Yesterday, I had a conversation with a pediatric nurse that went something like this:
Me: "Hi, I'm calling you back about the penny that Mia swallowed last week."
Nurse: "Oh, yes, I was kind of worried about that."
Me: "Well, she's been drinking more like you said she should (and in my mind I was adding the words, because apparently the doctor's advice holds more weight than Mama's...) and she's had five bowel movements since we last spoke. I have yet to find the penny."
Nurse: "And how is she acting?"
Me: "Well, every now and then she complains of some small pain, but it doesn't stop her from playing or acting like her normal self." (Again, in my mind I am saying, You know, like fighting with her brother?)
Nurse: "I don't think you have anything to worry about. Like I said before, if she acts like she can't catch her breath or starts vomiting, then you need to take her to the emergency room because that could mean there is a blockage."
Me: "Okay, that I can do. But what about the penny? I don't need to look for it anymore, right?
Nurse: "Well, I don't see why you would need to. Dr. said that should pass within 24-48 hours."
Me: "Okay, thank you." (And in my mind I'm asking her You mean I've been dissecting my kid's poop for a week and a half now when I could have stopped after two days?! Thanks so much for waiting to tell me that.)
You can't make this stuff up, right? This is my actual life. If you're wondering how this all started, I will tell you. It was about 5:00 on Friday evening, February 1st. I had just sent the kids to the living room to play while I finished up dinner. (And I thought I had been so smart to have them help me as much as possible first, but unfortunately, I had run out of things that they could safely do in the kitchen.) No sooner than Brett had sent me a text message letting me know he was running late (of course, wouldn't you know it?), Mia was screaming: "Mom! I swallowed a penny!!" The first thing I thought to ask her was, "What? Where did you find a penny?" (And in my head, I was wondering Why did you swallow it? Your school is saving them right now for the Red Cross, and I already gave all the pennies I could scrounge up to donate.) I know, I know, probably not the first thing I should be wondering about. Mia's response was something like, "There was a penny in the couch cushion and my mouth was open and then I shut my mouth and I swallowed it." Yeah. That makes about as much sense as my initial worry about why she would swallow a penny she could have taken to school.
Then, she was hysterical. She was crying hard and claiming that it really hurt, and the way she was clutching her chest made me worry that it might be lodged in her esophagus or something like that. I didn't want to upset her by thinking something might actually be wrong, so I just kept telling her that she needed to calm down and breathe. Then, I was trying to call Brett. No answer. I tried my mom's cell phone. No answer. My parents' house phone. No answer. So, I texted my sister-in-law. Seriously, why wasn't anybody available when I needed reassurance? A quick internet search yielded mixed results: some discussions claimed that this was not a big deal; one website in particular made it sound like a problem if the penny was minted after 1982 because of increased zinc levels or some such thing. All I could think about that was Really?! If I knew enough about this particular penny to say when it was minted, do you think it would be in my kid's gut right now? I decided to down-play it and finish dinner. Mia seemed to calm down, and it didn't seem so dire right then. I figured if she wasn't choking, turning purple, or throwing up, she was probably okay.
That night, she ate and drank a bit, and nothing came back up. I tried to convince myself that we were doing the right thing, but I still was up late with mom guilt, fretting that she might have a problem. I tried to get advice from friends who have kids. I chatted with my mother-in-law online, hoping that this had happened to Brett or one of his brother's, and it would all be okay. I was surprised to hear that nobody's kid had done something similar, but at least she made me feel like I was doing okay as a parent. I agreed that I would call the doctor if she was complaining of more pain in the morning.
Morning came, and I heard back from my sister-in-law whose input was to give her a Tums. I knew that wouldn't really do much, but I gave her one suggesting that it would help her tummy ache. She agreed, and thought it was yummy tasting. Then, she requested one every morning for the next few days. I finally talked to my mom, too. Her reaction was kind of extreme. (Sorry, if you are reading this, Mom, but it's true.) She thought I should call the ER. I don't think they even field phone calls. Plus, I figured if I took her there, they could only do an X-ray to locate the penny, nothing more. This seemed like something that would scare Mia and convince her that something was really wrong, so I wasn't about to do that. So, then, I lost my mind for a little bit thinking I was a lousy mom, and probably driving Brett nuts until I regained control and went back to my original plan. It helped that my friend Kim told me that her friend's husband was a pediatrician and he said Mia was fine as long as she wasn't throwing up, because that could indicate a blockage. I resolved to just find the darn penny so we could get on with our lives.
This proved to be easier said than done. I can't help but wonder if the penny was in the first small poop she had while I was taking a nap (Remember, I wore myself out with worry?), and I didn't learn about it until it was too late. It had already been flushed. I didn't get to actually investigate the poop until February 3rd, which according the this new info from the nurse, may have already been too late. Mia wasn't too sure about this, despite wanting to know that it was gone so the phantom belly aches would go away. She said to me, "This is going to be weird." I just slipped on a plastic glove and did what needed to be done, although, truthfully, I couldn't have agreed more. The following day, she let me know that she had pooped again, and since we had no more gloves, I grabbed a plastic baggie and headed to the bathroom. Mia stopped me and asked, "Are you sure you want to do that?" I replied, "No, I don't want to do this. I need to do this." Did she really think that I wanted to squish her poop apart with my fingers encased in a plastic bag? Not even a little bit.
I won't gross you out with details, but I kept a log for the next few days, noting when she had gone, and of course, that there was no appearance of the penny. She continued to complain of little tummy pains each time she went to the bathroom and when she got up each morning, so after a week, I called the doctor's office just to make sure that I shouldn't be doing something else. I might add here that the nurse made no mention of how long it typically takes for something like a penny to pass through the digestive system. She wanted me to call back on Monday with an update. I waited to call, hoping that Mia would go to the bathroom first and I could report that the penny situation had resolved itself. This didn't happen before the office closed for the day.
So, I had to call yesterday, when I had the afore-mentioned conversation. After all of that worry, and watching, and waiting, and did I mention the dissecting of several days worth of poop?!, I simply told Mia that the penny was already gone and she was fine. I had been telling her for a week and a half that it was no big deal and she was okay, (I may have been worried at times, but I never let on to her about it.) but once I told her the doctor said she was fine, she finally believed me. She hasn't complained of a tummy ache since yesterday's phone conversation. So much for Dr. Mom's assessment. Next time, I may just call the pediatrician's office sooner, even if I don't think it is really necessary. If nothing else it would have saved me from doing some dirty business.