Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Baby Fever

by anna on September 19, 2008

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PREFACE
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“Honey, you know that picture we have? that’s on the wall? With the yellow Mini and all the stuffed animals? The tribute-to-E.T. one?”
“Yeah.”
“Can I–Is it OK to put that on the internet?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Because he doesn’t really look like that anymore.”
“No.”
“And they‘re having a virtual baby shower for these two bloggers that I read, who are about to have second babies. You know how sometimes people have themes and they want a bunch of people to write on them, and maybe you win a prize . . . And, more importantly, you get linked to people with more traffic . . .”shower.png
“You told me that you HATED IT when people did that multiple link thing. Where each word is another link to somebody else. None of whom you care to read, because ‘hello? you’re reading the post at hand,’ right?”
“Yeah, but–”
“Isn’t that what you said? That it was distracting and cliquey?”
“Well, I’ve tried to figure out another way to list everybody, you know without having an actual list in the middle of the post . . .”
“You said–I will quote–’I will never do that thing, where every word is a new link to another blogger! Never! And if you catch me doing it, please go ahead and shoot me, because I have officially lost it.’”
“Well, if you look carefully, I think you’ll note that I did it by the letter and/or portion of the word, not the whole word.”
“So this is a loophole, then?”
“Right.”

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I’m not really sure when he started to turn yellow. At the hospital, after we had gone through the requisite Seriously, you’re going to leave us alone with this thing? and Shouldn’t there be, I don’t know, an adult here or something? realizations, and I had eaten a feast of sushi, and we had developed a lifetime of swaddling experience in just two nights due to a host of gratuitous calls to the nurse, we were mostly just concerned with figuring out how to get the kid into the carseat. This seemed of utmost importance–the car seat–because he could easily fly out of it on the way home since THE FUCK? WE DON’T KNOW WHAT WE ARE DOING!
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So when the nurse told us he couldn’t leave until the results of his bilirubin test came back, I just had one thought, viz. “Who the fuck is Billy Ruben and why is he testing my son?” And then I promptly went back to worrying about the car seat, because the woman who had installed the base in our car had said, “Make sure not to get this part too tight, because if you stop short, you will kill him. But it needs to be tight enough.”
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And what is tight ENOUGH?! What did she say was tight ENOUGH?!
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So, then a guy, (is this Billy Ruben?, I thought) came in and told us we could go. Because although Mini had a bilirubin level of 18, this was not high enough to require him to stay in the hospital. They said something about lights, maybe we’d need lights, and I was like, “Yeah, OK,” not unlike what I do when I meet a new person and hear their name, promptly forget it, and then later think, “SHIT, I need to know that person’s name, don’t I?”
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The first pediatrician appointment went something like this:
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“Well, I think we need to have his blood tested.”
“Oh?”
“Well, how does he look to you?”
“What do you mean, how does he look? He looks like a baby! [panic]”
“He seems a little yellow.”
“What?! Yellow? They said he was OK.”
“Like I said, I think we need to get his blood tested.”
“YELLOW?!”
And so on.
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The first few days with a newborn are probably always a blur of swaddling, diapers, breastfeeding attempts, triumphs, failures, and pediatrician appointments. To that mix, we had the pleasure of adding infant blood tests. Yes. Blood tests. On an infant. Oh yeah.
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You know how they get enough blood out of an infant for a blood test? Well, neither do most phlebotomists.
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The first time we went to the blood testing facility, after wading through the biohazardous lobby, trying to guard our infant and his virgin immune system from the disease ridden and coughing sick people lined up there, they called our name, and the phlebotomist took a look at our 8 pound package and said, “I’ll be right back.” And then she went off and whispered some something to the other phlebotomist, casting nervous glances in our direction while the other guy was performing some kind of pantomime of how to draw blood from a baby’s foot for her.
