One of the hardest things about parenting for me to get comfortable with is treating Garrison when he’s sick. With an adult, or even an older child, they can tell you what’s hurting, how badly, how long, and maybe even what might have caused it.

With an baby, all you have to go on is your own experience, and what you can deduce from the baby’s behavior. Do they have a fever? Are they pale or flushed? Do certain actions (diaper changing; feeding; walking; crawling) seem to bother them more than others? Then, from that limited and often fragmentary information, you have to decide if they actually have a medical problem, how bad it might be, and whether or not to seek medical attention.

If you choose not to seek medical attention, then you may be left wondering if you’ve chosen the right course of action. After all, they can’t really disagree with your decision, because they don’t even know a decision has been made, much less that you made it for them.

In short, you’re left making serious decisions in a field that is hardly your specialty; with, at best, limited and fragmentary information; consultation with peers who likely know no more than you do; and little to no feedback.

A couple of nights ago, Garrison woke up screaming in the middle of the night. That, in and of itself, wasn’t unusual because he always wakes up screaming. When Sarah went to get him, she discovered that he was burning up with a fever. So, she got some infant acetaminophen into him. At that point, I got up to find out what all the extended screaming was about, and volunteered to take the first shift keeping an eye on him. We stripped him down to his diaper, pulled out a mattress onto the floor, and he and I curled up together on it.

We hadn’t been lying there for more than a minute when he vomited up all the medicine and whatever else was in his stomach. That was highly unusual. We decided to take a wait and see approach since his fever wasn’t dangerously high, and he’d be sleeping with one or the other of us the rest of the night so if he vomited again, we’d know about it right away and could reevaluate our decisions.

In the morning, his fever was still present, so we gave him some ibuprofen with his breakfast. Ibuprofen usually works well and quickly to reduce his fever. His temperature is often down to normal a half-hour after a dose. On Thursday, however, his fever stubbornly stuck around. Sarah went to work and I stayed home with Garrison since he couldn’t go to daycare with a fever and he was really clingy and unhappy. Every three hours I administered alternating doses of ibuprofen and acetaminophen and, eventually, his temperature came down.

That night we gave him a dose of ibuprofen before putting him to bed and hoped for the best.

Around 01:15 in the morning, he woke up screaming (again, not unusual), and I went in to comfort him. After a few minutes of rocking in the rocking chair, he was sleeping, but his limbs were twitching randomly. When he was awake, I thought that I had noticed his hands shaking. Those two signs were very unusual. In addition, his fever was back and higher than before.

I woke up Sarah and we started down the problem solving tree again. Once again, we gave ibuprofen, stripped him down to his diaper, pulled out the mattress, and setup shifts to sleep with him. I took the first shift, and about a half-hour after he cuddled up against me, he was comfortably asleep.

That didn’t mean that I was comfortably asleep however. As Garrison slept peacefully next to me, I lay there wide awake and wondered if we should have done more. I was fully aware of the compromised decision making process that many people employ in the middle of the night and I worried that we had made some fundamental error or overlooked some subtle clue that might have given us some insight into why this fever was so tenacious and its root cause or that might have prompted us to seek medical attention. It was a long time before I slept.

On Friday, we finally discovered the source of his fever: teeth.

Until yesterday, Garrison still had only one tooth. Friday, a second tooth erupted from his top gums and it looks like a third will be joining us soon. With the emergence of that second tooth, Garrison’s fever disappeared and he slept comfortably (and so did we) for most of the night.

On a less medically-inclined note, I should discuss The Clapper.

Fans of 80’s television commercials will undoubtedly remember The Clapper’s earworm jingle, much to their chagrin.

My Dad gave Sarah and I a Clapper for Christmas this year. We moved it around the house a few times, trying to find a place to put it where it would do us the most good. We ended up putting it in the basement and hooking it up to a light we use when watching television.

At some point, Garrison must have noticed us clapping while we were down there, and he also must have noticed that particular light going on and off after we clapped because we noticed him staring at various lights around the house and clapping. If he’s in the basement with us, he’ll look right at the light to which the Clapper is connected and start clapping. He can’t clap loud enough to actuate the Clapper, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. In fact, he gets a little frustrated sometimes when his clapping doesn’t seem to work the same way ours does.

In a bit of cosmic justice, the day after my last post bemoaning the ugly snow we had, another five inches dropped on Madison.