The Willhelms have had it rough for the last month. Right around the time I got fired, Andy had his first Crohn’s flare in 8 years plus a ridiculously aggressive cold. I was down mentally and he was down physically. We tag-teamed on the whole parenting thing and it became even more clear just what an amazing baby we have. He was smiley and happy, relatively clear with his needs, totally willing to bounce in his Jumperoo while Mommy and Papa tended to our own hurts.
Then on Wednesday morning the little nugget woke up crying. Normally, he greets the day with a few coos and will spend the first 20-30 minutes of the day talking to himself in his crib while I pump, so a crying babe was really unusual.
The day before before he hadn’t eaten nearly as much as he normally does, so I thought he was hungry. I went into his room and poor guy was completely stuffed up and his little cry was hoarse. I brought him into bed with me hoping the elevation on my arm would help him sleep. He fell back asleep for a hot second, but then when Andy was getting ready for the day, the movement woke him up and he started crying his hoarse cry all over again. I called the consulting nurse line for his pediatrician and she listened to him over the phone and said that it sounded like croup. Sure enough, the characteristic barking cough started about an hour after that.
Croup is a viral infection of the upper respiratory system and specifically hits the area around the pharynx, often swelling the vocal chords, which is why babies’ cough sounds like barking. This also usually comes with a fever or runny nose and the only thing you can really do is wait it out. To help relax the airways, the traditional treatment is to go into a steamy bathroom and just hold your babe while they breathe the air. Some doctors will suggest going outside in cold weather since the temperature reduces the swelling. If it gets really bad, you can get steroids to help reduce inflammation, but typically you just wait it out like a cold. We were told to look out for “oxygen starvation.” This is when a baby has a very hard time breathing and starts to have very low levels of oxygen in their blood. Signs that he was experiencing oxygen starvation would have been flaring of the nostrils, sucking in around the ribs, and his lips or nail beds turning blue. Fortunately, we haven’t seen any of those signs, just lots of snot and coughing.
(We got rid of his swing just last week, so this was our makeshift snuggle nook to keep him elevated and comfortable.)
Andy decided to stay home on Wednesday, which was great since it was just like the early days again. The nugget would eat very little, 2-3 ounces of breast milk at a time, and then sleep for 20-30 minutes. He got one, 60 minute nap in, but otherwise would wake up enough to eat a bit and then cry and then fall back asleep. Andy and I each were in the bathroom with the shower running on hot, trying to help his breathing.
It never got scary enough that we had to take him to the hospital. We just had a very unhappy baby on our hands. He went down fine at bed time with the help of some Tylenol and managed to stay asleep for the most part. No middle of the night wakings for us. **Fingers crossed**
Thursday morning we had an appointment with Ronan’s pediatrician just to double check that he was doing ok. He didn’t have a fever and after a thorough listen to his lungs and a check in his ears, she said to just keep doing what we’re doing. Apparently the little guy’s weakened immune system can mean that another bug comes on the heels of the croup, so she said to keep an eye out for new symptoms that could indicate something else creeping in.
Andy went to work that day for a bit and came home early to help me. Ronan was doing a little better, but it was so helpful to have another set of hands to pass him off to. Like the early days, I couldn’t really get anything done, including making food or using the bathroom. Since we had both of us home for the first 10 weeks, we never had much of the experience of not showering, etc. We would just pass him back and forth while each of us tended to our various bodily functions. We were also zombies because of the lack of sleep, but at least I could pee without a lot of problems.
Friday was a little tougher. Andy was at work all day and Ronan seemed to take a little dip down. Still no fever, but recovery from croup, we were told, isn’t really linear but instead has some valleys along the way. Oof. I kept Ronan home from Grandparent daycare and we met a good friend to go for a walk, hoping the cold air would help him breathe easier. Unfortunately, it started to rain just as we arrived, so we holed up in Starbucks until Nugget was done with all the stimulus and drove home. It got us out of the house for a hot minute, which was nice.
He was like this for all of 20 minutes in the morning for a little photo shoot. The rest of the day the smiles were few and far between.
Today, Saturday, I’m writing this on my computer in the parking lot of a local state park. Ronan slept a solid 12 hours last night (normally he does about 10 1/2), but was having a very hard time going down for a nap, despite falling asleep on me for a few minutes at a time. So I loaded us up into the car and used the 20 minute drive to knock him out. Now we’re partying in the car, him in the back sleeping, me in the front, journaling, typing, working on proposals…ok, really scrolling through Facebook a lot. I have ambitions to go grocery shopping, but you can be damn sure I’m not waking this sleeping baby a minute before he wants to.