When you are pregnant, or thinking about having a baby, people will have plenty of things to tell you about your future . . . some of them awesome, some of them daunting:

“It’s like having your own little best friend to hang out with all the time.”
or. . .
“It will be years before you sleep for more than 6 hours at a time . . . if you’re lucky.”
or. . .
“You will have no idea how you could possibly love someone that much, but you will, and it will be awesome.”
or. . .
“Sex life, schmex life!”

Now, here’s something they never got around to telling me:

There will be times where you will be terrified out of your mind, battling an epic war of indecision in your brain, while, at the same time, having to be responsible for this little person’s well-being.

Enter Croup. Croup is when the vocal chords and larynx get inflamed, causing breathing difficulty for the child. If your kid starts coughing like a baby seal, you need to take them in to the doctor. Sometimes (and by sometimes, I mean BOTH times that Charlie has gotten Croup now) it gets bad enough that they have to give your kid a shot of steroids. The other thing you have to watch out for is something called “Stridor.” This is the name for the sound your kid makes when the croup is making it difficult for him to breathe. The nurse described it to me today as a “raspy, vibrating, inhalation” sound. If you start hearing this, take him in. (Also, sometimes taking the kid out in the cold air will clear up Stridor, but you should still probably take him in, just in case.)

Ugh. This . . . is . . . a HORRIBLE feeling. “Is that Stridor? Is he . . . stridoring? Or is it just nasal congestion? Am I being paranoid and just terrifying myself? Or do I need to take him to the emergency room? Is it blue around his mouth? Is it a shadow? IS HE GOING TOEXPLODE!?”

That’s what it feels like. It feels like your child is about to explode, and if you don’t do something, the exact right thing right now, he will explode. Or . . . maybe he won’t, and you will have gotten up in the middle of the night, put off sleep for everyone involved, and used up a lot of money and resources because what you thought was imminent explosion was actually just a little nasal congestion.
That’s the other side of the coin. “What if it’s nothing? What if an entire trip to the emergency room could be prevented by sucking the snot out of his nose with that blue thing? What if I take him in and the doctor calls me a paranoid fool and slaps me across the face?”

(Here’s a little secret: You’re probably not going to get slapped.)

In fact, if the doctor’s not a total jerk-nozzle, the worst you will get is a “Better safe than sorry!” and you will go home with a safe and (mostly) healthy kid. You may feel a little stupid, but at least you’ll know for sure that your child is fine.

Now, I am by no means an expert (like, at all) on Croup, but I think I’ve gathered some information that would have been useful early on:

1. Know where the emergency room is, so you’re not scrambling on Google Maps at 2 in the morning trying to find out which one is closest to you. This may sound like a no-brainer, but, hey, I’m just sayin.’

2. Find out if there is a nurse-on-call number for your physician/city and program it in your phone (or put it on the fridge . . . whatever works).

3. When you get ahold of the nurse on call, keep this in mind: No one is ever going to say “Pshhh, he’s fine. Don’t worry about it,” because that’s a liability issue. Now, while they won’t tell you to stay home, they may have information (such as what Stridor sounds like, or whether or not a marble can be pooped out) that will help you make your own decision. Paul thinks I use the nurse-on-call number as an excuse to have a legitimate reason to bring him in, because they never tell me, “Naw, it’s cool.” As much as I hate to admit it, he’s right.

4. On a similar note . . . listen to your gut. If your gut is feeling unsettled enough that you can’t sleep, or are setting your alarm for every 20 minutes just to make sure your kid is still breathing, quit fracking around already and just go into the ER. I dilly-dallied around all evening, looking things up on the internet, checking on Charlie, calling the nurse on call, checking on Charlie again, laying down for bed, and then finally waking everybody up for the 50th time at 2 AM after finally deciding that we do, in fact, need to take him in. Had we just gone in as soon as my gut started telling me to be really worried, I think we would have all gotten a lot more sleep that night.

5. Finally, PLEASE call your doctor before you get on the internet. The internet isTERRIFYING. The information you find is rarely consistent enough to be truly helpful, and will most likely convince you that your child has some kind of mutated extra-terrestrial alien flu.

I’m going to stop rambling now. Sick kids are scary and stressful.

If you’ve got croup stories, lemme have ‘em!