a sustainable option. Finally at 2:15am we put on Moana in our bedroom. She fell asleep cuddled into me watching her favourite movie. It was so adorable.

This morning she felt hot to touch, but didn’t have a fever. Her cheeks were red. She wouldn’t take her fingers out of the back of her mouth. She barely touched breakfast, snack, or lunch. Advil was a game changer – clearly she was feeling pain.

Although we can’t see swelling at the gums, it’s hard to see back there, and the teeth could be moving down but not at the edges of the gums yet. I’m 99% sure that teething is on the table. I hope they come soon, but I’ve heard that the 2-year molars can take a long time to work their way down. It’s also kind of shocking to think that my little baby is working on the last baby teeth she will ever grow…

30 Days of Blogging, Day 9

It’s cold again. It’s supposed to go down to  -20°C again tonight, and it’s icy and snowy outside. It’s the kind of weather for family cuddles. The kind of weather where I miss bed sharing with my baby. 

And when your baby has another nasty cough and cold and has to choose whether to breathe through her mouth and trigger more coughing, or breathe through her nose and not get enough air to her lungs, it’s really, really hard to withhold nighttime nursing. Nursing is the throat soothing cure-all that helps her sleep through anything. 

So about that night weaning we started… the night weaning has gone out the window during my shift. While my wife is on call for nighttime wakings (from bedtime till 1am), Avery goes back to sleep with nothing more than my wife poking her head through the doorway and saying “go back to sleep.” During my shift, I’ve started nursing her again. It’s how she sleeps well through being sick. It’s the only way to get her back to sleep during her bouts of middle-of-the-night insomnia (even during my wife’s shift). 

So weaning is a discussion topic for another day (or month, or year….).

On a related note, Avery LOVES peppermint tea. It’s just a dried mint leaf from our garden steeped in hot water. And when she’s sick, a little dollop of honey is a great throat soother. 

Avery’s first emergency room visit 

We hadn’t visited the hospital since August last year, and that time we left with a brand new baby. Yesterday, we were there for a less joyous reason. 

I was making Avery lunch when I heard the smash from behind me. She had broken one of the cat’s ceramic dishes. Before I could get over to her to pick up the pieces, I saw her hand go to her mouth and pop something in. Shards. Shards of broken ceramic. I immediately fished them out with my finger, but then she started coughing and I feared she had swallowed one. I couldn’t be sure if any were missing because the break was messy and in many small pieces. I called telehealth and they told me to take her to the ER for x rays. 

It’s amazing how your day can turn from good to bad so quickly… We had a fun morning, she was about to sit down to lunch, and then BAM, mommy’s in a panic and rushing off to the hospital. 

My wife works across the street from the hospital, so she met us there. Avery was in really good spirits (and stayed that way for the whole time… what a trooper), but I was eager to figure out just how serious this was. My worst fear was that she would perforate her gut on a shard.

When we saw the first nurse, she told us a story about how her own infant daughter had swallowed the tine of a plastic fork. She said she rushed to her doctor in a panic and her doctor laughed at her – “this happens all the time,” he said, “kids swallow things and they pass things.” This nurse’s story reassured my wife and I A LOT. But we were still referred on to a doctor who would order x rays, just in case. 

Eventually my wife went back to work for a while because the wait was dragging on. We waited 3 hours to see a doctor, and another half hour to get in for the x ray. My wife had made it back by then because the work day was over, and she went into the x ray room with Avery while I waited outside. OMG the crying… I had to leave the waiting area and walk up the hall because the sound of her wailing on the other side of that door was too much for me. The x ray itself was quick and painless, but she was scared. She was strapped into a high chair type of apparatus, and my wife had to hold her arms straight up in the air. She resisted, and my wife had to pull up harder, which scared her. When it was finally over I held her as she worked out the rest of her sobs on my shoulder. 

The doctor saw us shortly after to go over the results of the x ray. They had done an upper chest x ray to look in the lungs for any obstruction or foreign object. Apparently if she had swallowed it it would have passed on its own. But if she had inhaled one, it could cause major problems in her lung. Nothing showed up on the x ray. But then he said, “of course ceramic wouldn’t show up on an x ray anyway, so just watch for signs of infection.” Umm, why the hell would you put us through all of this if you knew ceramic wouldn’t show up on an x ray?? Hospital procedure, that’s why. A kid comes in having possibly aspirated something, they have to x ray. He told us a story of a kid who had chronic asthma, and after a chest x ray they found a tiny plastic brontosaurus in his lung that the parents hadn’t seen in years. They have precedent, and have to check to be safe. 