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And then Mr. Right-Click announced, “We want the other guy–the one you went to to ask how to do this–send him over.” And I was glad, for the eighteen millionth time since I met him, that Mr. Right-Click is never afraid to ask for (and get) what he wants. Because I am usually very afraid to demand things from people, particularly in a public setting, with people I don’t know. But if ever there were a time to do it, it was now . . . when Mini was so tiny and helpless.
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I would learn a lot about that in those first few days–like the second time I took him to get his blood tested that week, by myself, when I would have to demand that a mother pull her toddler away from my baby’s carrier, because I didn’t want his grody toddler germs on him. And though I felt bad about it, since the kid just was curious about the baby, I knew Mini needed me to protect him. So I was demanding things for him, and not for me, and that was somehow easier.
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Still, I couldn’t save him from the bad phlebotomist we got that time, who took about 30 minutes to get the blood out of his foot. And though Mini was usually quiet during the blood tests, if not asleep, he cried this time, because she was so AWFUL at taking the blood out, and so slow, and had created a wound on the bottom of his foot, instead of just a tiny hole. So I would cry also, because in those early days especially it is like you are still connected somehow, as if there is an invisible cord running from you to the baby, and when he would cry I would cry whether I liked it or not. Because why do you insist on torturing my baby?
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Infants develop jaundice because when they come out, sometimes their livers don’t get started on processing the toxins right away. And the level of bilirubin grows and it makes them turn yellow. And that’s all it is–jaune means ‘yellow’ in French. [Insert xenophobic, anti-French joke to do with surrender and/or cowardice here.] Though it can lead to more serious problems if it’s not treated, infant jaundice is usually easily cured with ultra violet light.
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That said, try getting a baby to sit still while you blast them with ultra violet light. And try getting newborn parents to calmthefuckdown about infant jaundice.
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[singlepic=212,440,330,,right]We were able to treat Mini with light paddles designed to be loosely wrapped around him, touching his bare skin day and night. These lights were provided by our insurance company and brought to our house by a mysterious guy who, as he explained how to use the lights to us, made both of our blood run cold, and inspired a DeBeckerian fight-or-flight effort to get him out of our home as quickly as possible. We were supposed to have those lights for a week or so, just until the treatment worked on Mini. And we still have them. We have called the insurance company a million times, but nobody will come to get them–which only makes us even more creeped out about exactly who that guy was that was in our home, instructing us about bilirubin lights. Was this a new angle for serial killer victims? Did he take pity on us, and our yellow baby, and decide to target someone else? Either way, we weren’t really sleeping at the time, so we were able to keep a vigil against his eminent home invasion pretty easily.
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Mini would squirm out of his paddles constantly, because even then, he was a wiggle worm. So we would constantly be re-wrapping, and re-swaddling, and after a few days of this frustrating practice, Mr. Right-Click got out a roll of sports tape and approached Mini like he was taping up an ankle before a basketball game. After gently reminding him that this was a baby, and it was more important that he be able to breathe than that the lights stay on him perfectly, we came to an agreement about what was “good enough” as far as the light exposure went.
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After a few days, Mini started getting less yellow. And the pediatrician said, “See, he was starting to look like a banana for a few days there,” and we looked at him, and realized that, yeah, he was an awful lot cuter with a pink face, now that you mention it.
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{ 15 comments }

Ginger September 19, 2008 at 11:31 am

Ah, babies and bloodwork…my poor half sister had to have blood drawn as an infant, and they couldn’t get it out of her foot after about 1/2 an hour of trying, so where did they draw blood?
From her forehead.
Yeah, my stepmom (who is the worlds biggest worrier to begin with), almost had a nervous breakdown right there watching some guy with a needle drawing blood from her infants HEAD.

anna September 19, 2008 at 11:40 am

OMG at the head. Thank god I never had to see that! I would have fainted.

Linds September 19, 2008 at 1:06 pm

That is such a scary thing for brand new parents. My friend’s first child had jaundice, and she and the father were completely overwhemed with worry.

