I was very prepared for our trip to Mexico with Bella. Knowing that we probably wouldn't be able buy anything once we arrived, I made sure we brought EVERYTHING: diapers, swim diapers, sunscreen, baby acetaminophen, pack n' play sheet, organic milk in a juice box for the two nights we would be leaving Bella with her grandparents, white noise machine, swim floaties...the list went on and on. I even went so far as to purchase Bella international travel medical insurance for the week we were gone. We would have made the Boy Scouts of America proud with our preparation.
What we weren't prepared for was the stray cat that curled up under my chair at lunch one day, unbeknownst to either Husband or me. The stray cat that ended up nipping Bella when she reached out to pet it as she stood next to my chair. The stray cat that left two tiny marks on her skin - not enough to draw blood - but enough to leave red bumps where it's teeth had made contact with her arm.
It was, in a word, terrible. I had anti-bacterial wipes in my bag (be prepared!) so we immediately cleaned the area, but I knew that rabies was a concern. We both felt sick. The doctor at the resort took a look at her arm and said she would probably be fine and that the cats were regularly checked by the health inspector. He mentioned to watch for any changes in behavior: acting fussy or more tired than usual and to look for changes in the condition of her arm. We were to seek medical assistance in the event of those things.
We walked away feeling a little better, but at the same time - how do you adequately sort out a behavior change in a foreign place? She was acting a bit different already. The vagueness of what we were looking for made me uncomfortable.
By Thursday the marks on her arm were totally gone and we felt (mostly) better. By Friday I was finally feeling that vacation feeling when Husband and I went to the resort where the wedding was being held. And by Saturday I was able to tell the story of Bella's cat bite to the other wedding guests with the sense of it being something that had happened in the past and was over.
But three of those wedding guests were physicians. And they did not have the same advice the doctor at the resort gave. I heard words like fatal, when symptoms show it's too late, you need to get her a rabies vaccination as soon as possible, if it were my kid I would seek treatment.
That word fatal clang in my head like a bell for the rest of that evening. I felt sick. Almost panicked. Why had I let it go at what the resort doctor had said? Why hasn't I made the effort to do some internet research on my own in the resort lobby? Why had I been so cavalier about this? And Bella wasn't even with me. I couldn't check on her and get a little reassurance from seeing her sweet sleeping form.
I didn't really sleep that night. I felt so helpless. We had a week from the time of exposure to get her started on the rabies vaccine, but surely it was better to get it immediately after exposure. I wanted that night, a night at a luxury beach resort, to end. I wanted to be back with Bella. I wanted to be home, taking her to the doctor. I wanted that cat bite to have never happened.
I had mentioned last week on Twitter that the hardest part of parenting for me was the sleep deprivation. That was wrong. The hardest part is that you can't stop the world. Shit will happen. You can lose your child - a sentence that pains me even to type, not to mention think. That, without a doubt, is the hardest part of parenting. The fact that there are no guarantees.
After calling our pediatrician's office during on layover in Miami on Sunday, they advised going to the ER. The ER advised waiting until Monday morning and going to urgent care. So that's what we did. After a 16-hour travel day on Sunday (getting home after midnight), we left the house before 8 AM on Monday to go to urgent care. The physician we saw was the biggest jackass I've ever encountered and he advised against the shots, but did allow me to make the decision. We went for it. After talking to the physicians at the wedding (one of whom is a pediatric hospitalist) and doing our own (terrifying) research online, it seemed the safest bet. Certainly it was the option that would allow me to sleep at night. And so she received her first two shots in what will be a series of five. I wanted to cry myself as she cried in pain from the shots. How could I put her in this position of getting all these extra shots when it was such a painful and awful thing? But how could I not? I still don't feel 100% better about the situation, but I (mostly) think it's going to be OK.
I am up before 5 AM writing this. Sleep deprivation continues after a week of particularly terrible sleep in Mexico and continued night wakings at home. But it has been put into perspective. Sleep deprivation is a just a hassle in parenting, but is nowhere near the hardest thing. Not even close.