My pre-baby naiveté assumed that once becoming a mother, my natural instincts would automatically kick-in and equip me wise-old-owl wisdom. I never feared that I might not know what to do with a baby in my arms that wasn’t there yesterday. Yet, one thing that surprises me most about motherhood is the constant internal debate between me, myself and I. From nutrition to clothing to sleepsacks, I obsessively question my decisions about Alaire’s care. Of course in most cases, the decisions are minor and matter little in the big scheme. For her, the day rolls the same whether she wears tennis shoes or Keene sandals to school. For me, I still wonder if she’s too hot in tennis shoes well into a 10AM meeting. Even for a proud Momma Bear, answers feel gray.

On a Friday in late June, daycare called with the alert that Alaire’s temperature was high. Teething is the current normal so our worry-meter remained low (and we spotted new teeth pushing through).  On Saturday her fever clung. She also cried when falling to her bum and gripped her fingers into my shoulders so I would not set her down. With U.G. & F.A. in town, my parents drove up for a visit. While changing her diaper with my mom, we noticed redness in her diaper region, but it seemed like a light rash. By Sunday, my poor sweet baby, normally running around grabbing every household item within reach (excluding her own toys), would only lay on her stomach across her Daddy’s lap. We did call the doctor and by description, diaper rash seemed the likely culprit. With instructions to bathe every few hours and use zinc oxide diaper cream, the afternoon progressed in confusion and worry. Finally, the gray became black and white very quickly. Alaire’s diaper area swelled throughout the evening and her cries emphasized her obvious pain. Graham went to Google. I called the doctor’s answering service again and while waiting for a response, called my boss’s wife, Sally, a retired pediatrics nurse. All evidence pointed to STAPH. Get to the ER.

We waited for over an hour before finally feeling the relief of hearing our names called. The nurse took one look at Alaire’s infection and said, “she’s going to need surgery guys.” The strangeness of her words and the alarm on Graham’s face will forever haunt my memories.  We never even remotely considered the possibility that Alaire needed surgery.  The next trauma unfolded as the nursing staff attempted to place IVs five different times, requiring three nurses, me holding Alaire down and Graham trying to distract her with books and Lilly. No dice, even for the IV big guns. With surgery “sometime” the next day, Alaire could not have food or water. Finally, at 4am the hospital admitted us to a room. We all slept from 5 to 7am, Graham and I squeezed onto the hospital pull-out.

Thankfully, they scheduled surgery for 11am, earlier than anticipated. Most alarming was how quickly the STAPH infection spread. By surgery hour, the redness and swelling moved up to her hip.  The anesthesiologist talked us through the process and risks, but assured us that all would be well soon. I could not help my stream of tears as I watched the doctors wheel Alaire away to surgery. How do you prepare for this moment?

The procedure was quick and they drained nearly a golf-ball size of fluid from her leg. They packed the area with a foot long string to channel the infection and maintain the opening for drainage. As momma, I got to go back to the post-op room which was filled with other children just out of surgery. Surreal in itself.  I rocked Alaire for nearly two hours as she breathed through a makeshift dixi cup oxygen mask (easier for the little ones I’m told). She softly cried “oooh oooh” over and over with concern in her big blue eyes.

Well, as you can see from the photos, Alaire had a speedy recovery! By Tuesday morning, we were more concerned about her pulling out the IV from tumbling around her bed and establishing bad habits by giving her sugary apple juice!

I will always remember her nurse, Christy, who took care of us all three days. She melted my heart while playing peek-a-boo and softly speaking sweet little encouragements to my daughter. I know it must have made Alaire feel safe.   I will also always remember the love and support from our family and friends.  Thank you Zach, Jessie, Larisa & Mel for the meals and morale support visits. And to our parents, it just feels good when you call over and over and over  to make sure we know you care. I’m sure Graham would agree, our appreciation for our parents grew a little more through this experience. I marvel considering how many times you all grappled with the gray while raising us…

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