My husband and I exchanged a worried glance as we heard our pediatrician calmly say, “I suggest you go to the hospital.”
Then she added, “and don’t stop at home.”
It was December 24th. We were new parents who, only an hour earlier, were debating whether or not to take our new baby to the doctor for what seemed like a bad cold. The worry about being “those parents” who overreacted was quickly replaced with new worry as we barreled towards the downtown Chicago children’s hospital with our baby in the backseat suffering from a case of bronchiolitis caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
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I’ve always had to travel for the holidays. My parents were wonderful about keeping Christmas morning focused on our immediate family, waking up at home with Santa gifts under the tree. But then after breakfast, we’d be packed up and on the road for at least an hour’s drive to visit relatives.
When my first baby was born, my husband and I decided we weren’t going to travel for the holidays. She was a preemie, we were recovering NICU parents, and she was only a few months old. Plus, my husband had always been a closeted Clark Griswold, and wanted to make Christmas magical for his firstborn.
Then the miraculous happened. My entire extended family was coming to me in Chicago on Christmas! In truth it wasn’t just me drawing them there, some cousins lived in the city too, but now 30-some of my relatives were going to be gathered in our city to celebrate a real “big old-fashioned family Christmas!”
My husband and I planned a casual Christmas eve dinner with friends since my family would be arriving Christmas day. I couldn’t wait to introduce our new bundle of joy to the expansive extended family she’d been blessed with, plus my three younger brothers, one even flying in from his job overseas. I imagined everyone swooning over her and pictured us bundling up and strolling downtown to take in the twinkling magic of Michigan Avenue at night.
But the day before Christmas she got sick. New parent worry kicked in and we took her to the doctor that day, assuming we were probably overreacting. A quick check-up later and we were told to go straight to the ER and, alarmingly, not to even stop at home.
Our little preemie had RSV. No visitors. No unwrapping gifts under the tree. No “big old-fashioned family Christmas”.