Anyway, Avery made it through her first ER experience unscathed, and we are 99.9% sure everything is fine. We couldn’t have asked for better circumstances behind our first ER visit, that’s for sure. She was happy and feeling good, the risk of her being not OK was low, the procedure was quick and painless… Let’s hope it’s a long, long time before we have to step foot in a hospital again.

Taking her afternoon nap in the hospital waiting room

Four Pillars of a Bad Night’s Sleep

Avery is sick. She is teething. She seems to be going through the 8 month sleep regression, and the 3-to-2 per day nap transition. We haven’t slept in days. 

The Sick

I think she must have gotten sick from the Tylenol dropper… Is that possible? We gave it to her last time she was sick, and let her suck on the dropper. In a tired haze, I put it back in the bottle without washing it. Last week we used the Tylenol again for a bad bout of teething. Now she is a Cranky Pants Sicky McGee. Her nose is a faucet and she wakes every 15 minutes because she can’t breathe/is uncomfortable. She’s in our bed again for the duration of the cold, but I spend most of the night sitting up with her because being upright helps her breathing. 

The Teething

She has been working on FIVE new teeth and two have fully broken through in the time she’s been sick. Her upper central incisors have been black and blue with bruising and one has finally come through, one upper lateral incisor has cut through and for once doesn’t seem to be receding back into the gum again, and I can see white points under the gums at both lower lateral incisors. 

The 8 Month Sleep Regression 

Before she got sick (for about a week and a half now) she started getting harder to put down in the crib again. Our 15 minute bedtime routine has returned to a 2 hour bedtime routine and I have once again lost my evenings. She wakes every 45 minutes again. We’ve been surviving and waiting for it to pass, but with the sick/teething drama it’s been harder to deal with. 

The Nap Transition 

Avery has always been a high sleep needs baby, and she has also always been a good daytime napper (although I’ve always let her nap in the Moby Wrap or on the boob). She had been on a great schedule for a couple of months: 8-9, 11:30-1:30, and 4-5. I think she’s showing signs of being ready to transition to 2 naps a day. The signs are: skipping naps entirely despite us spending an hour just laying in the dark at each scheduled nap time; shorter naps, from 1-2 hours to 30 minutes; especially fighting her third nap of the day but then falling asleep on the go at 6pm, which messes up bedtime. 

I hope she feels better soon and finishes with those teeth soon. We’ve learned that we can deal with sleep struggles, but we really didn’t need the extra crap piling on to already shitty sleep. 

Weekend Update

Our weekend was busy and full of little parenting worries. Not my favourite kind of weekend. 

Worry 1: pressure to leave my baby

Friday night was tainted by an emotional discussion between my wife and I. We’ve been getting a lot of offers from people wanting to babysit Avery so my wife and I can have a date night. I want to be emotionally available to my wife, and she really needs some alone time with me after 7 months of always coming second. But, I’m just not ready to leave Avery with someone other than my wife. She’s been going through a long phase of “making strange,” and my instincts are to slowly help her ease into social situations. Those offering to babysit assure me that it’s ok if she cries the whole time – they can handle it. No offense, but I’m not worried about the adults in that situation. So my wife and I continue to debate how and when we’re going to leave the baby with someone else for a date night. 

Worry 2: Eczema

We decided to miss Avery’s last swimming lesson of the season because her eczema spots on her cheeks were open and weeping and we didn’t want to get pool water in them. It was sad to miss because Avery LOVES the pool and we love seeing her having fun. 

Mid-Saturday-morning we went to a parenting book club meeting at the public library. That was nice. I love talking with other like minded parents. Hearing that others bed share and struggle with feminist parenting dilemmas, and just being around people who don’t pass judgment on my parenting is refreshing. It makes me feel like I suddenly have a cheer squad backing me. 

Saturday afternoon we ran errands, did a lot of cooking, and I did some work. The house did not get cleaned, I did not shower or even look in a mirror. Self care fail. 

Sunday morning we left for the city where we picked up some used building supplies for our chicken coop (my wife’s building us a chicken coop this spring!) and then we were off to Avery’s cousin’s first birthday party. My sister-in-law did such an amazing job throwing a Wiggles themed party – everything was rainbow and it looked like a Pinterest party gone right. 

Worry 3: my baby being labeled as anti-social 

At these kinds of social functions, though, Avery tends to get passed around a lot. She doesn’t like it, and she gets labeled as not liking people or as being a mommy’s girl. We’re already working on teaching Avery (and friends and family) about consent, and don’t want physical interaction to be forced upon her. If she cries and gets upset when someone new takes her, I want to let her come right back to her safe zone (with her Mo or I). I like to slowly introduce her to people and ask if she wants to go to them (even though we kind of have to infer her answer based in body language right now…)  But others out there believe in letting her work out her fears through tears. Unfortunately I pried her out of several people’s arms at the party when my wife had passed her around, and by the end I started to get frustrated. People assumed there was something wrong with her because she was being so “anti-social”. They even got the baby thermometer out, assuming she must be sick. Nope, I know my baby. She’s not sick, she’s sick of the grabbing hands. So that had me feeling quite judged as a parent, whether intentional or not. Oh and note to self – don’t admit to bed sharing around old school parents…. 

