Challenges of Parenthood
Apologies to my faithful readership—this evening’s article is taking a temporary departure from my usual programming-themed fare. My wife and I had something of a scare today, and I need to process it. And just what good is a blog if you can’t write about the things that really matter to you?
So, feel free to ignore this article. It really is more for me than for you, but I invite you to read it anyway, because it is about someone very dear to me: my one-year-old daughter, Katie.
Katie has had a rough couple of months. She’s been sick nearly constantly since January. When I left to go to Seattle for the Building of Basecamp workshop in late January, Katie was found to have an ear infection in both ears—from that time to now she’s only had a week or two of good health.
A few weeks ago, she was running a high fever, and one evening, to the dismay of my wife and myself that fever exceeded 106°. We quickly called a doctor, who directed us to go to the nearest InstaCare facility. The doctors feared it could be a blood infection, or meningitis, but after taking her to the hospital for further examination, she was released to go home. The next morning her fever was all but gone.
About a week and a half ago, she was finally feeling well enough that we decided it was time to give her the immunizations we had deferred at her one year birthday, due to illness. Two shots, comprising three immunizations, and we were warned that she could exhibit a fever and/or a rash in seven to ten days.
Ten days later (yesterday, in fact), she woke up with a low fever. Tarasine (my wife) administered some Tylenol and we proceeded as though this was the prophesied fever. For about the last 36 hours, the fever ran between 101 and 103 degrees Fahrenheit—high, but not exceedingly so.
When Tarasine got Katie up from her nap at about 4:30 this afternoon, she noticed that Katie felt pretty warm. A few minutes later, Katie began convulsing.
Her fever was over 106°. She’d never before gone into siezures—in fact, I’d never before witnessed a siezure. I was working in my “office” (a converted corner of our bedroom) when Tarasine ran in, carrying Katie, asking what we should do.
Katie was shaking, and turning blue. She was grunting with the exertion of the convulsions. I immediately called 911. It seemed like forever before someone answered the phone.
By this time Katie was breathing again, shallowly, raggedly. She was sweating profusely. In a daze, I relayed instructions to Tarasine as the woman on the other end of the line told us what to do. Paramedics were on the way, she said. Get together all medications that Katie had been taking. Write down the name of our doctor. Keep Katie on her side. To be honest, I can’t remember most of what she said we should do.
When Katie’s siezure passed, Tarasine went to collect the necessary items and information. I stayed by Katie’s side and comforted her, trying to keep her awake and helping her stay cool.
She was moaning and whimpering pitifully. I prayed. Tears blurred my vision. The waiting seemed interminable. Thankfully, her fever rapidly dropped, and by the time the paramedics arrived, it was only about 103.5°.
By this time things had calmed down. The paramedics came in, examined her, and pronounced her as well as could be expected, but recommended we take her to the doctor. Our family doctor, may his name be forever blessed, was able to see her right away, in spite of the time being 5pm. His diagnosis? A viral infection, with Tylenol and Ibuprofin to be adminstrated in alternating turns every two hours.
Katie is sleeping now, with a temperature of (at last measurement) 99.8° My wife’s heart is still racing. And me? I’m still on the verge of tears. I was astonished by how much fear I felt during those few minutes. What if Katie died? Or suffered some permanent brain damage? It is impossible to describe how terrifying those thoughts were.
God watched over my family today. The fact that I am now working from home is another blessing—what if I’d still been working for BYU, and had been 15 minutes away when this all transpired? I’m sure Tarasine would have been able to call 911 and take care of Katie in my absense, but my being home was an immense comfort to us both.
Tonight will probably be a sleepless one. We’ll probably take shifts, checking on Katie every two or three hours to make sure her fever remains low and responds to medication. Tomorrow, my wife and I will probably take turns napping.
But you know what? If someone had been able to really make me understand, four years ago, how hard it is to be a parent, I might have hesitated. But “hard” is only half of the equation, and not even the strongest half. If that same person had also made me truly understand how wonderful, how emotionally powerful it is to be a parent, all hesitation would have vanished. If I had known then what I know now, I would have embraced parenthood with all the enthusiasm I did originally. Yes, it is hard being a parent. But it is so incredibly worth it.
Update (18 Mar): Katie is doing better. She slept soundly last night, and her fever abated for most of it. She has a low fever again this morning, but we’ve got her on Tylenol and Motrin, and she’s eating and drinking and being generally cheerful. We’re keeping a close eye on her. Thank-you all for your notes and prayers.
3 May 2006