Last Friday, 10 days ago, we returned after a glorious week of wedding + beaching culminating in a not so glorious shriek-filled car ride home, and we promptly put our girl down in her own crib. Nearly three hours later, concerned she wouldn’t sleep at night, we decided to wake her up. Ari was sweet but so hot to touch, and her cheeks looked like they could light the way in a moonless night. Over the weekend, as long as we kept her fever in check, she did okay…different, certainly not always pleasant, with feeding and sleeping effected, but okay. And we started to wait.
By day seven of a moderate fever, we had her pediatrician examine her. Everything looked well, except for the fever and mild changes in behavior resulting, so he agreed to let us wait it out for a few more days sans antibiotics before considering further interventions. I still shutter at the idea of catheterizing her to see if she has a urinary tract infection. (I actually remember having to be cathed myself when I was three–it was traumatic and, though I know at 10 months she wouldn’t remember, I dearly wanted to avoid it.)
(photos above taken by Julie at the end of our session last week, as Ari was starting to melt down…a prelude to the coming weeks)
So we kept at it, each of us getting progressively more sleep-deprived each day, since fevers have a habit of waking up lil’uns abruptly and often in the middle of the night. We made it to Virginia for one of my closest friends’ wedding this weekend. Wanting to scape up as much time as possible at the friend-filled toast and roast on Friday, John and I alternated bouncing Ari around in her carrier. Concerned her squawking might interrupt a tender moment of a toast, I impatiently paced the hallway outside the banquet room, Ari strapped to my back. As she seemed to be getting close to sleep, I decided to rotate her to the front of my body. As a slipped one of the straps off my left shoulder, I felt her body weight shift oddly and suddenly fall away.
I heard the most unnerving, muffled but abrupt thwack (it was reminiscent of the sound a medicine ball makes at the gym when its exhausted user lets it drop to ground) before I turned to see her head below her body, against the thinly carpeted hallway floor. Her mouth twisted in anguish, her face turned beet red, and there was a second of confused silence before Ari let out a deafening cry. How awful it must have been to be so close to sleep only to be so cruelly and painfully woken up. I immediately scooped her up, crying myself, and held her close, which did very little to console her. I felt such an intense conflict of thought: logically, even in the moment, I knew she was fine (immediate crying, no confusion or loss of consciousness, no vomiting, etc.); but then oh-my-god-oh-my-god I broke my daughter!
My friend Ted, standing in the doorway to the banquet room, saw me, and I sobbed, “Please get John.” And John was perfect. He gingerly yet firmly took Ari from my arms, we walked outside, he started to distract her while feeling her scalp for bumps, all the while answering my stuttering questions I knew were absurd but I just had to get out: Is there any chance she broke her neck? No, babies are flexible–I’ve seen babies fall from two stories and not have neck damage (please don’t test it!). What about a skull fracture? No, and she didn’t fall much further than her standing height, so wouldn’t that be a horrible trick of nature. OH god, could she have an intracranial bleed? She’s already looking better, acting herself, no vomiting. Is she aways going to hate me? I asked this question as Ari started reaching for me… (Only later, with Ari safely sleeping in her peapod and her parents sipping a malbec, John sighed, “Shit, that was scary.” Love that he has feelings!)
Still, I was freaked and, after having calmed down, I restarted my snotty sobfest several times when I recounted the event while saying goodbyes and gathering up things. And, of course, Ari’s fever raged on, her face got stuck in a crevice of her pod, and we had another bad night. I was so lucky that my friend, despite being the queen of spreadsheets and the organizer of all things, was the most tolerate/loving/chill bride-to-be on the planet and supported my emotional roller coaster bullshit, which is just not cool to whip out on someone else’s wedding day. Ever. After leaving Ari in the comforting and capable arms of Vovi, I experienced a few more bouts of sobbing with flashbacks to when I heard the thwack of her head against the ground, but arrived at the salon heart full and happy to celebrate Erica and Dan’s marriage. I was doing better, really.
And then I forgot my special underwear. No, this is actually as ridiculous as it sounds. I forgot the underwear I planned to wear: the uber comfy, no-line, tummy-tucking lucky spanx that I wore at my own wedding. And while I recognize that this is counter to any measure of feminist pride and acceptance of one’s own body, dammit I wanted my spanx to make me feel better about myself! There wasn’t a good solution to this problem, since I lacked time to go back or go shopping without missing something like watching Erica slip on her wedding dress. So instead I cried.
Hmmm, I need to paint this picture. I didn’t just cry. I ugly cried. Sitting on the floor of Erica’s hotel room while the other bridesmaids gathered, a breast pump suctioned to my breasts, and the rhythmic wompa-wompa accompanying my sniffles. And in my head I heard the thwack of my baby’s head hit the ground on repeat. And I thought, Oh God, what if her fever doesn’t break and she needs to get cathed this week–I can’t do that to her, and I won’t be able to hold her body down. And I didn’t even have my lucky, make-me-feel-better-about-my-body underwear. And what if I failed the boards?!?!?!
Clearly this emotional riptide was something I just needed to roll with for the moment. Again, logically I knew I was completely absurd, but I could not. stop. crying. I think for a moment I even forgot why I was crying. In response to the underwear dilemma, John (on the phone) suggested, “Why don’t you just freebuff it?” To which I snapped, “Have you forgotten how I leak?”
It’s amazing the wonders of a splash of cold water to the face, some carefully applied de-splotching make-up, a strong mimosa, and girlfriends who love you and think your hysterics are adorable rather than repulsive. The wedding was magnificent, the celebration epic. If substances impede our memory, we’ll always have the photo booth.
Ari’s fever finally broke yesterday (day 10), her energy is up, her eyes mischievous. There continues to be no discernable bump on her head, although we did accidentally run it into some hanging apparatus at the local stop-n-go. We lack evidence of any love lost between us, and she remains appreciative of Aunt Erica and Uncle Dan for getting hitched and bringing together such a wonderful assortment of characters.