Peace In A Dyson

June 15, 2009

I vacuumed.

I didn’t know what else to do, so I vacuumed.

We knew last night that something wasn’t quite right about the bug bite on the side of Emilia’s face. It was a little swollen, a little bruised. We debated what to do. It was late, the clinics and pharmacies were closed, and it didn’t look that bad. A bad allergic reaction would be pretty immediate, right? It wouldn’t be a slow swell, right? I wrung my hands and worried; my husband soothed: we’ll check on her in the night. We don’t know that it’s an allergic reaction. We’ll check; she’ll be fine.

We didn’t check.

When my husband went to rouse her this morning, he found a nearly unrecognizable child, a wee thing with a swollen and misshapen face, her cheek and neck grotesquely bloated, her right eye a purple, bulbous slit. My heart stopped.

And then – while my husband gathered clothes and prepared to hustle us all out the door to the hospital – I vacuumed.

I told myself, the floor is dirty and that’s just not helping things. The floor is dirty and it should be cleaned. Somebody needs to do this. Somebody needs to be on top of these things. Somebody needs to pay attention to these things. I told myself, the floor is dirty, it’s dirty, just do this, now.

Because the floor was dirty. But more because I couldn’t look at Emilia without my heart stopping, because I couldn’t speak without berating myself, without berating us, for not getting help for her last night, because I all could do was do something, anything, that felt like it might make some minute bit of difference in the universe. Because my little girl was sitting there, clutching her Toady, whimpering a little, asking why is my eye shut, Mommy? and because I knew that if I hugged her again, I would cry.

And I didn’t want to cry. So I vacuumed. And now my floor is clean.

But my cheeks are still streaked with tears.


Emilia is going to be okay. She had a bad allergic reaction to a bug bite, and the good news is that antihistamines are bringing down the swelling and returning her poor face and neck to normal. The bad news is, we don’t know what bit her, and so we don’t know what she’s allergic to.

And no, I didn’t take a picture. I thought about it, once I’d calmed down enough to stop vacuuming. But I didn’t. I don’t want to remember it. It was horrible. She looked horrible. I’m still sorting through my feelings about that – my heartbreak not only at her pain, but at the fact that her outer beauty had been so distorted – but I do know that I’m not keen to revisit them. I wouldn’t have shared the picture, anyway, so.

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    Heather June 15, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Wow. Allergic reactions are so scary. Glad she is on the mend now.

    Merrily Down the Stream June 15, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    Glad she is on the mend. I do the same things – when things seem so out of control I must control the mess in the house and I mean RIGHT NOW! xoxox to you all.

    Sarah June 15, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    I'm glad to hear she is doing better. That is horrible!

    My 10yr old got bit or stung by something on his foot and the same thing happened. Overnight his foot blew up like a balloon. We gave him benedryl and it did take a few days to get better.

    Dana June 15, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    I think I would have done the same thing… the vacuuming. And I would have blamed myself and became angry at myself…and my husband would probably tell me to stop acting like a crazy mother.

    I hate that they think we're insane because we worry.

    Isn't that what mothers do?

    I'm so glad she will be fine. SO GLAD.

    Here's hoping that you will be fine again, too.


    Jessica June 15, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    Ben's excuse was perfect, and I see you've gotten a lot of support here. Once again, I commend you for your honesty and boldness. You. Are. Amazing. I bow to you.

    flutter June 16, 2009 at 12:24 am

    Oh, poor little thing!

    Alli Worthington {@alliworthington} June 16, 2009 at 12:30 am

    One of my boys swells up with every mosquito bite, have to been antihistamines handy.

    I've taken him in with a leg that was lumpy and huge from two bites that swelled over night.

    Doctor said it happens to lots of kids and to stop beating myself up over it. I said, "I am a Mom, that is what I do!"

    On a brighter note, I passed Cooter's yesterday and laughed out loud as I pictured you hanging out of the General Lee in those wonderful pictures from BlissDom.

