February 16, 2011

I'm Sorry, Are You Squeamish? I Felt a Little Weak-Kneed Writing It, Too

Last night Elizabeth had earned a behavior reward, which she used to stay up late. That is what she almost always spends her rewards on, which is so pleasingly baffling to me (in the "children are so DIFFERENT---from us and from each other!" sense) because one of her other options is to have a dessert or treat, and she TURNS THAT DOWN in order to stay up an extra hour and a half. Whuh? My 5-year-old self would NEVER have passed by a treat! NEVER!

Anyway, so she was staying up late. And Paul was making salsa, and she likes to sous-chef, so she was cutting a green pepper. She's recently been allowed to start using sharp knives. Do you see where I'm going with this? She got her first cut.

Paul is...*scrunches forehead in pursuit of delicate word-choice*...a fainter. And so the first I heard of this event was a strange tone to Elizabeth's voice and then Paul was airlifting her to the bathroom, saying to me "Elizabethgotcut" as he streaked right back away from the scene. She was holding her finger in her other hand and starting to up the tone from "strange" to "screamy." She didn't want me to look at it, so I looked briefly and then asked Paul if he thought he could bring me a clean dry washcloth, which he did, backing into the bathroom holding the washcloth out blindly.

There are two things I know to do for cuts: one is to apply pressure, and the other is to elevate. But I held her finger firmly in a washcloth for the next hour and a half, and it didn't stop bleeding. I would hold it up high for awhile until my arms got sore, and then just hold it at her shoulder-height for awhile. I'd peek at it and...nope, no way are we done with the pressure and elevation. I started to wonder---do we go to the ER now? What's the ER moment for something like this? I don't want them to be like, "Oh, did she get a boo-boo? Here's a $50 bandaid, you rookie."

Paul looked it up online and in our parenting manual, and all of the answers involved closer looks at the situation than even I could tolerate taking, even if I could see past the bleeding, even if Elizabeth would have permitted such examinations without being strapped down and sedated. Finally it was OUR bedtime, so we bandaged her finger with a large piece of folded gauze and three very firm bandaids, and I guess it did stop bleeding in the night but there is no way I'm taking that bandage off for awhile.

What I kept thinking that whole time was that I STILL don't know what to do. I STILL don't know when to call the doctor about croup, and when to just use steam and cold air. I STILL don't know when it's an ear infection; I STILL can't tell the difference between a virus and bronchitis; I STILL don't know the difference between a normal skin rash and one that needs treatment. I STILL don't know when to take a child to the ER for a couple of stitches, and when to rig a bandage ten times the size of the finger tip. It's frustrating to do this job for so long and still feel like I'm in training. I mean, I realize that's normal: it's not like I think other parents have magically figured out every single thing and never have moments of uncertainty. But it's still frustrating to be sitting there at 10:00 at night, dithering about it---and to still be dithering about it the next day.

57 comments:

JCF said...

Oh, yes. These are hard questions. I tend not to jump immediately to the doctor or the ER (unless it is an OBVIOUS necessity), but tend to take a watch-and-wait approach along with some judiciously applied home remedies and Google searches. We've been fortunate enough with our three kids that we've never had anything major happen that we've needed to go the the ER, but I always have that nagging thought in the back of my mind of "what if I don't take this kid in and it turns serious and suddenly I'm that parent who is neglectful when any idiot could have seen it needed medical attention, etc."

My 7 month old currently has what looks like an ingrown fingernail with some pus under the skin surrounding the nail bed. I'm trying to clean it and care for it and keep an eye on it. I don't want to go to doctor for something minor if not necessary, but I don't want to leave it too long, and ack! I get a little stressed too...

I hope Elizabeth's finger heals quickly!

barb. said...

Fully 95% of my brain is occupied with dithering about my parental choices -- it's easy for me to find myself suddenly on the verge of an anxiety attack because WHAT IF I DID THE WRONG THING. But mostly the decision was fine, and if it wasn't, it can be changed... and the kid is always fine. Despite the dithering that I do.

The Maiden Metallurgist said...

I loved reaading this! I am expecting my first child soon- really soon- and maybe one day when the pressure is on I'll remember this and cut myself some slack.

Misty said...

