Sometimes the path of the Holistic Mother is a lonely one, filled with self-doubt and confusion and exhaustion. This is especially true when your baby is sick, as mine was this past week and weekend. She had what sounded and looked like croup – AGAIN. Her cough started on Monday and worsened Tuesday and Wednesday. On those nights, she coughed so hard that it woke her up 8-9 times in the course of the night. She was hoarse and phlegmy, and when she breathed, it was fast and labored and she sounded like a sea lion.
I say that the Holistic Mama road can be lonely because, well, no one is necessarily walking beside you. You might be the only one in your family who chooses to walk this route, and when others disagree, it can feel like you’re way “out there” and even “crazy.” Okay, who am I kidding? “You” is really “me.” Four days into the croup, when things were supposed to be turning a corner, the baby developed a low-grade fever and became noticeably hot to the touch. And her cough was no better. Although her fever was only 99 degrees, it elicited panicked remarks like, “Mare! She has a fever! Maybe you should give her an aspirin or a cold towel or something.” It felt very scary for me to stick to my guns and say, “A fever is a good thing. It’s the body’s way of fighting off infection. It’s not like she’s over 101 degrees or anything, so let’s not try to discourage the fever thing, okay?”
The Holistic Mama road is also paved with self-doubt. I’m always questioning whether I am doing the right thing, or whether I even know what I’m doing. This is especially true because a) my child can’t talk yet and tell me what’s wrong; b) I’m guessing as to what the problem is – and potentially misdiagnosing; and c) because she is under 2, much of my Herbalism training is rendered useless because as Herbalists, we are taught that a baby’s liver is not mature enough to process the active constituents found in a lot of herbs. So what do you think happened on the 5th day, when the cough hadn’t abated, she had a low-grade fever, and she was still barking like a seal? Yep, I doubted myself. I thought, maybe I’m wrong, and this isn’t croup after all. Maybe it’s something more serious. I felt tempted to take her to the pediatrician, but instead, I took her to a professional Homeopath (CHC). One thing I have discovered as a natural parenting Mama is how important it is for me to have a strong support system and network of practitioners who can help me stay “holistic.” Otherwise, it’s too tempting to throw in the towel and give the baby aspirin or ibuprofen for the sake of “doing something, anything.” My homeopath observed the baby for over an hour, listened to me talk about her symptoms, and then gave the baby a dose of Pulsatilla 200C.
I took the little Apple home and noticed that she seemed “better.” She had a good nap and wasn’t coughing as much anymore, and her fever appeared to have abated. My husband and I thought we were “home free” and looked forward to a relaxing weekend. Ding ding ding! How wrong we were.
On Saturday and Sunday mornings, and during naps, the baby woke up crying and screaming, as if in terrible pain. She would arch her back so high, it seemed like she was doing a back bend. I was afraid she might break herself in half. And NOTHING we did would console her. We picked her up and bounced her, held her umpteen different ways, rocked her, kissed her, soothed her, etc.. Her screams would stop for five minutes, but then come back. She’d launch herself backwards while we were holding her, to the point where we almost dropped her a few times. And the screaming would start again. (Strangely, this only occurred while she was waking up from sleeping. During the day, you would never notice anything wrong with her – she giggled and played and laughed as normal.)
Here’s where the confusion comes in: I didn’t know what holistic home remedy to give her. So I tried all of them. At some points, it felt like I was just throwing noodles against a wall to see what stuck. At first I thought it might be teething. So I gave her a dose of Boiron’s Camilia. She calmed down for two seconds, then arched her back in pain and started crying again. So then I thought, she might have abdominal pain or discomfort. So I gave her a dose of Boiron’s Cocyntal (for colic). Again, she calmed down for a few minutes. I thought, phew. But just as I was rocking her back to sleep, along came the bloodcurdling scream and the arched back. I thought, God help me. Then I remembered I had actually written an article on “Essential Oils for Babies and Children” that contained a remedy for colic (Duh!). So I laid her down, mixed a drop of Dill essential oil with jojoba oil, and massaged her tummy in a clockwise circle. She stopped screaming and started just sniffling, and then eventually fell asleep.
Yee-ha! Success! It was about time. It was midnight on Saturday night/Sunday morning, and I went to join my husband on the couch for some night-reading. At about 2am, I crawled into bed with the baby, hoping for a blissful night’s rest and a morning of sleeping in. Again, my hopes were dashed. At 3:50am, it was more of the same. After 20 minutes of trying those same remedies I listed above, I was so exhausted, so heartsore, and feeling so helpless that I threw in the towel and started dialing. First I called up my sister-in-law, an MD and family care practitioner. Not surprisingly, she wasn’t answering at 4:10am on Sunday morning. Then I called my Homeopathic consultant. Ditto, no answer. So last I called the advice nurse at my daughter’s pediatric office. They promised to call back in 20 minutes.
I thought, I don’t think I can do 20 more minutes of watching my daughter bend herself backwards in half in extreme pain. I decided to take her into the emergency room or make an urgent care appointment if it continued. But first, I wanted to try one more thing: her symptoms reminded me of when she was a few weeks old and had reflux. Back then, she’d also arch her back and scream inconsolably in the middle of the night. So I gave her the same homeopathic remedy I gave her for reflux all those months ago: Nux Vomica 30C. Miracle of miracles, she stopped crying and started baby-babbling after five minutes. By the time the advice nurse called back, the baby was cooing and playfully trying to take the phone out of my hands while I explained her symptoms to the nurse. Ten minutes after I got off the phone, she was deeply asleep in my arms.
And that’s when the third ingredient in the Holistic Mommy’s road set in: exhaustion. A crushing, bone-deep exhaustion that had me sleeping the sleep of the dead when I was supposed to be watching the baby. Imagine my horror when I woke up late Sunday afternoon to find the baby dozing on top of me and not having any recollection of how she got there (?!). One moment I was watching her crawl around our bed, and the next moment (which was really two hours later), I was trying to sit up in a panic, wondering where she was. Thank goodness she had only conked out against me, and not fallen off the bed or injured herself in any number of ways.
I suppose I could have saved myself the exhaustion and given her some kind of baby Tylenol or pain reliever and been done with it, but like I said, I was sticking to my Holistic Mommy principles. It’s a tough road, no question about it. But last night, as I watched my baby girl sleeping so peacefully, painlessly, and cough-lessly, I couldn’t help feeling good that I didn’t cave in this time, and that I persisted until I found something that worked.
Does anyone have any Holistic Mommy war stories about “fighting the good fight” that they want to tell? Please feel free to comment here, or on my Facebook Page.