I wrote all of this out and realized that it sounded very dramatic. I should preface this by saying that we knew Ford wasn't on the brink of death or anything close but we also knew that RSV is very serious for kids under 10 weeks old. Ford's pediatrician said that 50% of all RSV cases at Ford's age ended up in the hospital for breathing treatments and monitoring.
I was only faintly aware of what RSV was when Eleanor was a newborn. I shake my head and laugh looking at back at Eleanor's babyhood because I was not concerned about germs at all. We were pretty casual about hand sanitizing guests as they held her and we even took her on a plane at 3 weeks old. We went to church with her pretty early, ate out at restaurants, etc. etc. We were crazy! But she didn't get sick until 10 months old and I just kinda assumed in the back of my mind that she was protected while I was nursing her.
As Eleanor entered toddlerhood though I soon got an education in how many germs surround kids. If someone had a cold at nursery or playgroup Eleanor would catch it. She maybe had a handful of days this past winter where she didn't have a runny nose. Ugh. And beyond watching Eleanor get sick, I saw my friends' kids come down with RSV and realized what a threat that could be.
So in the months leading up to Ford's birth I was developing my germ-free plan. We would keep Ford away from church and any major public places (restaurants, malls, etc.) for the first 6 weeks. I also kept Eleanor out of nursery for the first month and only sent her to play with friends a handful of times so as to limit the amount of germs coming in to the house. We hand sanitized like crazy and I hardly let anyone but immediate family hold Ford. But sure enough, Eleanor managed to catch bugs still (how?!!) and ended up with bronchitis, ear infections and colds. Even with doing all we could with lysol and hand sanitizer, not to mention the strict rules we had around Eleanor interacting with Ford, he still managed to get sick. And now I think it's just inevitable. If they are going to get sick then they are going to get sick. Blah.
We noticed the first signs of a cough with Ford on a family walk Thursday evening. By Friday night the cough had grown a little heartier and by Saturday afternoon we were getting concerned. Ford was clearly working harder to breath, his nose was congested making feeding more difficult and he had a strong, jarbled cough.
Saturday night was incredibly long as he was up for most of the night, clearly struggling. Even when he was sleeping, I couldn't sleep for fear of him stopping breathing. I laid in bed with my hand dangling into his bassinet so I could feel his chest rise and fall.
The constant debate was "Do we take him to the hospital??"
We didn't know at this point if he had RSV for sure or not (although we pretty much deduced that it was RSV from youtube videos). He appeared to be breathing strongly enough on his own (no retractions) but it is so easy to question yourself. If it had been a weekday we would have taken him into the doctors in a heartbeat, but with it being the middle of the night on a weekend, we just didn't know what to do. I kept praying to know if we should do an ER trip but the feeling kept coming back to "wait it out." Aaron and I tried taking turns but neither of us really slept. I breathed a big sigh of relief when the sun peaked through Sunday morning. Something about daylight makes it all feel more doable.
I talked with the on-call nurse practitioner Sunday morning and she diagnosed Ford over the phone as having RSV. She said that they had had a major spike in RSV cases these last three weeks. Her advice was to suck out Ford's stuffy nose before each feeding (yay for our Nose Frida and saline spray!), do plenty of steamy showers, use Eleanor's inhaler (from her bronchitis) every 4-6 hours, have him sleep on an elevation and track his breathing. We set an appointment for Monday morning at 8 am to go in and have him checked.
Sunday continued to be a long, rough day and I was so relieved when we made it to the doctors on Monday. I felt so much stress in carrying the burden of how Ford was doing, basing all my judgements on google searches. It was such a relief to have a professional check him over in person and tell me how they thought he was doing. Sure enough, they confirmed that it was RSV and essentially told me to keep doing the same things we had been doing. Thankfully his weight hadn't dropped so we knew he was eating enough. We set an appointment for two days later. Let's just say that between the normal newborn check-ups, Eleanor's bronchitis and ear infections and now Ford's RSV that I was getting really tired of trips to the doctors with two kids in tow. They were exhausting both physically and emotionally.
We came back two days later (Wednesday) and I felt like Ford had improved dramatically and was looking for the doctor to give us the go ahead. Ford still seemed pretty congested but it didn't seem nearly as bad as a few days before. I was pretty crushed though when the pediatrician said that we now needed to do a chest x-ray because she was hearing some wheezing with his cough and she just wanted to be sure of some things. The thought of sitting in the waiting room all over again at a different medical office was pretty frustrating, but of course, you do it because you want to make sure that everything is okay. They did a breathing treatment at the pediatricians office before we left and I could tell Ford was breathing a lot better after that, which was great.
My mom came to town for a quick 24 hour visit and she was able to watch Eleanor while I took Ford to the imaging place for a chest x-ray. I was so grateful to have her there because even though we had tons of friends asking to help, they all have cute young kids that I didn't want getting sick.
So off to the imaging place we went. At this point I was even more crazy paranoid about germs. The thought of sitting in a waiting room with my already weakened 4 week old surrounded by a bunch of potentially sick people was stressing me out beyond belief. My muscles tensed with every cough I heard. I went up and talked to the receptionist and was relieved to hear they had a separate waiting room we could sit in. Then, soon enough, we were taking Ford's xrays (he was a perfect angel through it all) and then off to home.
We had another follow up then two days later (Friday) where the pediatrician finally said that Ford had turned a major corner and was improving well enough that we would not need to return to the doctors until his 2 month old appointment. All in all, the doctor said she was really impressed with how well Ford's little body had handled the RSV. She added that most likely I had had a bad case of RSV at some point in my life and therefore passed some kind of maternal immunity on to Ford that helped him fight back against the sickness. I had had the worst cold in my life last Thanksgiving while being pregnant with Ford and wonder if maybe that was all worth it if it gave Ford a little help in dealing with his RSV now. Who knows.
The doctor that Ford would probably be congested for three more weeks. The congestion led to constant nursing struggles because he would suck in excess air from having to gasp through his mouth instead of breathing through his nose. All the air led to lots of gas pains and nursing sessions included lots of tears (his and mine) and lots of burping. I can't tell you how much of a relief it is to now finally be able to feed Ford without the stress of so much crying.
To say the whole experience was hard is an understatement. Of course, I feel extremely blessed that Ford's body handled it all so well and that we avoided the hospital. I also feel extremely blessed that RSV has been the worst that we have experienced in terms of childhood sicknesses. I know this pales in comparison to the other major stresses that parents face when their babies are born very prematurely or when their children are diagnosed with life threatening diseases. I can't imagine how exhausting that many doctor visits would be, let alone the emotional exhaustion of constantly worrying about your child's welfare. But even with our own small health trials, it all felt very hard, especially in the mix of newborn sleeplessness, postpartum hormones, adjusting to two kids, etc. etc. We made it though and thankfully Ford is doing incredibly well now.