I had that exact feeling today. Of not freaking knowing what I am doing at this kind of important job of growing a human being. Is this normal? Is it abnormal? Do we need medical intervention? Counseling? A stiff drink?

Everyone says parenting is hard. This is so true and absurdly not true at the same time. It's like saying the World Wars were a disagreement. True at the base, but grossly wrong in scale.

Kelly said...

Dear Swistle,
I love you. will you marry me? will you adopt me?
seriously.
really.
I HEART YOU!! your honesty is just the bomb!

and I don't know any of those answers either and I've never seen my anxiety about failure as a mother summed up so neatly in one paragraph. brilliant. I pride myself on knowing everything thanks to encyclopedia Britannica, an ex husband with a superiority complex, and google. I know everything. but I don't know any of those things either!!!
WTF!?!

you done good mama! you done good. I think the rule of thumb. oh bad word choice. is that if its not gushing blood but its still oozing blood, keep with the pressure.

heart. you.

-Kelly

Superjules said...

This is why insurance systems are so suckey. Because there are tons of people who DO KNOW. They're at the hospital or the clinic or office wanting to help you. And it really sucks that you have to weigh the options because you might end up with a huge copay for a bandaid and a pat on the head. That sucks.
Because I don't know about your specific medical provider or OTHER medical providers but *I* think one of the JOYS of being a provider is that we do know that stuff and we can help you when you need it.
I know that your post was talking about being frustrated because you feel like you SHOULD know the diff between a virus and bronchitis but I'M frustrated because our system makes people feel like they should know things like that (since insurance is expensive and a bother and limited) when I think they should be able to call upon medical experts whenever they aren't sure.

lifeofadoctorswife said...

I have nothing to offer on the parent front.

But in solidarity with Paul, I will admit that I am also a fainter and in fact felt a little woozy reading this - although you didn't use the "b" word very much or describe things in too much detail. (Thank you.)

Aoife said...

Does your health insurance have a nurse line to call? If not them, how about calling your local hospital? And then, the third choice: urgent care if it's covered under the insurance.

That's what I thought of. Urgent care is covered under my kids' insurance and I think its a great stepping stone between the ER and a regular dr visit.

Erica said...

This makes me feel so much better about my own parental dithering. If Swistle has the same problem and she has 5 children, then I shouldn't feel bad for not knowing with my 2nd child.

Also, if it helps, I always err on the side of caution. I find that I feel worse if I decide not to take my child to the doctor or ER and it turns out to be a Big Deal later. I feel like a terrible parent who essentially told her kid to "walk it off." I'd rather the doctor or hospital call me a "noob" behind my back or spend $50 on the copay and not have needed to. There's much less guilt for me that way.

That's pretty much my whole parenting philosophy, right there: Guilt Avoidance.

LoriD said...

You don't know what you don't know until you need to know and you don't, you know?

Julie said...

Do you read Julia of Here Be Hippogriffs? She said something similar just today / yesterday:

"It was one of those nights when I contemplated the fact that every adult is basically a fraud. Nothing makes me more sympathetic to people blundering around running companies or ruling nations than these times when I look around and discover that *I* am the closest thing in the room to an expert on lasers or Rhodesian Ridgebacks or head trauma." http://julia.typepad.com/julia/2011/02/dam-it.html

Only her kid had a concussion, but you know, same sentiment. Maybe it's nice to know you're not alone?

Secret Mom Thoughts said...

I still struggle with figuring out when to take them to the doctor's and when to wait it out. It sucks. Glad she is ok.

Slim said...

It's the sequel to Motherhood: You're Doing It Wrong.

M:YDIW II: Now There Are Witnesses

M.Amanda said...

I hear you. I feel like I have a handle on the bleeding issue, but I get all panicky over fevers.

It's so tricky. A little high means her body is fighting the infection like it should, but a little higher than that needs something to bring it down, and a little higher than that means HospitalNOW. But only experience tells you whether your kid's temp tends normally tends to run high or low or right at 98.6, if the thermometer you use is really accurate or off a few degrees, if you can trust the reading when she squirms a little, or how quickly she responds to medicine. If you get it wrong and the fever runs too high too long, brain damage. ACK. MY BABY COULD HAVE FREAKING BRAIN DAMAGE BECAUSE I'M AN IDIOT WHO CAN'T FIGURE OUT FEVERS.

