The things that will never make it in the baby books and other musings from a stay at home mom

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Mellow Yellow

I handed Evan to my friend Mike for a second this weekend and in that typical way men have of blurting out what they're thinking without regard for how it will be perceived, Mike immediately said "boy, he's yellow." I assured him that Evan was not in fact turning colors, but had just finished a jar of carrots, which tend to stain his face for a little while after he eats them. But then Mike's wife Caroline chimed in to agree that (in the typical way women have of *not* saying what they're thinking if it might be viewed as offensive) she'd noticed that Evan's whole body looked yellow earlier but hadn't wanted to mention it. Sure enough, the more I look at my child, the yellower he looks to me. In fact, for the past two days, I've looked at him quite a bit. And despite not having had carrots since that night, he is still decidedly yellow.

I think as far as potential Mommy Freak Outs go, I'm really taking this one very calmly. It took me until this morning to even look up pediatric jaundice and its causes on the Internet and truthfully, I skimmed most of the info I found. I'm still reasonably confident that he's simply got too much Beta Carrotene in his system and it's turned his skin a bit orange (OK, orangey-yellow). So I cut carrots out of his diet and I'll bring it up to his pediatrician at Evan's 9 month appointment on Friday. All very calm and low key. But I know myself. By the time Friday morning's appointment rolls around, there's a pretty decent chance I'm going to have whipped myself into a frenzy, learned everything there is to know about how the body produces bilirubin and fully investigated liver transplant options just in case we need one at some point down the road.

What is it about being a parent that brings out this nuttiness in me? I'm known among my group of friends as the person to ask about pretty much any parenting topic -- odds are good I'll have the full scoop on anything from weaning to selecting the right preschool to rare childhood illnesses, even if I've never needed the information for my own kids. It helps that I'm well read and parenting topics interest me, I suppose. But in truth, the reason I know so much about so many things is that it takes almost nothing to send me completely off the deep end into a tailspin of panic over some innocuous symptom or imagined cause of my children's suffering. I'll hear a funny sounding cough or spot an odd looking mole and the Mama Bear in me instantly takes over as I jump into crisis mode, seeking out every piece of information out there on the topic as if my knowledge can protect my children from impending doom. What my friends view (I hope) as knowedgable competency is truly just a thinly veiled form of hysteria.

The Internet is a dangerous tool in such situations. You can find worst case scenarios in no time at all online, and I have a morbid fascination with such information. Give me any random childhood symptom or situation and an half an hour with a computer, and I can tell you all of the drastic ways it can end badly. Give me another 45 minutes and I'll also be able to tell you where the experts weigh in on the issue and 4 things you can try to ensure such a fate does not happen to you. For the day or week or whatever it is that I am obsessed with the topic, I will investigate every nook and cranny of it. As a result of such research, I can now authoritatively tell you the steps one must take to potty train (not that those methods guaranteed to work for every child on Earth made a lick of difference when dealing with Julia), the ways to advocate for a developmentally delayed child (unnecessary, as it turns out, because Evan was actually just a little late to roll over) and how to treat a child with Thalessemia (though in the end it was determined that Julia simply had slightly low iron levels).

Proactive parenting or just plain looniness? I'm not sure. But if you need information on parenting, from the mundane to the bizarre, I'm your woman. I think I'm probably pretty qualified to write one of those parenting magazine advice columns at this point, though I doubt that a resume that simply says "paranoid mom of 2 who tends to over react and researches zealously" will be landing me a job any time soon. I'm fairly certain I wasn't like this in my pre-Mommy days (though let's face it, I remember nearly nothing of my pre-Mommy days -- no doubt a defense mechanism on my part). But nearly 3 years into the game (4 1/2 if you count the time spent researching fertility and pregnancy), I've accepted that this is simply how I'm going to parent. This must-know-it-all, research driven approach will no doubt cause my children to hate me at some point. But hell, that was going to happen anyway, considering the fact that I condemned one of them to a life in diapers and turned the other one yellow.


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