Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sick Kid Chronicles

On Sunday evening, around 6:30pm, Gwen started acting a little off. We had just eaten dinner, and were reading a story together on the couch, when she sort of shut down a little. Just a little bit quieter, just a little bit stiller, just a little bit less engaged. I asked her what was wrong and at first she said she didn’t want to tell me. “Is something hurting you? Do you have an owie?” “I don’t want to tell you,” she insisted, which only caused me to worry more. I persisted, and eventually she told me her eyes were hurting. “Show me where,” I said, and she pointed to her forehead in between and above her eyes.

For the next half an hour, the pain seemed to come and go. After a dose of Advil I proceeded with getting her ready for bed, and when lights out came, she simply rolled over and fell quiet, without her usual insistence on stories, songs, cuddles, and so on. I stayed and snuggled for a minute or two, then departed. Not three minutes later, I heard the unmistakable sound of a child’s stomach being violently emptied.

Chris had just arrived home, so we both rushed upstairs and leaped into action: him stripping the bed and running a bath, me comforting Gwen and peeling off her pajamas. She was weeping and very uncomfortable. She got in the bath and immediately lay down. As I stroked her back and soothed her, I asked if she could sit up. She told me, “If I sit up it will hurt my head.” I was astounded at her ability to recognize this and express it to me so clearly.

After about 15 minutes in the bath, I got her dressed in new pajamas and tucked her into my bed. I lay with her for a long time while Chris waited on hold with the nurses’ line to see if we needed to take further action. I was really scared by the idea of a three-year-old with a headache – one that seemed sensitive to light, also. Gwen was exhausted and soon fell asleep.

Our discussion with the nurse that night was possibly the most helpful discussion I’ve had with anyone there. She was very attentive to our concerns and gave us clear instructions on what to look for and how to follow up. At one point, she did ask us to wake Gwen up and see how she was doing: was the headache still present? Was she shaking or having difficulty breathing? Was she lying peacefully or tossing and whimpering in her sleep? How were her colour and temperature? She encouraged us to check these things every two hours throughout the night and if anything changed, take her to the ER. As such, Chris slept on the couch downstairs and I slept with Gwen in our bed so I could keep a close eye on her.

The night passed fairly uneventfully after that, and no trips to the ER were needed. Gwen woke in the morning seemingly back to normal and has not had any further symptoms. However, I wanted to keep note of what she did and ate that day so that if this does come up again – if there is some kind of migraine trigger – I will be better able to track it down.

Sunday morning, we went to church. She had toast for breakfast. At church, she ate cookies and drank lemonade. We later went out for ice cream at Dairy Queen. We were briefly at my office to pick something up, and I worried that she’d touched the ant traps there, but Chris assured me that if that was the problem, it would have shown itself much sooner. We spent a quiet few hours at home – no unusual snacks that I can recall. We went out for a nature walk at Colliery Dam Park in the late afternoon. After that, we made oatmeal raisin cookies. For dinner, she had leftover Kraft Dinner (her “favourite noodles”). It was shortly after that the symptoms started; once of our theories is that the leftover KD was just a little too old.

It’s hard to know whether the headache caused the nausea or the nausea caused the headache. I was very touched by the encouraging and sympathetic messages I received on Facebook, and especially buoyed by the many people who told me that yes, kids this young can get headaches and in fact they remember being prone to headaches at a young age. Most striking was Chris’s aunt, who commented that one of her first long sentences was, “Mom, I have an owie right here,” and pointed to the exact spot on her forehead where Gwen pointed. The fact that it was one of her first sentences would indicate she was somewhere around Gwen’s age when this happened.

There’s something about kids and headaches that makes me really sad; I do remember having a lot of headaches growing up (especially as a teen) and I guess I have an association with not being trusted since headaches are invisible and what kid doesn’t want to get out of school for a day with an easy excuse? So thinking of many of my friends as children with terrible headaches breaks my heart, and I sure hope Gwen is not prone to them. However, after receiving all this advice and support I do feel that if it happens again I will be better prepared and better able to comfort her.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Dear Gwen: Month Forty-Two

Dear Gwen,

You are forty-two months old. That’s officially three and a half!

