When I was 16 I was in an auto accident and hospitalized for almost two weeks. Lots of things were broken.
When I was 17 I fell off my horse and broke my jaw and had my mouth wired shut.
And for the last 11 years I’ve, thankfully, stayed out of the doctor’s office. I may have raided my parent’s antibiotics stash over the years, but, mercifully, I’ve stayed out of the doctor’s office.
So while I did have my share of sickness and broken bones in my younger years, I must tell you, they pale in comparison to the illnesses I have lived through in my tenure as a mother.
The 64 hour labor and seven day hospital stay was only the beginning.
Sidenote: I pretty much coasted through pregnancy. Yes, there was the icky 16 weeks of nausea, but for the most part a healthy, happy pregnancy. Heck, the only reason I quite running at 33 weeks, was because I would literally have to make three bathroom stops in five miles. So I resorted to power walking, which worked out much better for my baby-bouncing-on-bladder problems.
So like I was saying, you already know how the delivery went.
Days later we were home. Bewildered, first time parents, content to be soaking in those precious moments as a family with Mr. Ryker John- loving him more each day.
Within the first 24 hours of being home, I spiked a 101+ fever and pretty much had to turn around and go right back to the doctor. They gave me a Z-pack and sent me home. Over the next couple days I began to get better.
Matt came home from the hospital with a rash. It ran up both sides of his ribcage, but didn’t bother him; so we assumed there was a simple explanation- like the hospital’s sheets/detergent. However, even after a few days at home, it still hadn’t faded one bit.
About a week later my mom left. (Hardest goodbye ever, by the way)
Cue ominous theme music.
Matt and I had no idea what we were in for next. We could call it the Symptom Showcase Showdown- in which contestants compete to see who feels the worst. Or we could call it the Mueller Mystery Plague of April 2014.
Either way, it had been about two weeks (give or take) since we were discharged from the hospital. We were new parents: drained from a hard delivery and multiple interrupted nights in the hospital and also, (if I haven’t already mentioned it) sleep-deprived. I think that’s the hardest part, by-the-way, the consistent lack of sleep. Which, coming from me- a person who can run on very little sleep- says a lot. But, it is hard to recover from anything when you’re not sleeping through the night (like you didn’t already know that). And, bless his lil heart, Ryker John was only waking up once in the middle of the night. So yes, for as hard as he was to get into this world, he was also pretty much a dream baby.
But back to our epidemic…
Strangely enough, I can remember my first episode happened on a Friday night. I woke up around midnight “on fire.” My stomach was itching like crazy and (did I already say) it felt like my whole body was on fire.
I flicked on the lights.
o.m.gee … Cue my eyes adjusting to the light and the fuzz fading from the edges. Ah! Is that me? Ah!
O.M.Gee !!! … Cue the panic
He stumbled in. Only to find me completely naked, examining the raised, size-of-dinner-plate hives, emanating in all directions from my torso. Raised red welts everywhere. Incredulous and scary- looking.
I don’t really want your skin to touch my skin kind of scary.
His eyes grew big. And then he asked an onslaught of questions: What did you eat? Where did you go? What did you touch? What did you wear? …
He ordered me into the shower, if something external had caused it that would surely help. And then he left at 1 am to go and get whatever itching/rash cream the pharmacist would recommend for a nursing mom.
It was a real treat. Make that thing #4793 on the list of things you never imagine, as you walk down the aisle in the beautiful white dress looking like a fairy princess, your husband will have to do for you.
Two days later the welt-hives had faded and were almost gone. We thought we had nailed down the culprit.
I had switched our laundry detergent that very week. It was the only thing we could come up with. So I threw out the almost-full tub I had stocked up on prior to baby’s arrival and bought the liquid gain we had been using for years. Then I rewashed all our bedding and clothes and towels etc…
Because having a new, tiny human that somehow triples your laundry wasn’t enough… and because I didn’t have enough to do and learn and google as a first time mom… and because I needed something else to keep me from ever taking a nap…
Phew. No hives at the end of 48 hours. Tonight I will blissfully NOT be woken up at midnight on fire with welt-hives and in need of a cold shower.
Or not. I woke up at 1am. And wished I had woken up at 12am because this time hives had spread everywhere, even on my face. Which confirmed all my suspicions, I am going to die.
So, in the middle of the night, like a rational sane person, I sent a most horrendous selfie to my mom.
It gets worse.
Enter Matt’s worst gastrointestinal nightmare. He hobbled in the door late the next morning from work. I knew it was bad when, my husband who doesn’t take sick days, walked in and collapsed. He said it hurt to sit. He said it hurt to stand. So he curled up in a ball and laid there. As a first time mom with everything falling apart, I had a lot of sympathy- Indeed, in my exorbitant compassion, I actually allowed him to “just lay there.”
