When Ellery turned one a week and a half ago, I was relieved by the milestone we’d reached. I know the first year of life can be extremely fragile, as tiny bodies are still developing much needed defenses against the scary, dangerous things of this world. I cried a bit over the fact that my tiny baby was growing bigger and taking more steps of independence, but I breathed a sigh of relief that we’d kept her alive for a year.
On my first birthday, I had a febrile seizure. Of course I don’t remember, but I’ve been told about it. When my nephew started having febrile seizures, we learned they run in the family, so I had been preparing myself for the possibility of someday seeing one of my children have a seizure. Because my brother and sister-in-law had experienced it, I knew they happen when a child has a fever, and that they aren’t as dangerous as they look, though they are terrifying to watch.
I thought I was prepared. I wasn’t.
Last night, Ellery woke around 8:45, so when Sam went to check on her and found her to be pretty warm, we gave her some Tylenol. She’d had a low-grade fever on Friday, which spiked a bit Saturday, but had been feeling and acting normally Saturday evening. I had already spoken to her pediatrician and an advice nurse Friday and Saturday, who weren’t super concerned, so we weren’t concerned either. After giving her medicine, Sam went to rock her back to sleep. I was reading on my bed when he quickly rushed out of her room and I knew something was wrong.
When I saw her clenched fists and unmoving eyes, I knew it was a seizure. I calmly told Sam that it would be fine and called TJ and Becca. I didn’t know how serious it was and didn’t want to panic and call 911 if it wasn’t anything too worrisome. They advised us to put a cool washcloth over her head and call 911 if that would put us at ease.
I dialed 911 and handed the phone off to Sam, and took my shaking baby in my arms. And that’s when all composure and calm dissipated.
It was the most terrifying moment of my life.
If you know me, you know I’m scared of my own shadow. My overactive imagination constructs all sorts of crazy scenarios that often have me reminding Sam to check that the doors are locked so we aren’t murdered in our beds. I know what it’s like to be scared, but the fear I felt last night was more intense than anything I’ve ever experienced.
In my head, I knew Ellery would most likely be fine. I heard Becca’s words, reminding me that these seizures aren’t fatal, that they look worse than they actually are. But as I held my baby’s jerking body, and saw her clenched fists and blue eyes, staring unseeing at the ceiling, all logic and clear thought was gone. All I could think was that I could not lose my baby. She was too precious to me. I could not let her go.
I began to pray as fervently and desperately as I possibly could. Later, Sam said he thought I was speaking in tongues. And you know what? Maybe I was. Because I honestly can’t tell you exactly what I prayed, but it was something about that God is powerful and could protect my baby and stop her convulsing. Beyond that I don’t know what came out of my mouth, but I knew I was pleading with God for His mercy. It was easily the most fanatically I’ve ever prayed, so if somehow I began speaking in tongues that spoke some sort of God’s healing over my daughter, I wouldn’t be surprised.
The sound of sirens was a welcome noise, and she stopped seizing just before the firefighters arrived. I gratefully placed her in their capable hands, feeling better that she was now receiving oxygen and getting her vitals checked. I surprised myself with how calmly I answered their questions, and quickly got my shoes and sweatshirt to accompany them in the ambulance. Sam followed us in our car, for which I’m thankful because at that moment I know I wouldn’t be able to drive.
Once we arrived at the hospital they said I could carry her inside, so I picked her up and was troubled by how lethargic her body was. The paramedic assured me that was normal, since her body had just gone through an exhausting five minutes of spasms. Yes, her seizure lasted about 5 or 6 minutes. Of course it seemed like an eternity when it was happening, but after the fact I guessed it was maybe 2 minutes. After checking my phone to see what time we called my brother and 911, and how long we were on the phone, at least 5 minutes had passed, which is scary.
We arrived at the hospital around 9:15 and didn’t get home until close to 2 am. While there, they ran tests to determine the source of infection, but found nothing. I’m still nervous about that, since fevers are caused by the body trying to fight an infection. So until we know what was going on and that it isn’t anything more serious, I’m a little worried.
She cried a lot in the hospital, no doubt out of exhaustion and fear, what with the strange new place and faces, and the monitors hooked up to her chest and toe. Finally I was able to nurse her and she slept for a little while. When she woke she was groggy but smiling and acting more like herself, which was a relief to both me and Sam.
When we got home, Sam sent me to bed and helped the baby go back to sleep. I woke around 3:30, and he was still on the couch, watching TV and watching the baby monitor to make sure she was okay. I have no idea what time he finally slept himself, but I’m grateful to have a partner in this parenting business who cares so much for our daughter.
So today we are thankful. Thankful for her health, thankful for every smile she gives us, thankful for how close we live to the fire station and hospital, and thankful for the firefighters, nurses, paramedics, and doctors who helped us remain calm and cared for our baby. So if you think of it today, praise God for his mercy. We’d also love prayer that there isn't anything more serious going on, and that they’re able to figure out what caused the fever in the first place.
I'm not sure why I felt compelled to write about this. Maybe because it seemed like a pivotal moment for us as parents, and for Ellery. Part of me wants to completely forget everything and block it from my memory, but another part thinks it's important to remember what happened.
And maybe to remind myself, and whoever else is reading this, to hug your loved ones very close today.
The hospital gave her a little stuffed bear and a little stuffed elephant. They were exactly what she needed to feel comfortable and not so scared.