The day before Father’s Day my husband called and told me that his family wanted to get together for dim sum the next morning under the guise of celebrating Father’s Day. Now, first, you need to know that we went out with them the weekend before for Father’s Day, and also that I hate dim sum. Don’t try to change my mind, I have my reasons and it’s awful.
But also, my husband was on call that night, so I was solo parenting our then 5 week old son, who ended up having a not so great sleeping night. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper as I packed us up and drove 90 minutes to eat food I don’t like with my in-laws. But I am not a father, so I sucked it up and went (and for my husband’s sake, kept my complaints to myself).
When we got there, my MIL immediately wanted to hold the baby, but he was taking a MUCH needed nap, so I told her no. She laughed a bit at me and then proceeded to ask again every 5 minutes until he woke up. I handed him over and even let her feed him even though that’s not something I’m wild about (I know everyone thinks this is the best part of bottle feeding, but since we failed at breastfeeding, I’ve tried to keep the feeding relationship between us. And also because then my MIL told me how to feed my child, because obviously.)
While this was all taking place, I noticed that our 2 year old niece was not feeling well. My sister-in-law went on to tell us about digestion issues she’d been having all week and that day she was doing a lot of finger sucking (her comfort maneuver), which was a pretty big red flag. Thankfully she was sitting across the table from us, so we weren’t in the zone of contagion.
After a while my sister-in-law asked to hold the baby. My gut was screaming no. She had been holding my niece for an hour, she had just gone and changed her diaper and the threat of germs was just too great. I desperately wanted to say no…but I didn’t. I didn’t because I knew that it would make my sister-in-law feel bad, but more so because I knew that my mother-in-law would mock me for being overprotective. It turns out that I potentially compromised my son’s health because I didn’t want to stand up for myself and my baby.
Two days later we got a phone call from my sister-in-law letting us know that our nieces had a relatively severe strain of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease and that they had inadvertently exposed the baby to it. The main routes of transmission are fecal-oral (you know, like after my sister-in-law changed her sick daughter’s diaper and then held my baby) or saliva, which there was plenty of with the finger sucking.
Thankfully, the incubation period has passed and Eli is fine, but for days I was a complete wreck. And more than anything else, I was and am angry at myself. My sister-in-law didn’t know her daughter was contagious, but I had a gut feeling and I ignored it. And in doing so, I put my son at risk. I was willing to let him get sick simply to avoid confrontation.
While I am thrilled that everything worked out okay, and our nieces have recovered well, I have learned a serious lesson. Ignoring my intuition is not something I’ll be doing again, no matter who is involved or who I have to stand up to.