Searching for Answers at Midnight

Dear Munchkin,

You woke up last night a little before 11 p.m., writhing in pain. Daddy and I immediately suspected an ear infection. This is your first, but we learned with Peanut’s that ear infections sometimes arise in conjunction with other illnesses, like the one you’ve been afflicted by all week.

We didn’t know what to do at first. Ear infections don’t warrant a trip to the emergency room, but you were shrieking and hitting your ear. We weren’t even sure if we should give you any pain medication. I tried asking for help on Facebook while I hugged and rocked you, offering the only comfort I could. It seemed an eternity before the first response came, though it was really only 15 minutes.

I tried the suggestions my friends offered, but they didn’t seem to do anything. Torn between wanting to focus on you and wanting to find a way to make you more comfortable, I began searching for a 24-hour nurse line, but came up empty-handed. Grasping at straws, I called the local E.R., but they only told me to call your doctor’s after-hours answering service.

I had been hesitant to do that because it was, after all, the middle of the night, and it wasn’t a proper emergency. I had hoped we could manage a resolution without having to wake up the doctor, but that’s what we did in the end. You had been hysterical for more than an hour and a half at that point, and we had tried everything we could come up with.

The doctor was clearly groggy and less than thrilled to be on the phone after midnight. But when I described your symptoms, he called in a prescription for an antibiotic right away, as well as one for numbing ear drops to relieve the pain. Ironically, by the time Daddy got back from the pharmacy, you had already settled down and gone back to sleep. Maybe some of the other methods we’d tried finally had a chance to do some good, or maybe you just wore yourself out.

It was 1 a.m. Daddy and I were worn out, too.

Munchkin, I don’t know if there is a more helpless feeling in the world than watching your child suffer and not knowing what to do. I wish I could have simply snapped my fingers and taken your pain away. In the absence of magic, I hope holding you and talking softly to you provided a measure of comfort.

I am confident, though, that even if we can’t protect you from experiencing pain, being supported and cared for as you learn how to deal with it will make you a stronger person in the end.

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