Worry 4: constipation 

Becuase of all the stimulation on Sunday, Avery didn’t breastfeed well. I only got her to have one small feed through the entire day. By evening, I noticed her straining more than usual. She woke a few times during the night crying (which she doesn’t normally do while next to me). This morning she struggled to pass some hard rabbit-like poops. I’m focusing on offering her the boob all the time throughout the day today, and her solids are going to be prunes and pears. 

I have to call the doctor today to ask what to about eczema that isn’t clearing. It keeps blistering and scabbing and weeping and I don’t want it to get infected. The corticosteroid is doing nothing and I’m concerned that overuse is going to thin the skin. 

I just want to look at my baby and feel like she is perfectly happy, healthy, and carefree. Do we ever get to that point as parents, or will there always be something to worry about? 

This post was written in reponse to a daily prompt:

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4 Month Well-Baby Visit

We’re still on a whirlwind tour of family homes for the holidays (I’ll be writing about how that went in a later post), but we managed to squeeze in Avery’s 4 month well-baby visit (dr. appt) between trips out of town.

I went in with a laundry list, and got a lot of great answers.

  1. Earwax build-up. She has been getting dark, hard chunks of earwax building up in her ears. The first time I noticed it I thought it was an earwig (a nasty, pinchy bug) nestled deep down in her ear and I freaked out. Anyway, the dr. reassured us that it was normal, but since she has been pulling on her ears lots we could try a drop of olive oil in each ear before bed and the earwax buildup would slide right out. In terms of chosing an oil to use he said “anything from the kitchen, nothing from the garage”. I thought that was a handy tip. Anyway, it worked amazingly. In the morning there was a big chunk of dark wax stuck to the side of her head.
  2. Infrequent pooper. The longest stretch had been 5 days without a poop, but she was often 3 days between. The dr. said this was nothing to worry about as long as she was peeing lots still and the poop consistency hadn’t changed too much. When I asked a telehealth nurse about this issue earlier she said a breastfed baby can go up to 2 weeks without a poop and there be no concern, after about 3 months of age. So I guess we’re those lucky ones who don’t have to change a poopy diaper very often! Definitely happy we chose to use cloth diapers with this kid.
  3. Eczema. Her eczema has been a bit better now that I’m 3 weeks into a cow’s milk protein allergy diet, but she still seems to have brief flare ups caused potentially by stress and/or polyester clothing. She was head-to-toe red rash when we took her clothes off at the doctor’s office, but it was gone when we got home. If I try to moisturize with a store bought eczema moisturizer during a flare up, she screams in pain because it stings. It’s horrible. I now mix coconut oil and shae butter together and use that and it fixes the scaley skin better than anything else we’ve tried, and soothes her rather than irritates her. The doctor gave advice about the 1% corticosteroid ointment. He said not to be afraid to use it if it’s going to make her skin feel better. He explained that the risks associated with continued steroid use are delayed growth, but that those risks were only identified in children who use a lot of powerful oral steroids (e.g. asthma inhalers), and those children end up reaching the same growth milestones as non-steroid users, just a little delayed. He said it would be extremely unlikely for us to see any side effects from using a 1% topical steroid. So I can feel OK about using it two or three times a day for 7 days, then give a day or two break, and start using it again. I had been using it very sparingly but now I’ll use it before she flares up too badly.
  4. Nodules at the base of her skull. Apparently these are lymph nodes and it’s ok to feel them once in a while as they develop. If you feel all of the lymph nodes are a bit swollen (back of head, under jaw, armpits) at the same time, get a dr. to check it out.
  5. Vaccines. These boosters were the same as her 2 month shots. The rotovirus was a liquid in the mouth that she kind of liked, and the rest were done in 2 injections that she didn’t like. I asked if I could hold her this time and the (different) nurse said no, she needed to be on the exam table. I got upset and my wife (who was thankfully in attendance this time) took over baby duty. I sat back in a chair and cursed everyone and ached for it to be done so I could hold her. Again, this was a far worse experience for me than for Avery. She was a champ and only cried for a minute or two. This time she was really fussy for 12 hours after though, whereas last time she got a fever and slept for 24 hours. We couldn’t put her down at all for the rest of the day or she’d cry.