I find comfort in something Sweets said to Booth on Bones in the episode with the smart, rich kids who went to fancy private schools and he started thinking he was failing Parker by sending him into one of those schools. Booth asked if Sweets thought he was a bad father for not stressing education more. Sweets said something like, "A bad father wouldn't agonize over it so much."

Lillowen said...

I know this was hardly the point of this post, but I'm intrigued by your system of behaviour rewards. I don't think I've ever seen you mention that before ... can you share more on that topic at some point?

Little-Bit said...

I think most of motherhood (or parenthood, but mostly motherhood) is learning What Doesn't Work. I have a ton of little You-Should-Do-This vignettes (such as, next time use a red washcloth. It helps daughters AND daddies!), but for the big things, we all are at a loss.

Karen said...

Very simply this is why I have many friends that are nurses!

Mrs. Irritation said...

I agree with everyone else. When does it get easier? When do you simply know? How did our parents, without the aid of a multitude of parenting books or Dr Google manage? Why are we so worried about looking like "that" parent who brings their kid to the ER over the smallest thing, when that tiny thing could really be a huge thing?

So many questions, I tired myself out.

I hope Elizabeth's finger is okay.

Nik-Nak said...

I'm with JCF, I tend to take the wait and see approach and use a lot of intution. For example: my 16 month old recently had a 102 fever for two and a half days. Everyone was telling me she needed to go to the doctor. I said nope, its a tooth. Sure enough a tooth popped up a few days ago.

I feel like moms and dads are just as intuitive as doctors so I bet 9 times out of 10 you DO know what to do...you just may worry that maybe it won't be the right decision at the end. Id say with five go arounds, you know a lot more than others though =)

Shari said...

And this is why I LOVE my husband. Fortunately (though not for them) most of our medical emergencies involve our dogs and not the kid, and the husband is GREAT at knowing what needs stitches and what doesn't, when we can use the hydrogen peroxide and when we need to go in for more help. It's harder with a toddler who bangs his head off the coffee table and then keeps complaining that his head hurts...simply because you ASKED if it did.
Also, I have learned recently that you can call the dr./pediatrician with easy questions and they will usually give you a sensible answer. But do not call the OB with a question or you will always end up in L&D :)

Jenny Grace said...

I'm not squeamish, and used to be a surgical assistant, and am OKAY with blood and wounds and what not, so I'm okay with this stuff, but HONESTLY, you shouldn't have to be. I agree with superjules, above. You should be ABLE to ask an expert what's going on. Y'know?

DomestiKook said...

I don't have kids, but I have had more fairly serious cuts and burns than is probably strictly necessary for one human. When I slice/chop into one of my fingers, the first thing I do is rinse it in cool water. Then I gently dry and examine it of the bleeding isn't too bad, if it IS still bleeding profusely I wrap a much folded paper towel around it and tape it firmly down. Finger cuts tend to bleed like crazy and unless the bleeding is severely profuse or you can, um, see bone then a trip to the ER isn't usually needed. At least I've never been yet.

Elsha said...

I tend toward the "wait and see" method. So usually by the time I take the kids into the doctor we're into a full blown ear infection (or whatever.)

By the way, in our house I am SO the fainter. I am DREADING the day when an injury with much blood or other disgustingness occurs. I'll probably have to make my husband come home from work and deal with it. My husband who, when he got his hand crushed under a granite slab at work one day had to drive HIMSELF (one handed) to the ER because the guy he was working with was too close to fainting to drive. I couldn't even look at the stitches without getting all woozy.

-R- said...

I think my husband and I are both ok (so far) with blood, but my husband cannot deal with vomiting AT ALL. Aargh.

I have no intuition about whether my kid is sick or not. He can have symptoms X, Y, Z and have absolutely nothing wrong with him. Or he can have the exact same symptoms and have a double ear infection. I can't figure it out! And even though my son can talk, he always says that nothing hurts, so he is no help at all.

Doing my best said...

