Two Minutes

“What’s with the rocks?”

“Do you have a few minutes? Pick a rock and I’ll tell you a story . . .”

Rock #1 red:

On a lovely spring evening in Wheaton, Illinois, Karis Joy was born full term, chubby, and perfectly healthy. A midwife handled the textbook delivery, inviting daddy Dave to cut the cord. Our obstetrician, available in case of complications, sat on the couch reading stories to our 21-month-old Danny. At 8:30 Dave settled Danny with Karis in the rocking chair and we delightedly watched his fascination as he explored the mystery of his brand new baby sister.

I cherish this winsome, joy-filled memory; the lull before a storm that was on nobody’s radar.

[However . . . Karis never passed meconium—the first stool after a baby is born.]

I put that phrase in brackets because it seemed like an “oh by the way,” hardly germane to the celebration of fingers and toes, chubbiness and baldness and bright blue eyes. [Did I really forget to mention the absence of dirty diapers when the midwife came to check up on us the next day?]

Saturday morning I felt so good that I went to a party, eager to show off our little treasure. While Karis and I reveled in the accolades of our friends, Karis started vomiting. Not just spitting up, no: this was bright yellow, with a force and trajectory unbelievable from such a small body. (There’s a reason it’s called “projectile” vomiting, a classic sign of bowel obstruction.)

On Sunday, I spiked a high fever and quickly became very ill, so ill I thought I was going to die—and hoped I would. I spent several days in the hospital.

Dave miraculously managed to track down my parents, who had just arrived in Florida from their missionary home in Guatemala. They were en route to Wheaton to attend my brother’s college graduation and his wedding a few weeks later. Mom caught the next flight to Chicago, while Dad drove north in a rental car following their planned itinerary.

IV antibiotics worked their magic. Three days in the hospital restored my life. I went home Wednesday feeling an emotional high I have not experienced before or since. I was giddy. The sky was sapphire, the grass emerald, the spring flowers and emerging leaves intoxicatingly lovely. My mother was a saint, my husband a hero, my children gorgeous, my little house a palace . . .

In my euphoria, I could not, could not, absorb the fact that something might be seriously wrong with my little daughter. She had continued “throwing up,” as Mom and Dave referred to her projectile bilious vomiting. Well, I gaily concluded, Karis must be reacting to the formula my mother had fed her while I was in the hospital. Surely once she got that out of her system her stomach would settle. At Karis’s one-week checkup the next day, I downplayed the situation, quickly agreeing with the doctor that “all babies spit up.” Mom failed to comment on the complete absence of dirty diapers. Karis had lost weight, of course, but all babies lose weight their first week of life. She still looked great, at least to me, and the doctor did not seem concerned.

[I know, I totally agree with you: it makes no sense that I was in such denial. I am a nurse, after all. Graduated with honors and all that.]

The weekend was surreal. Since I was home and well again, Mom rejoined my dad at their scheduled missionary meetings, leaving just Dave and me to clean up after Karis. She could hit objects several feet away. We kept our washing machine humming with the bedding, clothing, and even curtains Karis targeted with her “throwing up.” We scrubbed walls, floors, and furniture while we waited for her system to “settle down.”

Karis and I developed a rhythm. I figured out that if I let Karis nurse for two minutes, she promptly threw up. But if I stopped her after just one minute, she didn’t—at least, not immediately.

It is simply unbelievable that we plowed bull-headedly through that exhausting weekend without seeking medical help.

Mom and Dad arrived in Wheaton Sunday evening. Monday morning, May 16th, Dave went off to work and Dad came by take eleven-day-old Karis and me to attend my brother’s graduation from Wheaton College. Dad took one look at Karis, his first time meeting her, and said, in that Daddy-voice one daren’t disobey, “You are not going to the graduation. You are getting in your car and taking Karis straight to the nearest doctor.”

Startled into sudden, desperate clarity, I drove quickly to the nearest pediatric clinic and walked in clutching Karis and fighting tears. “My baby needs to see a doctor,” I told the receptionist, who informed me they didn’t take walk-ins. I stood there and looked at her, my voice flatly emphatic: “My baby must see a doctor now; she’s throwing up a lot.” (Almost I added, “My daddy said so.”)

Irritated, she responded, “All babies throw up. Maybe you’re not burping her properly.” I just stood there and looked at her. Finally she threw up her hands and walked to the back.

“All right, the doctor will see you. But just for a couple of minutes, because you’re interfering with the schedule of our patients.”

“Thank you. Two minutes is all we need.”

She glared at me as if I was nuts and walked us not to an examination room, but to the doctor’s office.

“So, what do you think is wrong with your baby?” he asked me sharply from the other side of his big desk.

“Doctor, in two minutes, I will show you.”

I nursed Karis while he sat drumming his fingers on the desk, his eyes fixed on the wall clock above my head. “Time’s up,” he announced.

I disengaged Karis and turned her around to face him. Right on cue, she projectile-vomited all over him, several feet away behind that big desk.

Instantly he was all action, dialing the hospital and yelling for the nurse while he swiped at the bright yellow milk dripping down his face.

I suspect Dr. White never forgot those two minutes that transformed him into our first medical ally.

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