We also got a handout about starting her on solid foods, but we’re nowhere near ready for that yet so we set it aside. That’s pretty much it! Our baby is healthy and we’re starting to get a handle on the eczema. Good news all-around. I think we’re getting better at not panicking so much about her well-being, but let’s see if we can make it till the 6 month well-baby visit without our usual panicked call to Telehealth or visit to the walk-in clinic. 😉

Christmas market and definitely teething

On the weekend we went to our local vintage and makers market. A friend was exhibiting her photography/holiday cards there this year, and we left Avery with her while we toured the market. This was a BIG deal for me, and I didn’t pay much attention to the vendors as I tried to rush us around the loop and back to our friend with our baby. It was no biggie for Avery. She just chilled and helped sell cards. We bought her some cute pants and a bib made by a local mom who was breastfeeding her baby while she sold us her product (rock on, super-mom), and we bought some eczema cream, because we are trying literally everything. The pants in this tummy time pic are from the market.

Also this weekend we bottled some beer that we made two weekends ago, and I did some dairy-free baking. Praise coconut oil.

Avery is definitely teething. Here’s how I know:

  • Nursing strike
  • Soothed by frozen teethers
  • Restless nights
  • Tugs on her ears when upset
  • Drool has increased exponentially

She has started a nursing strike during the day, and only nurses well when she’s half asleep. She’ll throw her head back and cry, then try again, and get upset again. I’ve found that offering her frozen teethers as an intermission during nursing sessions really helps. What I’ve read about nursing and teething is that the sucking draws blood to the gums which exacerbates the soreness. Chewing on the cold teethers (or my finger) applies counter-pressure which soothes the pain.

She also had some really shitty nights of tossing and turning this past week. I was wondering if it was the 4 month sleep regression already, but it only lasted a few days. Now I’m thinking it’s from teething discomfort. When I bed-share some nights she sleeps much better because every time she wakes up whimpering she cuddles into me and falls asleep again from the comfort of my smell (I speculate).

The drool is intense. We never before had to deal with frequent costume changes or bib use because she wasn’t a spit-up-prone or barfy baby. The drooling started about a month ago and I thought it was a lot, but I realize now that teething drool is a whole new experience. It now comes out in globs, her chin is constantly wet, and we now have to keep her in bibs because her shirts were getting soaked through in a matter of minutes.

Anyway, she’s actually in really great spirits for a teething baby, but that might change when the tooth is closer to cutting through. I’m actually really excited for her first tooth. I don’t want her to grow up, but I’m so excited to see her developing into each new stage. She is really into practicing rolling and sitting. The day she sat up straight on her own (from a reclined position), she wanted to practice all night long. She gets such a kick out of learning. This age is the best.

Weekend Update

My wife had to work Sunday so our weekend was just Saturday. And since my car stopped starting… I haven’t left the house in a while and all the days roll into one so having my wife home really is the only way I know it’s the weekend.

This week we continued the fight against the eczema, but it has just gotten worse and worse. It has even started blistering. My poor little babe… I unfortunately realized AFTER two weeks without dairy that if it’s a dairy protein allergy, I have to do a lot more than cut out milk and cheese. Dairy protein (and the allergically similar soy protein) are in a LOT of things that I hadn’t realized: in the cereal, hot chocolate, bagels, and granola bars I had been eating. So now I am starting on a Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA) diet, using a guide put out by McMaster university here in Ontario. It is hard. I pretty much can’t eat out anymore unless I go to the vegan places in town which either have crap menus or dirty atmospheres. Eating at home is requiring some adjustment, but I got some dairy and soy protein free bakers chocolate, and with coconut oil and almond milk I can still have hot chocolate and carefully baked goods – the things I couldn’t live without in the winter. The real challenge will be avoiding it over Christmas – my in-laws are butter people. I have seen my SIL put a cup of butter knobs on a veggie dish at a big holiday dinner. Anyway, it’s a challenge to worry about what I’m consuming when it was difficult enough to worry about simply consuming… But I will do literally ANYTHING to try to help my baby’s skin. It’s a terrible feeling to think that she relies completely on me for nourishment, but eating from my body might be making her this sore. My dr said it only takes 2 weeks for dairy to leave the system, but the Le leche league says it can take up to 6 weeks.

In other news, we are living in a winter wonderland right now! The snow just keeps coming and the roads are getting treacherous. We use our neighbour’s driveway to park our second car (the one that I can’t even drive right now) in exchange for shoveling his driveway. So now, since my wife leaves for work at 6am, I have to shovel. I put the baby in her little seat by the front door, all piled up with toys, and I go out and shovel two shovel-widths, come in and check on her, two more shovel-widths, check on her, etc. It sucks. Most of the time I don’t get to our own driveway and just do his.

And that’s about it! We haven’t been doing anything lately. I’ve been cooking and cleaning and giving Avery lots of baths. This boring week-in-review makes me want to do something fun this week…