    If that doesn't make you laugh, I don't know what will! :)

    ewe are here June 16, 2009 at 3:25 am

    I would have come home and cleaned the house if any of my children had had an allergic reaction to a mysterious bug.

    I probably would have waited a bit before taking my child in, too, much like you because I think most of us would have waited…. UNLESS I KNEW it was a bee/wasp etc., because my sister was horribly allergic and they would trigger asthma attacks from h*ll in her. Otherwise, I'm sure I would have watied 'to see'…

    Please don't beat yourself up… she's going to be fine. You're going to be fine… it's just one of those things that happens.

    Mommy Cracked June 16, 2009 at 4:10 am

    I'm glad she is ok. I know that was scary. Darn kids…why they don't come with instruction manuals I'll nevah understand!


    Karen MEG June 16, 2009 at 7:56 am

    I'm glad that she's taking the treatment well … kids, they're always throwing curveballs at us! Cuts, bites, scrapes of childhood, and we never know which ones are the serious ones. I don't blame you for not wanting to see your baby's face like that again. I freak out when I see a little rash every so often.

    I hope YOU'RE feeling okay after all that… there was no way you could have known she'd have that reaction. That's the thing about allergies, unfortunately you don't know you have them until something like this happens.

    Anonymous June 16, 2009 at 8:34 am

    I am allergic to bees/wasps and always carry benedryl with me. I'm really nervous that my son will have a similar reaction, but haven't bought toddler benedryl yet – but I will, esp now that it is summer. Allergic reactions are scary and unknown things wrong with sweet child are scarier. . .

    @anon nr the top – I don't mean to nitpick you, but you mentioned that the baby who got measles was 10 mo old & got the disease because the parent refused vaccination. I assume that the parents were American = if so, the measles vaccine in this country is part of the MMR which is not given to children until they are 12-15 months. If fact per the CDC the MMR CANNOT be given to a child fewer than 12 months. Thus, the parental attitudes about vaccinations are neither here nor there. Any child can get a disease when they are pre-vaccination age (or when they are only partially vaccinated if it's a "series" immunization like Hib). I only mention this b/c the post (maybe npr?) made it sound like the parents' "fault", and I'm sure the mom feels horribly enough about what happened.

    Divawrites June 16, 2009 at 9:14 am

    Maybe vacuuming wasn't so silly-check the dust compartment. Maybe the critter is in there.

    And I feel for you. When my daughter broke her leg in 2 places when she was 2 1/2, I sent my husband out to buy 2nd hand sweats that I could chop off at the knee so that she would have something warm to wear (we were heading into October in Ontario and it gets chilly) I crocheted a toe sock for her…and then fell completely to pieces when I turned around one day and saw her standing on her little pink cast-on top of hte step stool in the kitchen trying to reach something.

    Give yourself a break. Moms can't fall apart in a crisis-it's not in our contract. We do whatever we need to do to stay focussed and calm until the crisis passes. We all do weird things to get through because we have to.

    Hugs all around.

    Anonymous June 16, 2009 at 10:45 am

    So sorry for little E. Hope she's feeling better soon.

    My daughter (and my Mom) have that kind of reaction to the first few bug bites of the year, after that it doesn't affect them as much.

    And hey, how come you don't have Telehealth Ontario on speed dial? I've called them SO MANY TIMES since Zoe was little. I love that we have that service available to us, we use it as to tell us what to take seriously (trip to ER) and what to not worry about (24 hr Shoppers Drugmart run).

    I love Canadian bloggers – they understand my language!

    Her Bad Mother June 16, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Anon – we do have TeleHealth on speed dial, but we don't dial it much anymore because they ALWAYS tell us to go to emerg. EVERY SINGLE TIME. So we wade through the call with all the same questions and then they say, 'you should take her/him to the closest emergency.' So, yeah. We sometimes just cut out the middle man.

