i'm driving back from a meeting at the coppell clinic, pulling into the addison parking lot when my phone rings. it's james' daycare, and i am fully ready to receive my very first boo-boo report. maybe james has tumped over in his increasingly desperate attempts to crawl. maybe he has punched a bottle of milk into his own eye. maybe his nemesis, that shady little ethan, has bitten him.
instead, the daycare director greets me. she tells me not to be alarmed, but james has not been doing well. he's had a low-grade fever all day and he's refusing meals, which isn't like him at all. he's been lethargic and sleeping all day, we've been able to wake him up but he's not being himself. he's got a deep cough and is showing signs of breathing retractions.
my stomach clenches and my mouth goes dry instantly. the fear in my gut is visceral, and i u-turn back onto the tollway so automatically i am slightly surprised to find myself speeding north a moment later. in an instant, i forget about my meetings, the conference call, the interview, my own appointments. i call dr. macdonald's office. i call ian. i call my mother, and then i fight back tears for the rest of the drive.
and i will always be the first one to shrug it's okay, he'll be fine, babies get sick because cognitively i know that a 7 month old's only forte is absorbing all the germs in the world and transforming them to a free-flowing nose. for all of his personality foibles, the only thing james really excels at is coughing. he has been, to some degree, sick for the past two months. i knew this would happen. i coached ian on this very expectation. but still, there is a sickening fear hollowing out the pit of my stomach when i see james looking back up at me, glassy-eyed and devoid of his usual cheer. he isn't crying or fussing, but i know with an undeniable instinct that he does not feel cool at all. my baby is in pain, and this one fact sends fear signaling pathways coursing through my autonomic nervous system.
i speed down preston rd like i'm playing grand theft auto, terrified that the pediatrician's office will close while i am stuck in traffic behind a jetta that is slowly considering every possible right turn. i normally drive at a painfully hesitant crawl like a blind elderly dog navigating through a school zone, but my babby is wheezing in the backseat and i am filled with a burning hatred for everyone who isn't dr. macdonald and his prescription pad.
when we arrive at the clinic, james throws up on ian's shoulder by way of greeting.
dr. macdonald detects no respiratory distress, and my own breathing finally eases. james' strife and listlessness are the byproduct of a double ear infection. apparently, that round of amoxicillin he just finished might as well have been cotton candy. dr. macdonald reassures me, once again, that this is still well within the realm of totally normal things that happen to all babies all the time. and then his medical assistant promptly fails to call in the prescribed antibiotics. by the time we realize this, the clinic is closed.
when we return home, ian feeds james a mouthful of baby tylenol. that was 3.75 mL, right? i ask.
my husband freezes. no, it was 5. like a sitcom sight gag, i watch him refer to the directions on the bottle only to discover there was a second page revealed by peeling away the first layer. a page that specifies that babies under 24 lbs need dosing instructions from a physician. but i am a proud member of a facebook mommy group and i might as well have that infant acetaminophen dosage chart tattooed behind my fucking eyelids for how many times i have gazed upon it during a 3 am nursing session.
i am pretty sure that james' liver will not immediately fall out of his butt, yet i call the after-hours nursing line for peace of mind. it reaches a registered nurse at children's medical center, and she asks me if i want to call 911. only to arrest my husband, i tell her. she gets poison control on the line. i remind everyone in this conversation once again that this was definitely ian's fault and not mine. can you write that in his chart?
poison control lectures me sternly but reassures me that my baby should be fine. ian is contrite and i am exhausted but james looks pretty pleased with himself. he babbles happily, blows raspberries incessantly, and proceeds to down 10 ounces of milk to make up for the lost meal. he is so unfathomably easy, so calm and tolerant that i am left saying who's a good boy? you're a good boy! over and over again because everything is basically a dog and i have the communication skills of an amoeba.
and now, for the first time in a long time, i am awake in the nursery. not because james is having trouble sleeping- on the contrary, he is basically comatose and seemingly mad comfortable. it's just that i can't stop staring at him, stroking his goofy-ass hair that only grows on top, memorizing the impossibly vulnerable curvature of his cheeks. and maybe for the first time ever, he doesn't just feel like a baby that someone left in my house for me to do a bad job of raising. he feels like mine, but so much better and more than i deserve. everything well-intentioned, earnest, or good about me exists in this 19 lb stack of biscuits.
please get better soon, mr. james. and give me my dang heart back. i'm gonna need it for this hyped up new zelda game.