The Big Bad Cough and Mama’s Fears

Three weeks ago my sweet little girl started coughing. I had been coughing the week before that and so I assumed we both had caught the cold that was going around. Then on a Monday night she was trying to sleep and just couldn’t stop coughing. Her cough seemed to be choking her and she was waking herself up almost gagging on the sputum when she could finally cough it up.

I tried everything I could think of. I held her near the humidifier, had her sip cold water and stood in the steamy shower. The only thing that seemed to stop the coughing was to keep her awake. So at 3 am I decided to just let her stay awake. We played quietly in the dark and watched a little bit of Blue’s Clues. I was exhausted but too scared to let her sleep. I just held her close and let her nurse as much as she wanted and prayed that the cough would go away so she could get some rest.

At 5am I woke up my husband and said we needed to go the pediatrician as soon as it opened. We go to the hospital for pediatric visits here in Japan. So he dropped us off and luckily we were one of the first patients there. I looked around at all the other little sick children and worried that she would catch whatever it was they had too. She was so tired though that she just wanted to be held. I put her in her “pouch” (we use the Baby K’tan) and she snuggled up close to my chest and looked up at me with tired eyes and said “Mama I really want to sleep now. Is that ok?” I kissed the top of her head and told her to close her eyes and everything would be alright.Image My mind was racing with fear and panic. I had been going over her vaccination schedule and worried that I had missed something. She had not (has not) received her last DPT vaccine. I was terrified that she had pertussis. Although, I know it is not as dangerous for a preschooler as it is for an infant, I was still scared. I had made the mistake of reading too many stories about pertussis that ended fatally. My heart raced and my stomach was in knots.

She finally got about 45 minutes of uninterrupted sleep snuggled up next to my breast and I closed my eyes as we waited to be seen. The doctor called us in and she tried to listen to Violet’s chest without waking her but Violet stirred and started to scream terribly. She listened to the front and the back and said her left lung sounded a little weak. So she asked us to go across the hall for blood work and a chest x-ray. We had been through this last October and it was so traumatic for Violet. I was dreading it but I knew we needed to figure out what was going on.

We got to the blood lab and she was shaking and crying uncontrollably in my arms. The nurse held her arm out and Violet clung to my chest. I try so hard to be brave when these things happen but I was sleep deprived too and scared as well. Silent tears started to stream down my cheeks. I just whispered in her ear that I loved her and asked her to please not look at the needle but to look at me. She looked into my eyes and cried out in fear as the needle pierced her soft, milky skin.

When it was over she was trembling and kept trying to tell me she wanted to be brave. I told her she was brave because she did it. My husband and I are always trying to tell her that feeling her feelings is o.k. I wanted to express to her that being brave doesn’t always mean that you don’t cry. Even brave people cry sometimes. So she smiled through her tears and exclaimed “I’m brave, mama! I’m brave!” We both half laughed, half cried. Then we walked down the hall a little further to have her x-ray done.

She had just had an x-ray in October and knew that it wasn’t going to hurt but she still began to panic. I am still learning how to handle parenting in our gentle style when something has to be done. I don’t mean that I get angry when she cries or even impatient in a situation like this. What I mean is I struggle with getting the other people to wait and understand how she is feeling. In a medical office (in the US or here in Japan) the nurses and doctors often just want and need to get a procedure or test done. They see crying, fearful children every single day and I guess sometimes they get numb to it. I have often felt pushed aside or felt that my daughters feelings were not validated in situations like these.

When she was 2 years old and receiving a vaccine, somehow I was pushed out of the office and had the door shut in my face. I had cried during her 9 month well baby check up because I felt they were being too rough with her at that clinic and was branded weak by an overpowering nurse. So for some reason on this day she decided I just needed to leave the room. I have seen other parents leave their baby/toddler with the nurse too. I don’t know if I have ever seen this at the doctor back home. I am fairly certain that I haven’t.

