It’s been a long two weeks in the Whitmore household. It all started last Thursday, when I brought Felicity in for her one month well visit (Can you believe it’s already been a month?!). I was already feeling a little nervous, since it was my first time bringing both children to the doctor on my own. John naturally decided that this would be a great opportunity to jump off the furniture, and to say that I was embarrassed would be an understatement. Mercifully, the nurses and doctor put up with my son’s shenanigans with big smiles and some well-implemented distractions. Felicity had been doing great since her last appointment, so I didn’t think it would be a very long or difficult visit. The appointment definitely wasn’t long, and it wasn’t especially difficult (excluding John’s contributions to the afternoon), but it didn’t go quite as well as I had hoped.
When Felicity was born, the hospital pediatrician noted a small heart murmur, one that had apparently disappeared by the time we were discharged three days later. It was noted again at her first well visit, which took place the day after we were discharged. It wasn’t found at her two week visit, but could be heard again during last Thursday’s appointment. Our pediatrician didn’t seem overly worried, but she did write us a referral for an ultrasound with a pediatric cardiologist. It was originally scheduled for Friday morning, but when the cardiologist called in sick, it was rescheduled for the following Wednesday.
It’s apparently not uncommon for babies to have heart murmurs when they are first born, anomalies that disappear without treatment in the first few days and weeks following birth. I assumed that if it wasn’t that kind of murmur, it would be the same benign form that my husband had. As we waited for the appointment, I was pretty proud of myself for not freaking out and imagining the absolute worse prognosis.
As it happened, I had a lot to distract me over the weekend as our entire house fought off various types of colds ranging from a gentle case of the sniffles (Felicity) to full-blown illness with fever and vomiting (me). Andrew had been sick first, so it was left to him to care for the rest of us while continuing to recover himself.
Fortunately, the brunt of my illness occurred over the weekend, meaning that Andrew was available to run the household while I laid on the couch all day. As Monday approached, we did our best to lighten my load at home without needing to rely on outside help, which meant switching around the night feedings, our morning routine, and handing over some of my morning responsibilities to Andrew to complete before leaving for work. I was then on my own until he returned from work at 4:30pm, after having cancelled his office hours so that he could come home early. For the first time since becoming a parent, I really felt the effects of living on our own, hours and miles away from our families. I didn’t think it could get any worse…and then it did.
To wrap up one story before beginning another, I was already feeling much better by the time I went to bed Monday night, though the congestion has lingered. Tuesday passed without incident, and then Wednesday morning, I packed Felicity into her carrier and drove to the specialist for her EKG and ultrasound. Despite receiving a diagnosis with an excellent prognosis (Felicity has a small whole in her heart that will probably close on its own in the coming years and will not hinder her in any way, unless she plans on going scuba diving or joining the military), it was still one of the most frightening experiences of my life. It was heart-breaking to watch as the nurse covered Felicity’s tiny body with electrode patches that barely seemed to fit on her small torso. It was gut-wrenching to see my little baby girl lying on a huge examination table as the doctor used an ultrasound to explore the interior of her heart. The only comfort I had was the knowledge that this condition was not life-threatening, or even terribly life-altering.
With that ordeal behind us, I was looking forward to a relaxing rest of the week, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Just one week after bringing Felicity in for her one month well visit, I found myself back in the office, this time for John. He had been fighting off a cold for the better part of a week, but he had seemed to be improving. Then suddenly he wasn’t. In just a few hours’ time, he went from energetic and sniffly to lethargic and feverish. Over the course of twenty-four hours, his temperature sky-rocketed from a mild 101 to an incredibly frightening 106. Just hours after learning that our daughter was going to be fine, I found myself terrified for my son.
When John went to sleep Thursday night, he had a slight fever. By the time he woke up Friday morning, it was 104. I called our pediatrician and made an appointment for later that afternoon. Two hours later, I was calling again because John’s temperature had reached an alarming 106.5 degrees. I was given instructions to pick up Motrin and to use a cold bath and/or cold compresses to bring down the fever. If these were not effective, I would need to bring John to the emergency room. When I hung up, I was practically shaking as I loaded Felicity into her carrier and struggled to carry both of my children downstairs to my car. What had once been an easy trip- five minutes to CVS, two minutes to locate and pay for the medicine, and five minutes home- took nearly half an hour with two children. I never thought I’d need to push a double stroller through the aisles in CVS with a sleeping newborn and a whimpering toddler, both still in pajamas. Fortunately, I was so flustered to feel embarrassed at our condition.
