There are things that I know because of my job that, I feel, make me a better (or at least more informed) parent. I have a firm grasp of typical and atypical motor development. I've tried out numerous toys and play activities with kids of all ages. Working with kids for the past 10 years has given me LOTS of practice in setting limits and curbing negative behaviors. I have learned the power of positive reinforcement. And I have a vast arsenal of speech/feeding therapists and physical therapists at my disposal who can share their expertise (like how to teach my daughter to drink through a straw), answer my questions (should I be concerned that my daughter stands with her feet pointing out?), and do informal play-date evaluations (so that I can relax about my infant preferring to keep her head tilted to the right.)
However, sometimes working with kids in the hospital setting can be a negative. When I was pregnant, I had the typical first-mother worries, but I also added my own know-too-much list. Am I unknowingly working with a child with CMV, exposing my unborn baby to this virus that can cause devastating developmental problems? Will my child be born with hydrocephalus? A severe cardiac defect? Spina bifida? Will she suffer an in utero stroke or be born with any number of genetic disorders? I looked for early signs of interaction and language development to determine whether or not my healthy infant would have autism. I have my know-too-much list for Staley as she grows up: Helmets. Carseats. Pool safety. Absolutely no 4-wheelers.
And now Staley is sick. She has a fever and a wet, barking cough. And I can't help but think about the kids I've seen in the hospital--normal developing, healthy kids who have a fever or a cough and then BAM! Seizures. Respiratory failure. An unassuming virus that, for unknown reasons, attacks the brain. (See. I'm freaking you out now too, right?) I know that what I see at work is the worst-case scenario, not the norm. But it doesn't stop me from worrying. From having a movement monitor. From consistently making sure that my daughter is still breathing while she sleeps. From watching for signs of seizures or altered mental status or breathing difficulties or cyanosis. From thanking God every single day for her health and for her development. I hate that Staley doesn't feel well. It's hard for me to hear her hoarse cry or see her flushed cheeks and glassy eyes. I just want to make it all better. And if I can't, I want to at least think rationally and know that childhood illness is normal and that she will be fine in a day or two.