Violet was crying and I was struggling to keep her still for the vaccine. So the nurse grabbed her from my lap and forced me out of the door. It happened so fast and took my breath away so quickly that I didn’t have a chance to stop it from happening. The door was closed in my face and I was left there on the other side listening to my daughters terrified screams, screaming for mama. I stood up against the door calling out her name. Other parents stared at me but I didn’t care. I cried and cried out her name. When the door was finally opened I gave the nurse the angriest look I could muster up through my tears. I cradled my sweet girl and promised her that I would never let that happen again. I still have nightmares and suffer from guilt that I wasn’t more assertive. I have learned from that experience though and I have never again let a nurse or doctor take her from my arms.

Back to the most recent experience. When we were trying to get her x-ray taken I couldn’t get Violet to hold still and stand in front of the x-ray machine. She wanted me to hold her. Of course I couldn’t hold her during the x-ray. So I stood beside her trying to hold her in place. Two male technicians were in the room and they ended up grabbing her arms and holding her arms out to either side. One of them grabbed directly on to where she had just been poked with a needle for her blood work. I wanted them to wait and to let her calm down first. But again, it happened fast. And they had a remote that they could control the x-ray machine with. So all of this only lasted 10 seconds max. Still I felt like I had failed to let her work through her feelings and come to do it on her own. Maybe she never would have. I am not sure. How do other gentle parents handle situations like this?

I feel that my lack of ability to speak proper Japanese often impedes my ability to parent the way I want to in public places such as this. We left radiology and made our way back to the pediatric ward to wait for the results. She was too shaken up to fall back asleep and just nursed through her tears until she finally calmed her breathing once more. Forty-five minutes later we were called in to get the results. The doctor showed us the x-ray and pointed out the little white lines in her lungs that showed she had an infection.

Mycoplasma. Again. She just had mycoplasma in October! How could this be. Violet never had a fever this time around and so I didn’t know her cough was anything serious. The cough was much worse this time around though. Much more violent. We were given a 3 day dose of zithromax, an expectorant and bronchial dilating patches that go on her back. I was relieved that the diagnosis wasn’t more serious, in my mind I was fearing the worst. Pertussis or TB. We went home and had a little lunch and I held her upright on the couch as she took a little rest.

We ended up going back to the hospital 3 times in 2 weeks. On the second trip we were given a nebulizer for free that we get to keep at home. It is small and portable. I was so thankful to have it and it brought me comfort that we had something to give her relief during the night. I held Violet in a cradle position but more upright, while sitting on the sofa every night for 2 weeks. She slept for about 5 hours max each night and I slept maybe 2 hours. It was a long and exhausting 2 weeks. But thankfully she is finally not coughing anymore. We are sleeping in our family bed again and my body is trying to recover from the lack of sleep.

It was so hard to watch her struggle with this cough. She had a decreased appetite for those 2 weeks as well. Thankfully, she could still nurse whenever she wanted and I was never worried about her getting dehydrated or going without nutrients. Full term breastfeeding has so many wonderful benefits. Even though she was sick we definitely enjoyed our time at home together. We snuggled, we drew, we read,we laughed, we danced, made muffins and she ran around the house naked (one of her favorite things to do).

Image

Image

The night before Violet was to return to nursery school I started having severe panic attacks about her getting sick again. I heard from a friend that TB was becoming more prevalent in Japan and we did not vaccinate her for that. My heart raced and I couldn’t catch my breath. My husband and I scoured the internet for information on TB in Japan and the BCG vaccine. My mind often gets the better of me and what ifs start haunting my mind. Ever since the Tsunami I find that my worry and panic are at a higher level than they used to be. When it concerns my daughter’s health and safety especially. Gabe and I finally arrived at the decision that she was safe to go to school but that we would definitely get her vaccinated when she was 100% well again.

My mind still plays tricks on me though and I go back and forth as to whether or not it is necessary. It is so hard to live and raise a child in a foreign country when you are not fluent in the language. I kick myself for not studying harder. I feel ashamed and feel that i have let her down. Also, I really dislike my tendencies to panic and worry. I am trying to rest in the peace of knowing that I cannot control everything. I can only do my best to make well informed decisions. Being a mom is hard work! It is the best job I have ever been granted but it is definitely not easy.

