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We need a little Christmas, right this very minute

Two weeks ago, the first cough rang out into the night. Maybe that’s overly dramatic, so I’ll distill what has been going on at our house:

Archie has whooping cough and confirmed influenza, most of the rest of us had the flu, and all eleven of us are on antibiotics to protect Oliver from getting whooping cough.

It’s dangerous for newborns. I’ve been afraid of it hitting our home, but here it is. I’m thankful we caught it early so we can do everything possible to keep Oliver healthy. It’s infuriating that in the year 2012 we are still battling a disease which could be near eradication, if only…well, you know. There used to be an extremely effective vaccine, but it was abandoned in favor of a vaccine that’s not as effective. I’m not in the mood for a debate.

This was a barrel of monkeys to pick up from the pharmacy

I’m in the mood to not be sick and to not watch my newborn baby have to fight off a deadly disease for Christmas.

I get that some people have serious reactions to vaccines. In fact, Archie had an adverse reaction to the pertussis component given to him at 4 months. He never had another pertussis vaccine, which is why he is currently trapped in a bedroom, away from the bustling activity of our family, for five solid days. He can’t be near Oliver. Do you know what it’s like for a nearly-four-year-old to spend five days virtually alone?

It’s hard. We moved a TV and hooked up our old Wii so he’d have something to do. He can watch Netflix, too. We pop in on him, but try not to touch anything. We wash our hands like surgeons when we leave him. The timing is merciful, though. He will be free on Christmas morning. That’s the best gift of all.

He will continue to cough for months but will no longer be contagious. Whooping cough will be history, but the effects can last for a lifetime with weakened, scarred lungs. In case you don’t know what pertussis sounds like, here’s a recording I made of one of Archie’s coughing fits. I share it for two reasons:

1. So people know what it sounds like to aid in getting care and a diagnosis.

2. To convince people it’s not just some mere “childhood disease” that will go away with kisses and chicken noodle soup.

Be warned. It sounds awful.

Click: The Sound of Whooping Cough/Pertussis

Because of Archie’s whooping cough, the school had us pick up the older kids on Thursday. They missed their holiday parties, didn’t get to give their teachers gifts, didn’t get to say goodbye for the year. I haven’t been able to bake for friends or family because who would want baked goodies from the Kitchen in the House of Feverish Hacking? Nobody.

Christmas is under here, somewhere...


Of course we are wildly blessed that we are here. We have medical care. We have a warm house and wrapped Christmas gifts hidden from curious kiddos. There are parents in Connecticut with empty stockings hanging on mantles. They’d take two weeks of illness, eleven prescriptions for Zithromax, and mere motherly anxiety over the brutal pain of unimaginable loss.

The night of the Sandy Hook shooting, Aidan had a choir concert at her high school. The choir director lead the audience in a moment of silence. Then the concert choir (not Aidan’s) sang a song adapted from the poem “Something Told the Wild Geese” by Rachel Field. They practice for months, so there was no way to anticipate how it could be interpreted that night. They do two performances. I was unable to go to the first performance because of all the sickness. I managed to go to the second, on that horrible night. It struck me in my core:

Something Told the Wild Geese
Rachel Field

Something told the wild geese
It was time to go,
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered, “snow.”

Leaves were green and stirring,
Berries, luster-glossed,
But beneath warm feathers
Something cautioned, “frost.”

All the sagging orchards
Steamed with amber spice,
But each wild breast stiffened
At remembered ice.

Something told the wild geese
It was time to fly,
Summer sun was on their wings,
Winter in their cry

All those little ones green and stirring, with summer on their wings…

The First Day of Winter, 2012


12 comments to We need a little Christmas, right this very minute

  • NTE

    I’m sorry to hear about the sickness at your house, and very glad you have the care you need. We’re battling infections here too, and singing the praises of every antibiotic known to man. I’m glad that you will all be able to be together on Christmas morning.