Glad that it cleared up so soon. :)

jenni September 19, 2008 at 3:41 pm

Our little guy had jaundice too, but never enough to need the lights. I called him JB (Jaundice Baby) for the longest time, my little yellow man.

GirlsGoneChild September 19, 2008 at 4:47 pm

Whoa! I never even knew about the lights. We were told to take Archer outside under the sun and just hang out. He had jaundice, too. The glow-worm shot is pretty effing cute. Oy. (And thank you so much for participating.) xo!

Jackie September 19, 2008 at 5:36 pm

I,too had a little yellow baby and had to take her to the hospital to have her bilirubin tested when she was 4 days old. They took about 45 minutes and she cried real tears as did Mommy and Daddy. I guess we were just lucky they could finally get enough from her foot. FOREHEAD! OMG!

Motherhood Uncensored September 19, 2008 at 7:09 pm

My 2nd turned a lovely shade of orange — fortunately my milk came in and we were able to flush his system pretty quickly. My husband has high bilirubin and I’m Asian, so between the two of us, he didn’t have much of a chance not to have it.

lisa September 19, 2008 at 7:27 pm

he looks like a mini Aurelia Borealis under those funky lights

My Buddy Mimi September 19, 2008 at 8:06 pm

I love the idea that Billy Ruben is a person. Our second baby was also a lovely shade of pumpkin.

Juliet September 20, 2008 at 6:51 am

They need to wrap a hot-pak around the baby’s heel first. If they don’t get the blood in the vial fast enough it can clot then all that work was for nothing. Most towns have “the lab,” “the other lab,” and “the lab that knows how to do infants” which begs the question of why a pediatrician ever send a newborn to any lab other than the third.

Mary Anna September 20, 2008 at 8:53 am

We never battled Billie – thank goodness. But, with Thing 1, we had the billie crystals that passed from his urine into his diaper. Imagine my surprise when I saw that in the diaper! I called the nurse helpline, and the nurse asked “Does it look like cheap drug store foundation?” When I said “yes,” she told me it was the bilirubin crystals passing – and that it was a good thing. (We got to do the whole Upper GI, Lower GI, MRI, CATscan … thing to determine why he was losing weight. Love that “failure to thrive” – love even more than Thing 2 came out punching!)

Tara September 21, 2008 at 8:24 am

Ugh, I remember when the nurses came in for our son’s “Billy Test” and thinking “Huh?” They tested him four times, and it always seemed to start just as we were all drifting off to sleep. Hearing his screams broke my heart. Luckily, he lost his yellow color when I threw in the breastfeeding towel and gave him formula.

We get to experience the 9-month blood tests at his checkup tomorrow. I’m not looking forward to that at all. I wish he was old enough to treat to an ice cream cone afterwards.

Mom101 September 21, 2008 at 4:06 pm

I still remember our DWA (doctor with attitude) looking at Sage and telling us that she was jaundiced, in this tone which indicated we were clearly total idiots for not having noticed. She finally took the baby outside to look at her again and then said, unapologetically–oh, it was just the lighting in here.

I was freaked in those 90 seconds. I can’t even imagine how you handled it.

Jenny, bloggess September 21, 2008 at 9:33 pm

I totally didn’t realize Hailey was jaundiced because I’d never hung out with babies before and thought they all looked like that. My pediatrician thought I was a dumbass. Which, in hindsight, I totally was.

blissfully caffeinated September 22, 2008 at 5:16 pm

Good ole’ Billy Rubin. I am quite familiar with that a*%hole. Both my kids wer jaundiced at birth, my firstborn staying in the NICU until she dropped below 12. Your writing brought it all back, because the first time we heard the term “bilirubin” we immediately started calling it “Billy Rubin.” Great post!

Came over from Stiletto Mom who is absolutely correct about how beautiful your blog design is. Love it!

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