I just remembered! Once, while I was gone, my husband let our then 7 and 9 year old boys CARVE WOOD WITH EXACTO KNIVES (*shakes head in disbelief*). Surprisingly to him, this ended up with someone bleeding (*still shaking head in disbelief at the man's surprise*). He DID take the child to the ER because of the bleeding, waited for hours, only to have the P.A. or whoever it was tell him that they don't really do stitches for that anymore, they just use thin little strips of tape to butterfuly it and/or SUPER GLUE it! And then we had to watch it to make sure it didn't get infected; it ended up being fine with the butterflying and didn't get infected. Hope that helps!
Oh, and PSA, I did just learn that if a child gets any sort of open wound on their foot (say, perhaps, a helpful older brother left a board with nails sticking out of it in the backyard and someone stepped on it, puncturing their foot through their shoe...), you ARE supposed to go in for that because there is a high danger of foot wounds getting infected.

Doing my best said...

argh, BUTTERFLY, not butterfuly....

jen(melty) said...

aw, poor girl. I can relate :)

I feel the same way as you but not to be cliche but the time that D cut his chin goofing off on some packed boxes I just took one look at him and I KNEW that was going to need stitches (and he got 5 of them, and it wasn't even bleeding that badly.) On the other hand I cut myself with a slicer at my deli job and while I probably should have gotten stitches, I didn't, and it's pretty much the same as your experience. There have been some injuries here that made me all quivery to think about, and I was do-i-or-don't-i about the ER but they turned out ok... I hope I will just KNOW in the future! If not there's always the after-hours line.. the one that will if nothing else give you validation to the ER staff "but they told me to come in!"

Mama Bub said...

Those ARE the questions. Sometimes I wish I could just have my doctor on Skype and say, listen to this cough, what do you think? Or, get some training with an otoscope so I can know when I'm going to get an antibiotic and when they're going to send me away with instructions to turn on the cool mist humidifier.

Alice said...

Doing my best's PSA is actually VERY helpful! i feel so smart from reading blogs. all these little pieces of info i file away for situations i don't yet know i need answers to.

sounds like elizabeth was quite a trooper throughout, and i know it's not very nice of me but MAN can i not help feeling a bit superior when big ol' men can't handle the sight of a little bit of blood ;-)

Bitts said...

Our ins. has the 1-800 nurse's hotline 24/7 and they know me by name there. I call them ALL THE TIME. Our ped. has one, too, and I am a big fan, but theirs is not 24/7.

I also have a close friend who is a (not my) ped., I know 2 pharmacists, PA and a nurse. So they are my emergency calls before we head to the ER.

Also, my ped. says ALWAYS get treated for croup. We are still getting it at 2.5!

Anonymous said...

I hate the feeling of not knowing what to do! A year and a half ago, my son fell and split his head open on the corner of wall (he hit right on the sharp edge where the two pieces of baseboard came together). After my first thought of "My new carpet!!!" (yes, I am ashamed to admit that), my second (more maternal thought) was "Does he need stiches?" Head wounds bleed A LOT, so I couldn't really go by that. Plus, I didn't want him to end up with a big scar on his forehead. When in doubt, I ask someone else. Our peditrician has a nurse call line, and they were very helpful. We ended up taking him to the ER, and they were able to just glue the cut back together. So, long comment short- does your pediatrician or local children's hospital have a nurse call line? I highly recommend it! I hope Elizabeth's finger is doing better!
Angela

Naomi said...

Your lack of trying to pretend you know everything and do everything right is immensely refreshing. And endearing. And very reassuring. Reason #5335353 why I love your blog.

With the "accident" kind of ruining the reward, did you let Elizabeth stay up late another night? Maybe she'll pick the treat next time!

Bird said...

3 years and 2 kids later we just had our first ER visit (and only because the pediatrician told us to go.) I find that everything is always worse at night and when I'm by myself. I'm a big fan of the nurse call line at the pediatrician's office and of asking a friend with a kid the same age. Then I worry a lot overnight and bring the kid to the doctor the next day. Once we get the hang of one viral group they start bringing home another.

The Gori Wife said...

I recently had a (benign) mole taken off, but the pigment ran really deep so it was the kind of taking-off that involved 12 stiches and a three centimeter scar. Anywho, in the wound care instructions given to me afterward, it said that if it should start to bleed again, I should hold it firmly and elevated for 20 minutes - no peaking - and then check again for bleeding. If it was still bleeding I should repeat, 20 minutes, no peaking. If it was STILL bleeding, i was to call the office. They were very particular about the no peaking during the 20 minutes. So I thought I would use that from now on as my standard.(But I only just now realized that I don't remember whether that was when I had my stiches in or after they were out, and if it was when they were in, if that would make a difference in the procedure.)(Well, still, that's the best info I have so far and I think I'll stick with it anyway.)