    Amy June 16, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Sorry if I'm repeating anyone else. My daughter has BAD reactions to mosquito bites. We're an allergic family (seasonal, pet, food) and already see an allergist regularly. She put my daughter on Zyrtec for spring/summer, as it has better protection for mosquito bites than other antihistamines. Don't know if it applies to other insects, but it's worth questioning the doctor.

    It is scary to see a reaction like that. Glad to hear that E will be fine!

    Amy June 16, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Forgot to mention that she has to take the Zyrtec daily. It already has to be in her system when she gets the bite or it doesn't have the same benefit of keeping the reaction down.

    coolteamblt June 16, 2009 at 11:35 am

    I know how that internal reaction is. When I was in high school, my sister, mother and I were living in Colorado, and my dad had just been transferred to Montana. It was really hard on all of us, and we were trying to sell the house and join him. One night, we had sat down to dinner and my dad's boss called. My dad had collapsed on the sidewalk from a heart attack. They had managed to revive him, but he was in a bad way and was awaiting open heart surgery. I took my mom's credit card, bought the next plane tickets, called my sister into school and my mother and I into work, found a house sitter, and then locked myself in the bathroom and scrubbed it for the next two hours. Because my dad is a neat freak and he would be so upset if he knew I'd let some soap scum accumulate on the shower, or toothpaste gum up the sink. I mean, he was fine, but I know the cleaning to keep yourself from losing it.

    I'm glad Emilia's fine!

    anniemom June 16, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Oh my gah, been there, done that. It's a horrible, dreadful feeling, and my reaction at that time (and others) was similar. Almost like I took a Valium and then started to clean something in the interim… so bizarre. The thought that something is happening to my child and the inability to fix it while we get help… the terror… poor baby Amelia! Poor HBM. Kisses to you all. xo.

    Avonlea June 16, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    I'm glad to hear that Emilia is getting better.
    I can identify with many of the feelings you wrote about. Guilt over not taking child to ER sooner? Check. We did the "wait and see" the evening when our little guy had a sore arm and told us one of the teachers at daycare had hurt his arm. Even though "nursemaid's elbow" popped into my head, I went along with my husband's thought to wait. Took our little guy to the ER the next morning and, sure enough it was a dislocated elbow/nursemaid's elbow. When telling the story, I usually gloss over the fact that we didn't get him to the ER until the next morning.

    Also, not wanting to remember how horrible my baby looked with a picture? Check. Though in my case it was a very different situation. When our little guy was in the NICU (and the doctors were readying us for us to lose him), we refused to take pictures of him. We had 2.5 weeks of newborn pics from before and…if the worst happened…we didn't want to remember him swollen from the steroids, with IVs in his skull, a central line in his leg, him in a medically induced coma with a machine breathing for him…Egads. That image is burned into my brain anyway. (Thank the gods, we had a miracle, and you cannot tell now how truly sick he was then.)

    Sorry for the book.

    Carly June 16, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    That is SO eerie, because exactly the same thing happened to us and our 3-year-old yesterday morning:

    There must be something in this Durham Region air, I tell you.

    I took photos, though. I didn't vacuum, but I took pics. We're calling her Quasimodo.

    Out of all her illnesses, this one has effected me the most. I even called her home daycare today to make sure she was alright — something I never do. Probably because it's so visual, unlike a cold or something on the inside.

    Glad to hear the drugs are working with E. Lucy has still not responded to them, and she actually woke up looking worse this morning. Thankfully I was ready this time, and didn't almost scream in terror like Monday.

    Hope all is better today.

    Lorrie June 16, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    It's good you didn't take a picture. Some things don't need to be documented.

    Glad to hear that she's o.k. and don't feel bad. When my mother died…I left the hospital…went to her house…opened up all her Christmas presents, artfully arranged them under the tree, vaccuumed the fallen needles and prepared the house for company. Sometimes that's all we can do.

    Kristen McD June 16, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    A little bit (like a tablespoon) of bleach in her bath water for the next few days will help disinfect the bite too. (((HUGS)))

    I bake pies, when the out-of-my-control happens.

