Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Let's play: Who's the more neurotic parent?

If you'd asked me last week who's more neurotic about Ben's well-being, me or Dave, I would have voted for Dave. In my opinion, of course, although the facts are hard to argue with. Like: Recently, we were supposed to go on a family retreat held at a camp and Dave decided Ben shouldn't go because there were bugs and maybe a thunderstorm and the bunks were...bunks.

While Dave was there with the kids, I sent him this photo because Ben started pulling to stand and looked so cute. "Why is he standing on his toes?" Dave wanted to know. "Because he's baby," I noted.

Dave is usually a pretty chill person, and it's tempting to tease him about his hyper-caution with Ben. After the baby was born, Dave would voice worries such as, "When I put him down in the crib, his head fell back a little before his body was on the mattress, do you think that's OK?" He was just as overly concerned during my pregnancy, when he'd text reminders like "Eat salad and eggs" and I'd respond "For dinner tonight I am planning to have undercooked meat, raw eggs and unpasteurized soft cheese. Do you want me to save you some?" 

As of today, though, I'm no longer sure who's the more neurotic parent. Maybe we're tied.

The realization happened on Sunday, when I went to visit my friend Erica. Her son is in the hospital, and I brought her some therapeutic cupcakes. As we sat on the floor of her kitchen and played with Ben, she said, "What's that on his neck?" I looked. And, indeed, one side of Ben's fleshy neck was pudgier than the other. Then he moved and I could see that there was a definite blob there, like he'd swallowed a mini golf ball and it was stuck in his neck.  

My heart stopped. As Erica talked, I kept staring at Ben's neck. The lump was mostly only visible when he looked to the side. As soon as I left her house, I sat in the car and Googled on my phone. Best case scenario, it seemed, it was a cyst. The worst case is too scary to mention. 

I called our pediatrician's emergency line. The doctor on call said that given that the lump wasn't red and hot, it didn't sound infected, and I could bring the baby in on Monday. I wasn't so sure either of us could wait.

Whenever I looked at Ben all I could see was that lump. It was like he'd grown a third cheek. As he hung out in the playpen, I scrolled through pictures of him. Mostly, he just looked like he had a pudgy neck, but I realized that in one of the photos I'd put on the blog just yesterday, the lump was visible. How could I not have noticed it? I felt awful and not nearly neurotic enough.

Meanwhile, what I did spot was a big brown spider on the floor, in a corner of the kitchen. It literally was the most gigantic spider I'd ever seen outside of a zoo. I thought it was the one I'd noticed in our living room a couple of weeks before that scuttled behind a bookcase when I tried to whack it with a shoe. 

I grabbed some newspaper and WAP! WAP! WAP! Ben cracked up.

I grabbed at the spider with a couple of paper towels, averting my eyes; crumbled the paper towels, put them in a plastic bag along with some other garbage; tied the bag and tossed it in our kitchen trash. I wasn't taking chances. And then, nerves frazzled, I booked an appointment at a local pediatric urgent care center and headed out with the baby. 

"It's a cyst, filled with fluid, but you might need to head to the ER and get an ultrasound today," the doctor told me as she felt Ben's jaw. "It's pretty large."

"Is it dangerous?" I asked.

"If it gets bigger, it could impair his breathing," she said. 

Tears filled my eyes. The cyst confirmation was unnerving, even more so that the doc thought it could require an ultrasound ASAP. She told me she'd check with colleagues at the ER, and walked out. 

Ben proceeded to grab all the books on the window ledge by the exam table and giddily toss them on the floor. He was his usual self. I was not. The doctor came back, said we could wait until the next day when we visited the pediatrician and prescribed an antibiotic to ward off infection. 

On the way home, I called Dave and told him what was going on. He was freaked out. I tried to calm him down, even though I didn't feel calm. 

Back at home, something suddenly occurred to me in capital letters: WHAT IF THE SPIDER WAS A BROWN RECLUSE AND IT BIT THE BABY? 

Brown recluse spiders have venomous bites. The photos I googled all kinda-sorta resembled the spider I'd seen. Forget the fact that these spiders are not native to the Northeast, where we live. Forget the fact that Ben's lump looked nothing like the bites in photos—it wasn't hard or red, there was no telltale white spot or bite mark. 


Later on, after Dave, Max and Sabrina were home, I dug around in the garbage. 

"What are you looking for?" Dave asked. 

"Nothing," I muttered, because I didn't want to further freak him out.