    That poem was striking, and moving. I just… can’t talk about those kids, not without bawling.

    Completely off-topic, but just as a word of gratitude: your anti-spam audio file? is the easiest to decipher of any I’ve ever encountered. (Usually, I might as well be trying to translate how crickets chirp while listening to planes land.) I have to say a serious “Thank you” for that.

  • Charlotte

    I’ve been thinking of your family so much the last few days. It broke my heart listening to his cough, but it is good to know what it sounds like. I currently work for a doctor (who happens to work for Kaiser, LOL!) and I remember her asking me soon after I started if I had had a booster. They had just been told it was going to be a bad year for pertussis. I thought the article was very enlightening and helpful! I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and everyone is feeling better soon.

  • How awful. I am so sorry. I hope you all feel better soon, and there are no lasting effects. I was one of those kids who had a bad reaction to DTP too, and we delayed it for one of our kids. I hope everyone gets through this soon and without lasting effect.

  • Rachael

    I’ve been thinking about your family too as I had noticed the lack of updates. I’m so sorry whooping cough has hit your house, so horrible. Here in the UK there has been an increase in the number of babies getting it and quite a few have died, so they have begun offering the vaccine to all pregnant women between 28-38 weeks. I had mine last week so that should protect my little man when he arrives until he can be vaccinated himself. As for those babies in Newtown, I keep finding myself getting stressed and tired in the preparation for Christmas and then I think of all those families who would give anything to be dealing with the normal Christmas stresses instead of the horror they are currently living through. I hope Archie feels better soon and wish you all a blessed Christmas together as a family.

  • Oh I do hope all is better very soon. Thinking of you and praying hard.


  • Oh Archie! I’m so sad for him and that cough is terrible! Brilliant idea putting it on your blog so that folks can identify it and catch it early!

    So bummed for the other kids that missed the last day of school. I’m sure you all had fun together and made the best of it.

    That poem just slayed me.

    Merry Christmas, friend!

  • kia

    You all are on my mind with this crappy time you are going through. I am glad you have perspective on the situation compared to worst case scenarios but I would be anxious with the idea of pertussis and an infant too. Glad you are all holding up so well. Only a few more days of toddler quarantine to go.

  • yasmara

    My older son was fully immunized against pertussis and STILL got it 3 years ago because of the less effective vaccine. It can happen to anyone! My younger son had H1N1 flu at the same time & my husband was out of the country. I am so thankful the experience is a distant memory now. I hope your family is better soon.

  • How awful, just how awful. If that audio isn’t a reason for vaccinations, I don’t know what is (although I know he couldn’t get the vax, poor muffin). True confession: I couldn’t even listen to the whole thing. I burst into tears and he’s not my child. I can’t imagine what that’s like, and the poor little having to be quarantined. I will be thinking of you and your family and praying everyone is well soon. Especially poor Archie.

    My grandma told me once that all six of her kids (all under 12), plus my dad (age 13) – whose father she was engaged to – were staying at her place and they all, including the 2 year old twins, got whooping cough. She was worn right down to the ground, caring for them all. My grandpa – again, they were ENGAGED – stayed the night so that she could sleep. The party line phone lit up, with gossip. Cliff’s car was there ALL NIGHT LONG. Scandal! Poor Grandma, getting a scandal from sleeping, exhausted from all the sick kids!

  • Melanie

    So sorry to hear of Archie’s illness. Hopefully, you’ll see improvements everyday.
    May you enjoy the togetherness that Christmas morning will bring!

  • Amy

    I hope that sweet Archie is feeling better and coping with being cooped up in his room. Poor little guy. I’m sure Christmas morning will be even more special once you are reunited.

    What a beautiful poem.

  • Emily

    The year my fourth was born in November, we spent Christmas in the hospital with RSV. It stinks. It just really does, but thank God for hospitals with oxygen and respiratory therapists. Hang in there!

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