    Cloud June 16, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    For the anons discussing the measles case- I live in San Diego. Here is what actually happened:

    A family who chooses not to vaccinate visited Switzerland (which also has a lot of people who choose not to vaccinate) and their kids got the measles. They didn't show symptoms until they returned (measles has a fairly long incubation period). The outbreak spread from this initial family to several others, including two babies who were too young to have been vaccinated (first MMR is usually at 12 months).

    If you have never seen a picture of a child with measles, you should go find one using Google. I can completely understand that mother's reaction of not wanting to remember her child looking like that, because it looks painful, and who wants to remember their child in pain?

    As a side note, my daughter was 11 months old at the time, and the outbreak was spreading close to our neighborhood. We were very nervous. Measles has a mortality rate of something like 1 in 1000. It was the most helpless I've felt as a mother, because there wasn't much I could do to protect her. We got her vaccinated on schedule (we were planning to do that anyway), but it was a tense month.

    Suzie June 16, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    My little 4 yr old has trouble with bug bites too poor thing!

    Last time it was his ear… looked like Dumbo, poor guy. It was back to normal in two days, thank goodness! :)

    Tara June 16, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    But when you got home from the hospital and everything was ok, you came home to a house with a clean floor, which would be comforting. It's always nice to come home to clean. Especially after something traumatic.

    I know that's not the point of your post.

    Meli June 16, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    Aw poor baby. I am glad that she is going to be OK.

    Mrs. Schmitty June 16, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    I'm glad she's okay. The same thing happened to my daughter last year. Swelled her eye completely shut.

    P.S. I clean when I'm upset too, it's usually folding laundry.

    Bea June 16, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    Of course you hated to see her looking that way, but I don't think that's about aesthetics, about her looking unattractive. Isn't it because she looked endangered?

    Elda - Peace in the Storm June 17, 2009 at 12:34 am

    The important thing is that she is okay and that you DID take her to receive medical attention.

    It could have been ANYTHING. If my kids get stung by mosquitoes their faces swell up like crazy. MOSQUITOES! Just about everyone deals with them, but leave it to my kids to get an allergic reaction.

    Despite what your blog name says, you're not a bad mother.

    Her Bad Mother June 17, 2009 at 8:29 am

    Bea – yes, I think that it was because she looked endangered. But there was the fleeting, terrible thought of 'what if she stays this way? what if this disfigures her?'

    Which, yuck. Yuck to the feeling and yuck to the fear.

    Jaelithe June 17, 2009 at 9:49 am

    Hey, I felt terrible about giving my son a scar on his face when he had to have a (benign) tumor removed as a baby. This thing was a millimeter from his BRAIN and I still had room in my heart stuffed full of worry to worry about the look of the scar.

    I struggled with what I initially perceived as shallowness and vanity on my part, but then I realized — It's not that I would love him any less with ANY kind of scar. I think it was two things: one, I knew a very noticeable scar might cause people to constantly ask him what it was from, which might make him uncomfortable. I didn't want people to see a scar as the most noticeable thing about him. Two, I knew a big scar would be ugly to me as a reminder of his injury. As a reminder that my child had been in pain.

    (Anyway, these days you can hardly see the scar. But I've told him to tell anyone who asks about it that he got it in a battle with an evil wizard just like Harry Potter.)

    Meg June 17, 2009 at 10:53 am

    I think we've all been there. On the day of my daughter's 2nd birthday she came up with what looked like a bug bite in her groin area. It was red and hard and had what looked like a little head on it, but I ignored it because I didn't want her to miss her birthday party. My mother, sister, and husband were all concerned, but The Birthday Party!

    The next day we wound up in the ER getting boil lanced…she had MRSA, the horrible staph infection that the media was sensationaling at the time. I couldn't stop crying. I had let it get to that point because of a damn party.

    So I totally understand. Chances are that she will never even remember it. Kids are so forgiving like that.

    Betsey Booms June 17, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    So glad she's going to be okay.

    Those kids, love to have weird things that scare the crud out of us.

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