Omaha Mama said...

To go or not to go...is always the question. Ugh.

I drove myself to the ER last year when I cut my knuckle badly on a tin can lid. The dr. doing my stitches said he may not have gone in for this one (when I asked him) but it was good that I did because I hadn't had a tetanus in forever and he was fine with stitching it up anyway. But his point was, it didn't really NEED the stitches. So Elizabeth will probably be fine.
I read this post in wonder over the fact that your kids get to cut with a knife, good for you. My B is seven now and I haven't been brave enough to take that step. I should really start at some point.

Heather R said...

Does your pediatrician have someone on call that you can call 24 hours a day? Most pediatricians around here have that option....usually it's a nurse that calls you back and not the doctor, but they will tell you whether you really need to bring the child in or not. Also, My pediatrician's office has it worked out with one of the local hospitals that if you want to go to the ER, they will call ahead for you and make you an "appointment" with some sort of pediatric ER department so you don't have to wait! I haven't had to use it yet, but I know it's there if I need it!

I call those poor nurses ALL THE TIME! I have apologized and they always say that they wouldn't have a job if it weren't for parents like me! I remember my daughter biting her tongue one time and wondering if she needed stitches because it bled for a very long time. It turned out she didn't, but there are different rules for the tongue than other parts of the body.

I remember something about needing to get stitches within 24 hours or it's too late and you just have to let it heal the regular way. So, if you are every wondering again...make sure you call or make a decision within 24 hours (I think)

Anonymous said...

JCF,
I know you weren't really asking for advise, but I justed wanted to tell you I have 6 small children and we have had MANY slightly infected hangnails. (One of my 9 mo old twins just 3 days ago)! Anyway, we always frequently soak in warm water w/ epsom salts (fun w/ babies), and try to get the pus out. I just usually use a clipper. This seems to heal them quite quickly. If it starts to get really red or travel up the arm (w/ red streaks), then it's time to go to the dr.

Swistle, hope Elizabeth heals quickly!

Maggie said...

Was recently having this same feeling about whether or not my daughter was about to get another ear infection (at 8:00 on a Friday when the urgent care is only open miles from our house and the ER is the only other option). I felt so frustrated to be there again.

Also the fraud comment someone made earlier always resonates with my when my husband is away and it's night and the kids are asleep not worried one bit and I realize "Oh My God, I am the security here if something goes wrong - AGH" Fraud alert!

VHMPrincess said...

our DR says ONE guideline (and one of many probably depending on the cut) is that if you can down to the hamburger like tissue, you need to come in. OF COURSE, that implies that said WOUNDED child will let you inspect the would enough to clear the blood and actually see.

d e v a n said...

Thank gawd I'm not the only one.

Beth (A Mom's Life) said...

The fact that YOU still don't know makes me feel better about the fact that I still don't know!

Erin said...

THE WORST. And you know if you call the pediatrician after-hours, then they'll tell you to go to the ER. Because they HAVE TO, not because it's actually the best option.

I had a much less traumatic but similar experience this afternoon when I realized that there was blood and pus were draining from Willa's ears. And you know what the real kicker is? Since she'd been to the REGULAR doctor only a week ago and her ears and ear tubes looked clear, I CANCELLED her ear doctor appointment for yesterday. *dark cloud*

clueless but hopeful mama said...

Oy. I hate this feeling. As a panicky person, I always thought I would head to the ER at the first sign of trouble but in reality, we're wait and see-ers.

I hate the thought of going to the ER because haven't we all heard that "unnecessary" ER visits are part of our health care problem? How are we supposed to know what's "unnecessary"? And the few times we've considered heading to the ER for something kid related I freak out about MRSA or other scary abbreviations that she might catch, because she's sure to lick every surface in the joint.

OY.

StephLove said...

How is she now?

L said...

Oh poor EVERYONE. I hope Elizabeth gets a new behaviour reward...

Swistle said...

