Does first fever count as a developmental milestone? Or is it simply a rite of passage? Either way, it signifies to me that Peter’s immune system is doing its job, employing its nonspecific defenses to fight off an infection and (hopefully) developing an immunological memory that will prevent this same virus from ever infecting my son again.
I have been taking Peter out more recently, intentionally trying to expose him to some germs before he starts daycare in the fall. I let Peter crawl in the lawn, chew on toys at playgroup, and even touch the handle of the shopping cart at the grocery store. (If you’re a mother of a micropreemie, you understand how much courage this takes.) All this permissiveness caught up with Peter last Sunday, though, when he spiked a fever of 101 degrees (axillary reading). Son and I took Peter to see the on-call pediatrician, but she couldn’t find anything wrong with him other than a slight wheeze. Happily, the wheeze did not escalate to anything resembling respiratory distress syndrome, and Peter’s fever resolved by Tuesday. On Thursday, a rash appeared on Peter’s face and trunk, confirming to me that my baby had, in fact, fought off a viral infection all by himself.
(If you’re rolling your eyes at this point, I don’t blame you. The fever was not so much an achievement for Peter as it was a milestone for me as a protective mother.)
Now that Peter is well on his way to developing a formidable adaptive immunity, I’m ready to start interviewing prospective child care providers. I found three local family child care providers who will have space for Peter this fall. Peter and I toured one home on Thursday, and we will meet with the other two providers next week. At this point, I’m tempted to just place Peter with the provider caring for the fewest kids (= germ incubators); I’ve heard far too many stories of preemies who were healthy throughout their first winter quarantined at home but were hospitalized with RSV shortly after they started daycare.
But when I set aside my anxieties and take a step back, I see how fortunate I am. First, because Peter did not develop any serious nosocomial infections while he was in the NICU. Second, because I was able to stay home with Peter through his first winter. Third, because Peter is developmentally on-track and has avoided readmission to the hospital so far. And finally, because I have a wonderful husband who purchased and installed a new air conditioner when my baby spiked a fever on a warm Memorial Day weekend.
Here are a couple more milestones for the baby book: Peter started pulling himself to stand a couple weeks ago, and he weighed 16 lbs, 15 oz on 5/29. He met bà Củc (Son’s mother) for the first time today via the magic of Skype, and he is employing his new pincer grasp to steal food off my dinner plate. So much mischief.