The Motrin was almost immediately effective, and by the time I brought the two kids to the pediatrician, John was already looking a bit better. Twenty minutes later, I walked out with a diagnosis of an ear infection that had been caused by a sinus infection (that had in turn been caused by John’s initial cold) and a prescription for amoxicillin. By the time I returned home, Andrew was just five minutes away from walking in the door, and the most stressful day of my parenting life quickly drew to a close. Five days later, John’s fever is pretty much gone, and he finally has the energy to play from time to time. He finally slept through the night, and he took a nap in his crib in his room for the first time since becoming ill Sunday afternoon. It seems like our house is finally on its way back to some sort of normal.
In the midst of our illnesses last week, I really came to appreciate the notion of parenting taking a village, as the saying goes. Andrew and I were left largely on our own (besides friends who offered to pick up anything we might need from the store and of course the prayers from our family and friends) to navigate both my and John’s illnesses. Andrew is new to his job, and isn’t really in a position to take time off unless it’s absolutely necessary. I didn’t have anyone I could call in a pinch that lived nearby and could either run to the store to pick up Motrin for me, or else watch the kiddies while I ran to the store myself. Parenting can be a very isolating experience nowadays, and I’ve heard people comment that households today operate as if we each occupy our own island. This past week, I’ve decided that I really don’t enjoy island living.
When I was growing up, our paternal grandparents lived across the street from us, and our maternal grandparents lived just a few towns over, along with my cousin and his parents. Andrew’s maternal grandparents also lived across the street from him at one point in his childhood. It is only with this most recent generation that people have gone out of state to go to college, or have moved more than an hour or so away. Andrew’s sister remains close to home, while he has moved hundreds of miles away. Most of his cousins still live just an hour or two from their childhood homes. Two of my three siblings still reside just minutes away from where we grew up, where my parents still live. My sister has moved to Los Angeles, and I live in Virginia, but we are the exceptions to the rule.
It’s difficult raising children without the immediate support of our families. Our parents are incredibly supportive- I cannot even begin to communicate how supportive they are- but it doesn’t change the fact that our families live hundreds of miles away. They can’t come over in a bind. Our children can’t see their grandparents on a regular basis. I saw my grandparents at least once a week, generally more. We spent nearly every Sunday afternoon at my grandparents’ house for years. Our children only get to see their grandparents in person a few times a year (though we have the very different experience of actually staying with our parents/John and Felicity’s grandparents for long weekends or full weeks, rather than seeing them for an hour or two once or twice a week). Our children are growing up in a very different world than the one that Andrew and I had.
This is partially because of the changing times. It’s easier to travel, and going to college out of state is becoming much more common. If you go to college out of state, you’re much more likely to marry someone who did not grow up in the same state that you did. In Andrew and my case, we met at a school in a state to which neither of us was native. We grew up in two different states, met in another, and are living in a fourth. In generations past, families that lived in different towns in the same county lived “far away” from one another. You got married and bought a house just a few streets or a few towns over from where you grew up, and that’s where you remained until you retired and downsized. My parents grew up in neighboring towns and have lived in the same house for twenty-eight years. I have lived in four states and DC in that time. Times have certainly changed.
Our situation was also caused by the nature of Andrew’s career choice- there are only so many college professor positions in theology, and so we knew that we would settle wherever Andrew could get a job. We had hoped it might be somewhere near our families, but that wasn’t what God had planned for us. Instead, He led us to Virginia, and we couldn’t be happier. We have found an incredible community, and Andrew is working in a position that he loves. I am loving my life as a stay-at-home mom, and John has already made friends in the area. We love the life that we have found here, but I sincerely hope that I don’t need to experience the effects of island living again for a long, long time. A girl can hope, right?
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!