How do you deal with worries about illness for your children?

What are your favorite cough remedies?

What are your feelings toward vaccination?

Snug as a Bug

 

snuggled baby

Before Violet was born I was already used to using the Baby Bjorn carrier. You know the one. It can be worn only on the front and the baby can face in our out. I had used it with my niece when I was a nanny to her for 5 months. I was comfortable with how it worked and how to get in and out of it. I also felt like it would be easy for my husband to use. So I registered for one and I got it. My husband practiced with a stuffed animal and by the time she was big enough to ride in it we were ready.  After using it for a while though, I noticed how unnatural she looked in it. Something about the way her legs dangled below her and the majority of her weight being placed on her crotch area just didn’t seem right.  I constantly worried about her hips and spine. I wanted her to be comfortable and also to be in a healthy position. This bothered me so I did more research.(If you want to know more about why this kind of carrier is not recommended read this). I never used a stroller so she was in a carrier a lot. Violet loved being carried. We did let her face out sometimes and I think she enjoyed seeing what was around her. I realize now though that she was most comfortable when she was facing in. She liked looking around and could do so easily but also she liked resting against our chests. Often times facing out can be over stimulating for small babies. I was really interested in trying a sling carrier. I worried though about how my shoulders and back would feel if we used a one shoulder style carrier. So I researched every carrier I could find on line. I finally settled on the Baby K’tan. (I want to say up front that I am not affiliated with Baby K’tan nor am I being paid to review it. I am just sharing my experience with the carrier in hopes that it will be of use to other parents).blog photo ktan1month

The day it arrived in the mail I was all giddy like a child on Christmas morning. I couldn’t wait to open it up and try it on. I decided to try first with a doll to practice.Our daughter was still very tiny and I didn’t want to drop her or put her in a position that made it hard to breath. I watched the instructional video a few times and then tried it out. I’ll be honest, it took me a while to really figure it out. When I put Violet in she would cry and fling her arms and legs out. I felt like I was doing it wrong. I couldn’t get it to be comfortable for her or myself. I can’t say exactly how it happened but one day it finally clicked. I got her in (in the cradle position) and she fussed a little at first but then settled quietly against my body. I carried her like this every day until she could hold her head up and be held in the upright position. She looked like a caterpillar in a cocoon. It was so cute and so cozy looking. I was able to get her in and out blog photo ktan8monthsof it with ease in the car too. I even managed to get her from her car seat and into the sling nursing in ktanwithout waking her up on numerous occasions. The sling felt comfortable on my shoulders and my back felt fine too. I was so pleased with the sling that I ordered another one in pink. I needed a small until I lost some of the weight I had gained during pregnancy and then found that it was too loose to be comfortable unless I washed and dried it every day. It shrinks up a bit when you dry it but stretches out with the weight of the baby. So I ordered an x-small. It worked great! I carried this sling with me everywhere and she rode in it all the time. We even used it at home and I found that putting her in the sling (in the cradle position) and swaying back and forth was a great way to put her to sleep. I found that I could nurse her easily in the sling as well. Occasionally it offered my arms a break during long nursing sessions.

 

ktanairport3monthsIt was also great for the airplane. I could get her to sleep and then could fall asleep without worrying about dropping her. Her legs stayed curled up inside the sling and we both fit inside the seat with the armrests down. It worked perfectly when she was 3 months old, 21 months and I even used it the last time we went home when she was 34 months old. She was able to sleep sitting upright in it and her legs straddled my lap and her head rested against my chest. It worked better than trying to rock her to sleep and then move her to the car seat. I also carried her in it at 34 months old while in transit at the airport. I have traveled by myself 2 times now from Japan to the US. It is a long trip by myself but even more challenging with a child. She was very well behaved and is actually an excellent travel partner. She brings laughter and fun to all our adventures. I was not looking forward to keeping up with her in the airport while rolling suitcases and transporting the car seat though. I have figured out a good use for the stroller we were given. I strap the convertible car seat to it with a bungee cord and then put my carry-on bag inside the car seat and hang any other bags from the handles. Then I can push it through the airport from gate to gate. It actually works pretty well. I do get some looks/comments as to why I am not pushing my child in it though. It just works better this way. She is still willing (although not as much as she used to be) to get in her pouch and be carried through the airport. I suspect that next time she will want to walk on her own though. She only weighs 20 pounds and so she still fits in the carrier nicely. I got lots of comments about carrying such a “big baby” through the airport. Fortunately, most were nice and supportive comments. I was surprised at the kindness of strangers in my travels too. Lots of help for moms traveling alone.

