First, baby news: we took H. for his 4-month checkup last week. He weighs 15 pounds, 7 ounces, and is 25 1/2 inches tall, putting him at exactly 50% for height and weight for male infants his age. So, good news!
Also good news: his head is “perfectly round”, according to his doctor, who went on to explain that many babies spend too much time flat on their backs and develop “parallelogram-shaped heads”.
His doctor was generally pretty impressed with his roly-polyness and overall development, but NOT IMPRESSED ENOUGH. It was embarrassing, Seth and I were totally showing H. off, trying to get him to smile more and stand up and cure cancer.
It’s weird! I normally don’t really get into bragging about my kid, and I feel totally comfortable disregarding our doctor’s opinions*, but I also really, really wanted him to be impressed by H.’s development. MORE impressed. Really the only thing that could have satisfied me would have been if he had gone into the hall and yelled for all the other doctors and nurses to come CHECK OUT THE MIRACLE BABY IN EXAM ROOM THREE.
H. also got more shots. Because I had to take him for two sets of shots by myself while Seth was away, and also because I am a horrible person, I was kind of looking forward to his dad having to hold him for this round, and really understanding HOW TERRIBLE it is to hold your baby as he gets injections. But no! Instead the nurse gave him two shots and there was so little crying I actually had to ask if it had happened yet.
(Like I said, a terrible person.)
At home, H. slept for an hour or two, and then woke up, upset. There was screaming. Inconsolable screaming. We called the triage nurse at the pediatrician’s office, who tried to blow us off.
One of the weird things I have noticed about… doctor’s offices, I guess? Is how maybe they are pitched to people who are kind of frantic and concerned about stuff. So they tend to really downplay your concerns, and be very “Oh, that’s totally normal!” – whereas we are basically not very frantic or concerned people, even when our baby is screaming. (I mean, it sucked. But I didn’t start to get worried until the screaming had gone on for some time and could not be stopped by offering Magic Boob, which is entirely outside our guy’s normal range of behavior.) So for us to call, we have already considered and rejected “this is a normal response”, and also we have looked up known side effects of the pertussis vaccine on the CDC website and discussed them at length and tried to define “persistent crying” and looked up the rate of adverse reactions to this particular vaccine AND WE ARE STILL WORRIED.
But it’s very difficult to communicate this to medical types! There’s no real shorthand for “Yes, I understand that you think that I am a nervous first-time parent who calls the doctor every time my kid looks like he’s suffering from ennui, BUT THIS IS NOT THE CASE. So maybe you should actually listen to what I’m asking you and give a thoughtful response.”**
Maybe what you need is a kind of taxonomy of personality types for patients. Like you could say “Doctor, I am very concerned about this weird lump…” and they’d say “You probably bumped your head and don’t remember it.” and then you could say “Oh, I forgot to mention that I’m PERSONALITY TYPE 2A” and then the doctor would go “Holy shit! You’d better come in for an MRI.” OR you could say “I’m personality type 1c!” and the doctor would say “How did you get this number?”
Anyway – of course H. was ultimately fine. But his response to this second round of the vaccine was worse (and worse for a lot longer) than it was last time. I felt pretty bad for him, and also kind of annoyed by the anti-vaccine movement and the CDC’s response to it, YET AGAIN. See – I think it’s pretty obvious that some percentage of kids is going to have a crappy response to a vaccine. Right? And yet, because nobody wants to give the anti-vaccine people any ammunition, your doctor’s nurse and your doctor and the CDC… everybody has to downplay the odds of your kid having a really lousy day. They can’t just go “Listen, sometimes babies totally lose their shit after getting the pertussis vaccine. It happens, and honestly we don’t really know WHY “persistent crying” is a side effect, it just is. But if your baby screams for more than like two hours at a stretch, give us a call.” because some parents would take that as evidence of the autism-causing cabal at work.
HMPH HMPH HMPH! CRANKY FIRST TIME MAMA IS CRANKY.
Seth has mentioned previously that babies are basically like tubes full of potential, and that their brains come online and their DNA cracks the whip and their development tick-tocks along all by itself. It’s pretty amazing to watch. One thing that has been startling to me is that our baby doesn’t really ease himself into a new development: it’s not really a gradual thing. It’s like his brain and body work furiously at acquiring some new skill, but 90% of that work is under the surface. Until one day he gives it a try, and then BOOM! suddenly he’s a guy, for instance, who can pick up objects and explore them with his mouth. Literally from one day to the next. So that’s what he does now. Lie around and concentrate on acquiring things you dangle over him, so he can lick them. It’s pretty cool to watch.
*Not on anything big – just, like, you’re supposed to give your baby these horrible vitamin D drops that come in DEATH GRAPE flavor, and instead I found these drops that are tasteless and require literally a drop, as opposed to the shot glass full of the other stuff. And Dr. S- said that, unfortunately, these other drops were only approved by the Canadian FDA, not the American one. And he thought I should stop using them and go back to DEATH GRAPE, but instead I went home and kept right on using them, because if I had one spot in the lifeboat, it would go to the Canadians. Sorry, American FDA. I know you try.
**Of course, everybody in the world probably thinks that about themselves, “Listen, I get that everybody else is panicky and whatever, but you should take ME seriously.”