At Boston Children's Hospital

Friday, January 24, 2014

My littlest boy continues to test his mama's tolerance for hospitals and conventional medicine. (You may recall my torment, as I approached 42 weeks pregnant with him just one month ago, over the possibility of prenatal testing and birth interventions.) Luckily, we avoided doctors, hospitals and interventions for his birth, but weren't so lucky this week.

On Monday morning I brought my little guy to the emergency room at Children's Hospital when I noticed that a cold he had was worsening and his breathing seemed more labored. While in the emergency room, he spiked a fever. For any of you with babies under 8-12 weeks, you know this can be trouble. It sets off a battery of invasive tests to check for serious newborn infections. My not-quite-four-week-old got the works: IV, blood tests, chest x-ray, urine culture, spinal tap, and heavy doses of prophylactic antibiotics. Ugh.

You can imagine my turmoil over all of this, as I shook my head in disbelief that this was all really happening to us. Fortunately, all of the invasive tests came back negative and a later nasal swab revealed that he had RSV, a common cold virus that causes only mild symptoms in most of us but for wee ones can be serious, including higher incidences of pneumonia which he had. He was a trooper, though, needing only supportive care like fluids and oxygen, and close monitoring. 

We spent three long nights at the hospital until finally being given the all-clear to go home yesterday. Phew! I've never been so happy to be home.

Overall, this experience led to some important insights. Here are the top ones:

1. Avoid hospitals and conventional medicine as much as possible, but be thankful they're available when you need them. I am sure I could have pushed back on some of the newborn testing, including declining the spinal, but given the circumstances and his tender age, it felt right to me to move forward with the doctors' recommendations on that first day. I was grateful to have warm and attentive hospital staff watching out for us (though frankly I think most of them had no idea about things like natural parenting and on-demand breastfeeding, as they would frequently ask when his last feeding was and for how long. When I responded that he nurses constantly, whenever he wants to, I got those blank stares.) Still, I was glad to have the full resources of one of the finest hospitals in the world available to us, and was thankful that we did not require more of those resources for this stay.

2. Less is more. For acute care for a sick newborn, hospitals and conventional medicine can be life-saving. I felt in that first 24 hours that it was prudent for me to allow the hospital staff to do what they felt was best, while certainly being discerning of their recommendations and interventions. As the acute stage passed, though, I felt my role as mom became more paramount and I was not afraid of pushing back on some of their "routine" interventions, like wanting to give him Vitamin D supplements, and offering a nebulizer inhaler (even though he wasn't really wheezing). I respectfully declined these interventions and felt fully confident doing so. As his condition improved, I felt that "less is more" and we should allow his body's natural germ-fighting mechanisms to work without introducing any unnecessary medicines.

3. Family is the best. Our family provided so much love and support this week, helping out in so many wonderful ways. My mom, in particular, stayed at the hospital with the baby and me the entire time. Words cannot express my appreciation to her for all she did. Thank you seems so inadequate for three sleepless nights and four days confined in a tiny hospital room. Other family members stayed with my husband and the children at home, ran errands, made and brought food, entertained the kids, and served as helpful distractions during this otherwise stressful week. Family is the best.

4. I am glad our time there was short-lived. Hopefully this is one of the few, and ideally the only, experiences we have with Children's Hospital. My heart goes out to those families who must visit there more frequently, enduring long stays and tests and uncertainties, for more acute or chronically ill children. I have a whole new level of empathy for what they must go through.

5. This is as close as I will ever get to Ferber's infamous "Sleep Laboratory" at Children's. Geesh!

6. There's no place like home. Home is the best place to be, with all that sibling love and lots of hugs and kisses and snuggles as we settle back into our ordinary rhythms, grateful--so very grateful--that everyone is happy and well.


  1. so glad that he is on the mend, Kerry! and #5 made me laugh out loud!!

  2. Sorry you had to go through that experience with a newborn. Yikes! During our last visit to Cambridge in the fall, we had an unexpected stay at Boston Children's as well, and they are AMAZING. Cannot say enough good things about how well they cared for my daughter and our family. :)