I absolutely love baby/child wearing. It was such a joy to do when she was so tiny and it is still pleasurable now that she is a 3 year old. When she is feeling irritable, overly sleepy, or needs a little extra physical closeness, the sling is still very useful. She can still nurse inside it and when she falls asleep in it I can carry her without breaking my arms.

Baby wearing is a common practice in cultures all over the world. Here in Japan it is more common to wear the baby on your back. I did try this but found it uncomfortable and also I felt disconnected from her. So we always wear her in the front. Studies have shown that babies who are worn in the front and carried this way have higher vocabulary versus those pushed in a stroller. Violet is definitely proof of this. I carried her around from the time she was a newborn and still do. I felt that it helped me communicate with her better. She was always in my face (so to say) and therefore I was drawn to communicate with her as an equal.

Because she was at eye level, she was involved in the conversation, she was learning how to make sounds that mimicked the ones I was making by watching my mouth move and she learned one of the most important tools of communication, listening. I was constantly telling her where we were and what we were doing. Whether it be doing the wash, cutting vegetables, sweeping the floor or looking at our neighbors flowers. We were in constant communication. I remember so vividly the look in her eyes as she saw green leaves for the first time. Being born in October, she didn’t see green leaves until she was about 6 months old. Violet said her first word when she was 7 months old. She said “mama”. I know that ma is a common sound for babies to make, but

I could tell that she was saying mama and meaning me. It was on mother’s day too. Her next word was Dada and that was on Father’s day. Her next word came at 10 months old and it was hat. We went on walks everyday one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Every time we left the house I put on her bonnet and said “we can’t forget our hat.” The first time she said it back I was so tickled. I had just put her in the sling and she looked up at me and said “hat”. She knew the routine and wanted to remind me about her hat. It was so cute. After that came leaf but in Japanese “happa”. Her vocabulary grew so quickly that I couldn’t keep up with recording it. Her first sentence came at around 13 months old. My point is not to brag on my child but to show the benefits of baby wearing. Not all babies are the same and not all babies that are worn will speak early. But it definitely does aid in communication. It also keeps you in a constant state of awareness of your child’s needs and emotions. Which in return keeps you intimately connected.blogphotoktan 4months

“Environmental experiences stimulate nerves to branch out and connect with other nerves, which helps the brain grow and develop. Babywearing helps the infant’s developing brain make the right connections. Because baby is intimately involved in the mother and father’s world, she is exposed to, and participates in, the environmental stimuli that mother selects and is protected from those stimuli that bombard or overload her developing nervous system. She so intimately participates in what mother is doing that her developing brain stores a myriad of experiences, called patterns of behavior.” Dr. Sears

Often times, parents and caregivers who wear their babies notice that their baby cries less. I found that to be true for Violet. When I got used to the sling carrier, I wore her all the time. Around the house, on walks, on the train, in a restaurant, she was almost always tucked inside her little pouch. I found that she seemed more content close to my body.

I am not judging those who choose to use a stroller just offering up my experience with how great baby wearing can be. If you have never tried wearing your baby, start slowly. Just for a little while at a time. You may find that you enjoy have your arms free to do things that you were missing, like eating, drinking, scratching the itch on your nose that has been irritating you but you won’t dare shift for fear of waking the baby. 🙂

Do you wear your baby? If so, what kind of carrier do you use? What are some of your favorite baby wearing memories?

blogphotoktan14months

Thanks for stopping by.