The phone rang and when I saw the daycare provider’s name pop up on the screen my heart skipped a beat. She never calls. I mean, she only ever calls if it’s a dire emergency, which is never. I’ve gone to pick up the kids only to find one of them with almost a black eye and any explanation is always accompanied with a dismissive wave of the hand.
So, when they call, I know it’s going to be bad.
Today it was about Little L.
“She went down fine, but then she coughed so much we went in to check on her. She was just sitting there. And now she won’t sleep.”
“Is she still coughing?”
“Yeah, she can’t seem to stop. We gave her some of her medicine around two and it didn’t help at all.”
“Is she wheezing?”
“Yeah, it sounds pretty bad.”
They never call. Little L coughs and wheezes all the time and yet they never call.
I dropped everything and told her I was on my way; that I’d call the pediatrician on the way to get an emergency appointment. And then I took what felt like the longest drive in the world.
The daycare is all of 15 minutes away, plenty of time for me to imagine the absolute worst. It’s been a sad couple of weeks online and two dead babies is two dead babies too many and causes a mother to instantly jump to terrible dark places.
What if this is it? What if this is the really bad attack that lands us in the hospital? What did she mean ‘she was just sitting there?’ Is she lethargic? Lethargic is bad, really, really bad. Oh God. My baby, my baby is having trouble breathing. Why is this guy driving so damn slow? Doesn’t he realize I’m in a hurry?
I have to get there. I have to see for myself. I bet she’s fine. That’s it. She’s fine. They’re overreacting. Ha, I bet she even fell asleep while I was getting there. No, no, she wouldn’t have, they’d have called me. OK. I bet she’s playing and having a grand old time. Yeah. That’s it. Or not. Maybe she’s not fine and she’s sitting there, waiting for me, struggling to breathe. Oh God, why can’t this guy drive any faster?
My mind raced much faster than my car, but I finally pulled into the driveway and threw the car into park. I took a deep breath to try to settle myself and I climbed out. As soon as I walked into the door I heard her voice. My baby’s chipper happy voice. And then her laugh.
I almost cried. Little girls who are struggling for breath and are suffering from low oxygen saturation levels do not laugh. They do not talk. She saw me just as I walked into the room and she called out gleefully “MAMA!” and ran to greet me.
My eyes met those of the daycare provider as I scooped her up and held her tight, tight, tight. She just shrugged and I echoed her gesture. Little L was fine, very congested and rattly sounding, but fine. Not struggling, not lethargic. Just fine.
I took her home and tucked her in for her nap, and as she drifted away I stood over her crib and watched her sleep, saying a silent thank you that our incident was ending like this, and not any other way.