I will spare you the details of the next 24 hours, but I will tell you that in three days he lost 11 pounds (because, yes, we weighed him).
Matt was obviously home sick the following day.
And I knew we were all really going to die when I, who sat nursing our sweet little boy with fiery, red welts all over my body, asked Matt if he could by chance grab me a burp cloth. He didn’t answer out loud, but I watched as he crawled to the closet, reached up to get the item, sank back down onto all fours and crawled back. Yes, death was imminent.
In any case, the Symptom Showcase Showdown / Mueller Mystery Plague of April 2014 caused me to scour the Internet for answers.
I consulted Google, just knowing there was at least a 95 percent chance that a severe outbreak of hives is a symptom of cancer. Because Google loves nothing more than a cancer diagnosis.
So I didn’t have liver cancer, but I was on the verge of scurvy.
Beyond that, were Matt and I’s symptoms related? They couldn’t be. They had to be… ? … Death…
So we laid in bed, dying, holding our phones, google-ing how to cure scabies, when I remember we did finally come up with one plausible condition: “we must be allergic to our own baby”…
We laughed then, but really… he was one thing that we knew without question that had changed.
At one point, we called our uncle, who legitimately is a genius doctor in Washington. He said we should definitely go to the doctor. Now. There was also talk about Matt having a parasite and me not getting it till later due to my recent Z pack and having a completely different rash/reaction.
We made separate trips to urgent care. So someone could stay home with Ryke, because clearly we were first time parents (duh) and, as such, couldn’t take him with us. So what could have been a one hour trip because a four hour venture.
Matt went first. The doctor’s conclusion: the rash would go away on its own, no big deal, also, take some probiotics for the stomach bug. She then called us later that same day and order him to be tested for a parasite (I’ll spare you the details of that procedure).
I went second. She took one look at my rash and said something to the effect of, and I quote: “Oh honey I’m so sorry. That looks terrible. And painful. It looks fungal. But the only way it could be fungal and have spread so fast is if you had full blown HIV.”
There was definitely some shock value, but sitting there I quickly dismissed the comment. I hate, hate, hate, needles. There was no way. Ever. End of story. She prescribed me aloe for my welt-hives. And told me not to take Benadryl or anything of the like.
So I went home. Back to bed. Back to Google. And laying there, her words began to haunt me. HIV? I was just in the hospital having a baby? They poked me with lots of needles. How many needles had there even been, I tried to count.
Now I will really, really never sleep. Ever again.
So I sent Matt to go buy a HIV test for me.
They cost over $50.00 by the way. And I have visual no proof, but I’m pretty sure he crawled to the car, through the store, to the counter and back to the car on all fours.
Also, I do not have AIDS. Or HIV.
But clearly, I was literally losing my ever-loving-mind.
Matt’s test results also came back. No parasite.
Eventually Matt could eat again. And keep in in his system. Four weeks later he woke up and his rash was gone.
I saw an allergist. I found out I’m severely allergic to sesame seeds and gluten. I didn’t believe him when he told me. I’ve had a stomach of rock my entire life and personally believe the gluten free fad to be unhealthy for anyone that doesn’t genuinely have celiac disease. So I made the doctor do the blood work twice. Yes, you read that right. I almost passed out both times, but I was determined to not be allergic to gluten and as such asked for the repeat test, which included drawing an additional four vials of blood. And even though I couldn’t carry my own baby out to the car after the trauma of a blood draw, sadly, the results remained the same. The doctor informed me that having a baby can do that. So I asked him if I could reverse my newfound allergies by having a second baby. He said maybe. So at least there’s that.
It literally took us a month to get better after welcoming Mr. Ryker John.
But you know what. Somewhere amidst all the hives and fire skin and fever and Google diagnosis and doctor’s visits and blood draws and midnight runs to the store for more drugs I simply stopped and stared at Ryker.
We sat together in our rocking chair, he and I. I stared down at the boy in my arms and really looked at him. He was perfect. He was fragile and helpless and beautiful. I had no idea what was happening. To Me. To Matt. No idea at all. I had no control. I couldn’t make myself better. I couldn’t protect him. But oh how I wanted to. How I needed that precious lil boy to stay healthy. And in that moment something beautiful happened. I was filled with wonder at this amazing gift the Lord had given. At the fact that God created and cast a life into being. A Soul. Entrusted to me. I remember something shifting in my heart. For the first time, I really saw the small world I held in my arms, and I celebrated the God who made him and called him good. And, in that moment, I was at peace with being his mother and him being my son.