Day Three: The First Big Goof--Following the Child Into Medical Hell
Never did a brand new mommy come home from the hospital with more confidence in her personal competence, knowledgeable support network, and careful preparation for the delicate work of caring for a new infant. I was unstoppable--ready to take my brand-new baby out on the open road.
And in for a hell of a ride.
Now the Montessori mantra is "Follow the child. Follow the child." So when everyone from the midwife to the pediatrician to the lactation consultant counseled me that newborn infants need to eat every two to three hours, I smiled politely and trusted my Montessori newborn to let me know when she was hungry. This was the first wrong turn on the road to nowhere good.
The first night passed without incident. She woke me up to eat twice, maybe three times but after all, who was counting? Follow the child. Follow the child. How sweet and perfect she was, and how not-very-hungry. So sleepy, and cried almost not at all. What a dream baby!
Next day, Mom and I spent the day dismantling the overdue Christmas tree and watching the perfect baby sleep the day away in her picture-perfect little basket. No mother could be as lucky or as perfectly competent as I. I continued to follow her lead and let her sleep, as she was clearly very sleepy. She slept for seven solid hours. When I did finally find the good sense to wake her up, she was jaundiced to her tender little umbilical stump, unable to stay awake for more than three minutes of nursing, and beginning to squeeze my mommy-insanity button. I called the pediatrician. You know, just to be on the safe side.
The pediatrician recommended we swing by a nighttime clinic or the ER, you know, just to be on the safe side. I was beginning to suspect that it was too soon to start following this particular child.
What I expected from the hospital experience was a few minutes under the bili-lights and a patronizing pat on the head for being a neurotic mom. What I got was three days in the joint with IV fluids and antibiotics through the scalp (the ER nursing staff managed to blow out every vein in both arms, both legs, and one side of her head trying to establish IV access) plus a lumbar puncture for my perfect little pigeon. This is apparently the standard protocol for "lethargy and sepsis ruleout" which is what they call anybody under 2 months of age who comes in with this set of symptoms. Imagine my surprise.
To my chagrin, several of the hospital staff, including one NICU nurse and an attending doc, reported having had just this delightful experience with their own first children. I learned little tricks like applying icy washcloths, blowing in the baby's face, and sundry other unpleasantries designed to keep a sleepy little one awake and sucking. Back on the outside, several more friends offered sympathy and their own little tricks for avoiding the apparently bonehead pitfall I had, in my infinite wisdom, walked right into.
Of course, she's just as perfect now as when she went in, only less yellow and more perforated...