It’s 3 in the afternoon on a Friday. I’m tapping away on the laptop while fourteen-month-old Sweet Pea is sleeping in his sling on my chest. As I idly kiss his head, I notice that he feels a bit warm. Taking a break from reading my very important, up-to-date, tres cool websites on sustainable living (okay, I was probably checking Facebook for the fourth time that day), I look down at him. His cheeks are rosy. There are little beads of sweat on his hairline. I fetch the thermometer, and wiggle it underneath of Sweet Pea’s arm without disturbing him. The numbers climb rapidly. 96.5. 97.9. 99.0. It beeps, and confirms my suspicion: 99.4. We are officially, on a Friday afternoon, experiencing our first fever together.
I call our pediatrician and secure an appointment at 4:45, the last appointment of the day. At the office, I snuggle Sweet Pea into the sling in the waiting room. He’s quite hot, and looking somewhat glazed. Nonetheless, I’m shocked when they take his temperature again and it’s hit 103. I am desperate, having NICU flashbacks and feeling like a horrible mother. The nurse, staring accusingly, says, “Did you give him Tylenol?!”
“No, I thought that you’d need to see the temperature…this is his first fever.”
“You should have! I’ve seen kids have seizures at 101!” Her attention shifts to my sling. “You’re just making him hotter by carrying him around in THAT thing, you know!”
She storms off. After what feels like an eternity she returns with Tylenol, lets me know that the doctor will be here in a few minutes, and leaves me near tears, alone in an oppressively yellow room with my too-hot baby, feeling horribly guilty. Was I the cause of the fever – making him too hot in his sling? By insisting on carrying him around, had I made my darling boy feel even worse?
The doctor arrives, and I hand him our fever log. He asks what the temperature was when I noticed the fever, and I reply that it was 99.4. Looking surprised, he says, “Really? That low?”
“Yes. He was sleeping and felt hot, and I took his temp when I saw how red his cheeks were.”
“Oh, well, that’s much lower than most parents notice a fever,” he says, before looking in Sweet Pea’s eyes, then ears. “Oh, see this? He’s got an ear infection.” I look, surprised since Sweet Pea is still breastfeeding constantly. Sure enough, the inside of the right ear looks angry and red. While I’m not an expert on inner ear structure, I believed that one was not doing so well. His left ear looks the same. The doctor writes me a prescription for an antibiotic and leaves.
Now we’re just waiting for the fever to come down so we can go home. It’s cooperating, but slowly. I am left alone in the yellow room again with my baby who is still slightly hot, but with the glazed look departing from his eyes. I sing to him as I apply cool cloths to his head and shoulders. In between verses, I find myself breathing sighs of relief for – what else? – my sling and the physical closeness it fosters. Although I couldn’t diagnose Sweet Pea’s ear infection on my own, I was more than capable of reading the early signs that his body gave me – his slight fever, his rosy cheeks, his hard sleep not even interrupted by the thermometer. Had he spent the day outside of my arms instead of snuggled on my chest in our trusty sling for the millionth time, there’s a good chance that we’d have spent the night in the ER as his fever climbed and his ears ached. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.
The nurse comes back to take his temperature again, but I can tell just by Sweet Pea’s obvious desire to crawl around on the floor – and his refusal to be distracted from said desire – that the fever is gone. He is happy, wriggling in my lap, struggling against clothes (his arch-nemesis) as I get him dressed and snuggled back into the sling. We pass the nurse in the hallway on our way out. Sweet Pea smiles at her and so do I, confident and extremely happy that my baby is cool again because of my sling.
Kelley is pleased to report that both of Sweet Pea’s ears have made a full recovery. She occasionally blogs at www.petergwydion.com.