I opened the plastic bag I had tied. Gingerly, I unwrapped the paper towels, dreading the sight of the spider. Only the spider wasn't there. What if it was somehow still alive and had done a Houdini escape? Was it one of those jumping spiders? Were they poisonous? I quickly shoved the little bag back into the garbage, grabbed the whole bag and brought it outside to the trash bin. Minutes later I went back out, removed the bag that may or may not have still contained the spider and put it on a shelf in the garage. Just in case it ever needed to be identified. 

Dave and I kept discussing the neck lump until the season premiere of Fear The Walking Dead came on, and we distracted ourselves with zombie gore.

At some point, Dave went up to check on Ben. "Honey, he usually sleeps with his legs tucked under him, tonight they are flat, do you think he's OK?" Dave asked, and for once I didn't think he was being ridiculous. I went upstairs and looked for myself, and Ben seemed fine. 

I slept fitfully that night. I dreamed that Ben was sitting at the edge of a table and fell over; I woke up with my arm flung out, trying to catch him. Several times, I got up to check on Ben, touch the lump and make sure it hadn't gotten any bigger or felt hot.  

First thing the next morning, Dave took the baby to the pediatrician's walk-in hour. "This doctor also thinks it's a cyst and we need an ultrasound," he said when he called. Afterward, Dave headed over to the imaging center down the street and they took the baby right away. The radiologist confirmed it was a cyst. It had likely been congenital, present since birth, but for some unknown reason it had blown up.

Later that day, the pediatrician called with the results of the imaging. The cyst wasn't just a fluid-filled sac; it had several compartments, with some tissue. That means it will likely require surgery, rather than just a drainage procedure. Any chance it was a spider bite? Nope. 

So now Ben has an appointment to see a pediatric surgeon on Wednesday and a mom and dad who stare obsessively at his neck and hope the surgery will be minimally invasive and won't cause any major discomfort. The bag of garbage that may or may not contain Houdini spider is sitting in the garage. As for me, I will not be teasing Dave anytime in the near future about being a neurotic parent. 


  1. I'm so sorry Ben has to have surgery! I'll be praying for him and for your whole family.

  2. Ugh. So stressful and scary. Sending positive thoughts for a quick, minimally invasive and totally forgettable outcome!!

    PS on a funnier note, when my second son was about 8 weeks old, my 3yo started having tics. That, coupled with a lump on his head that he informed me had been there for 54 weeks, led me to the most logical conclusion--he of course had a brain tumor. After that was ruled out by our pediatrician, she did consent to send us for a neuro consult about the tics. At the appointment, the neuro was taking the family history, and asks "any recent changes to your family situation?" as we both stare at the nursing 10wk old in my lap….

  3. Let's have this cyst scenario resolved soon. I hope all goes well with no adverse reactions or complications and that this just becomes to be a funny story to tell Ben later down the road.

    1. Ender-Chan....
      "Someday we'll look back on this and it will all seem funny" --Lyrics to "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)", written by Bruce Springsteen
      Sorry, I could not resist!! ;)
      "Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive", Raelyn

  4. So sorry Ben and you have to go through this. Sending hugs and prayers! BTW my two youngest were at the family camp as babies and toddlers and they loved it! Mario and I just did a little baby proofing in the cabin and they were fine. Hopefully next year Ben and you can go :)

  5. Ellen....
    First things first. Coming from someone who was terrified of spiders for, like, thirty-one years until I had to be the adult and overcome this Lifelong fear--this phobia--for my niece, "Amethyst". {I am now a mass murderer of the four-legged creepy crawlers!! Word of advice.... Use a Croc. Tennis shoes do not work.... Too many crevices for them to escape through!! Squish large spiders two or three times. Then once more in your hand underneath a paper towel!!}. Killing spiders can sometimes be the bravest thing that I have ever done!! Seriously. ;)
    I am sorry about Ben's cyst on his neck.... I'm sorry that he will need surgery to remove it.... I am sorry that you, Dave, Ben, Sabrina and Max are going through this.... Hugs and prayers, Friend!! ;)
    "Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive", Raelyn

    1. PS. We do not--to my knowledge--have any poisonous spiders around here!! ;)

  6. I'm sorry Brn has to have surgery for his cyst. That makes two of us who need cysts surgically removed! *hugs*

  7. I love Ben's belly! He is so adorable. Good luck re the cyst--scary, but good to get it taken care of.


Thanks for sharing!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...