StephLove- Her bandaid fell off after school so I got another look at it, and I think it's okay: it looks like what I think of a the Standard Deep Fingertip Cut, where it IS deep and gross, and it WILL need a bandaid for quite a while---but it will likely be okay.

Aimee @ Smiling Mama said...

I have to say that this makes me feel SO MUCH better about myself. I have no idea about these things, either, and I have a 5 yo and a 13 mo. SO, maybe it is better to just realize that I may NEVER have it figured out and stop feeling badly about myself for not having it all figured out by now!

Also, because I am L-A-Z-Y, I commented the other day suggesting using e-vite so that the SITE could badger your guests about RSVPing and GUESS WHAT e-mail I got today? "I see that you received the invitation to S's birthday party. I should have mentioned that I need your RSVP as soon as possible as we only have limited spots and I'm very much hoping you and INSERT CHILD cn attend."

So, of course I RSVPed right away.

Leah said...

I don't know if this suggestion will be helpful or not, but have you thought about super gluing the cut? My son gashed his head open a couple months ago and the Dr. glued the wound shut. I'm not sure it was actually super glue, but it was something similar. You might check the first aid section at your local drug store to see if they have something like that.

Anonymous said...

I had the same thoughts in December when I cut my own hand. After the bleeding not stoping for an hour I went to urgent care. While getting stitches I asked the Nurse when to make the decision she advised me that if bleeding continues for over half hour You need medical treatment. It;s always a hard call to make

Therese said...

Thank your for your honesty and for making me feel better about myself. I am only on kid #2 but am continually surprised by what I don't know. I have to say I'm a little nervous knowing now (based on your experience) that I may never know but...I guess I'll just keep doing the best I can.

I hope Elizabeth's finger feels better soon!

Kalendi said...

I think you rock as a mother Swistle!
Shoot, I'm an adult with a husband and no kids, and I dither about that exact thing. My husband cut his finger really bad one evening and we didn't know what to do. Finally I caved and took him to the ER and what do you know he needed a tetanus shot and cleansing, but no stitches. Argh! and then there was the chest pains, no question there, ER at once, but it turned out to be a pulled muscle in his chest. I could go on. I think we all struggle with those decisions, do we go to the doctor, ER, will it get better on it's own.

PBJdreamer said...

Swistle,

If it is a fingertip cut, can you go get one of those plastic finger tip cover thingies? I don't know what they are called but my ex husband is an EMT and they have them.

It is like a plastic sheath for the finger to keep the bandaid on and keep it clean.

Like a finger condom...sorry that is the best I could describe it.

If it was not you I was talking to I would say to call your pharmacy first and ask if they have them in stock and in small sizes.

But I know you hate phone calls.

Can Paul call?

Good luck whatever you do. My sister is a nurse so between her and my ex I have two people to call and BUG about what to do!!

that is all

JEN said...

Yes, yes, yes!
It that bad cough allergies? Pneumonia? Typhoid? TB? etc?

I'm extremely medically astute and I suffer through this with my child despite that.

Tara said...

This is one of those situations where I would be SO THANKFUL that my pediatrician's office has a nurse on call 24/7 to answer just such questions. I've only used this service a few times, but it's so helpful to know it's there.

Yeah, parenting is so awesome. It's like facing pop quizzes at the worst possible moment, every single day, except no one ever taught you the material first. *sigh*

SIL Anna said...

I love LOVE LOVE hearing this from someone so experienced. You make me feel better!

I had no idea our daughter had a double ear infection until we took her in for something else! When she busted out in a crazy awful looking rash this weekend I was like HOLY @#$% WHAT IS THAT?!

Your brother calmly looks things up in our "What To Do When Your Child Is Sick" book. I'm on the phone to the nurse line in a hot minute.

1hottiredmama said...

Elizabeth needs a do-over! Poor child had to spend her reward bleeding and having her arm held up in the air. I feel so bad for her.

Carol Saha said...

Two things for a cut to avoid a trip to the doctor. Butterfly bandages, they are like using a bandaid to hold the wound closed. And geranium essential oil. Not only is the oil antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, so it's better than neosporin to prevent infection but it magically stitches a wound closed.
And my daughter is 30 and calls me from 500 miles away to see if I think she should go to the er for her cough and have no idea what to tell her. Wait and see is about as good as it gets.