You are really into crafts, both at home and at preschool. Our fridge, as well as your bedroom walls and my office cubicle, are testament to your enthusiasm and prowess. Your favourite crafty thing right now is melty beads: you put coloured beads onto a plastic board in whatever pattern you choose, then get an adult (that’d be me) to iron it so the beads stick together. I bought you a small kit with a robot pattern, and you were totally hooked. What amazed me was that even though the beads were small and fidgety and prone to slipping off the pegs, you never once got frustrated or gave up. You just kept working on it. You stayed with it for FORTY MINUTES. Dude! Forty minutes of quiet concentration? You bet your butt I went right out the next week and bought you a kit with 5,000 beads. Your enthusiasm for these beads has not waned, though you are kind of lost without a pattern to follow. I keep meaning to see if such things are available online (or if I can make up my own, you know, in all my spare time ...).

I was so stunned by your ability (and willingness!) to sit down and work through a finicky project to completion, but a couple of my friends, upon hearing this news, were not at all surprised. A couple of months ago, you demonstrated to these friends your particular particularness when they volunteered to play “Memory” with you.
Adult: (Laying out the Memory cards)
Gwen: (Looking uncomfortable)
Adult: Is everything okay, Gwen?
Gwen: Um ... we have to do the cards like this. (Moves them into smaller row formation)
Adult: Oh, okay! We can do that. (Continues)
Gwen: (Continues looking uncomfortable)
Adult: Um ... Gwen, is something else not quite right?
Gwen: Yes, you have to do them with the blue stripe at the top.
Adult: Hmm. Say, I wonder if OCD is hereditary?

Anyway, when these friends heard about your bead habit, they felt it fit right in with your desire (need?) to have things all lined up in a particular way. It makes sense, actually, that such a hobby would appeal to that side of your nature: it’s very defined, very concrete, not at all like colouring which is so vastly variable and also, once a mistake is made, difficult if not impossible to correct. With beads, you can pick them up and replace them as many times as you want to in order to get the effect you’re after. So, yeah. You take after your mom. You’re a crafter!
Your love for music is growing and you know so many more songs thanks to preschool. You sing almost constantly now and it’s such a treat for me to hear songs I didn’t teach you. You are also crazy-good at reciting stories. A couple of days ago, you recited a story about a witch and a pumpkin and various other creatures in what I can only assume is pretty close to word-for-word repetition, if only because the phrase “Halloween is just hours away!” is definitely not in your own lexicon. It turns out this is a story-on-tape that you listen to often at preschool, turning the page in the book along with the audio chime – I totally remember books like that from when I was a kid, nostalgia attack! Anyway, the story was great, and you told it with all the required gusto and pizzazz. I guess Show and Tell times really are making you into a more comfortable public speaker!

Actually, I think this must be true, because lately when you encounter strangers (ie at church or the grocery store) you are more likely to respond to their salutations. Previously, you would attempt to shrink and hide inside my armpit. Now, when someone says, “I really like your hat!” you are likely to respond, “It’s a Domo hat! Do-mo, Do-mo!” and confuse the heck out of them because who on earth knows what a Domo is? Anyway, it’s a vast improvement. I think you’ll do well on Halloween when you have to remember your all-important lines: “Trick or Treat” and “Thank you!”
I have been meaning to mention for a while that I have never met a kid who loved being tickled as much as YOU love to be tickled. It is something to behold. I just tickle you a little bit, and you giggle and push my hand away ... then say, “Tickle me more!” and it is ON. I tickle you until you’re helpless with laughter, then back off to let you catch your breath, and then you ask for more. “More tickles, Mom!” I’ve even read that parents shouldn’t tickle kids, because it can make kids feel uncomfortable and out of control. This is clearly not the case with you. You can’t get enough of it!
One thing I have really been enjoying lately is the improved bond between you and your dad. For a long time, you have been quite a mama's girl and didn't really want anything to do with Dad, which can be very hurtful to him (and exhausting to me). Things seem a little more balanced now, and you are so excited to greet him when he gets home from work. The two of you are spending a bit more quality time together now in the mornings, which is fun for you and helpful for me! It's so lovely to see the two of you enjoying each other so much.

We've had a couple of neat adventures over the past few weeks, including leaving you with a teenaged babysitter a couple of times (a neccessity now that Dad sometimes works nights). It's so great that you're at the stage where you're excited to play with someone new, rather than tearful about being left. I'm really grateful for your adaptability. Last weekend, you got to hang out with Grannie for a day and a night while I went away to celebrate a friend's soon-to-be-born baby. The two of you had a wonderful time together, and I was so glad! Your Auntie Sara has suggested that perhaps sometime soon you could go over to her place for a sleepover, which I bet you would love. You are growing up so fast, and just look at all the fun you get to have as a result!

Well, I guess that's all the news for this month, Gwen. As always, I love you a million billion kajillion and three (and a half) and I'm so glad you're my daughter.



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