The Tragic Optimist

Of ears and drums

On Sunday, we noticed that Zoe had some discharge in her left ear. We cleaned it off and kept watching it, but it looked mostly like thin ear wax, so we decided to take a wait and see approach, she didn’t have a fever, wasn’t pulling on her ear, and didn’t have any blood in the discharge (all indicators of ear infections). So Monday she went to daycare, and I took my birthday off and had a grand old time. Last night she still had some drainage, so we were getting concerned. I talked to my parents on the phone last night, and we looked up information on ear infections (a family that researches together, um, stays informed together?). We talked about the fact that antibiotics are prescribed less often now, mostly to avoid the propagation of super-antibiotic-resistant drugs, but also because they don’t seem to make the infections clear up much more quickly.

So there I was, feeling all superior about how I wouldn’t be one of those moms to demand antibiotics when I know they won’t really add much. In fact, I thought to myself, maybe if the doctor offered to prescribe them, I would politely refuse, letting her know that I didn’t want to contribute to the antibiotic resistance problem (within reason, of course, if there was a serious need for antibiotics, I wouldn’t refuse them). We got an early appointment this morning with a doctor I had not seen before, as Zoe’s pediatrician is on vacation. She was very nice, listened to what I said, took a look in Zoe’s ear and said, “Ah-hah! She has a perforated ear drum. It looks just like a little hole in a piece of cellophane.” Apparently, she’d had an ear infection that got bad enough that it ruptured the ear drum. It is apparently not as bad as it sounds, which is good, because it sounds pretty horrible, and her ear isn’t infected anymore. As the doctor said, it had been infected, now it’s resolved. But holy mama-guilt batman! How could I not know that she had an ear infection? I know, the doctor said it’s common for some kids to get infections and not show it, and apparently both my brother and Chris’s sister would get ear infections with no symptoms. But still. What happened to motherly instinct?

Oh, and the antibiotics? Despite the fact that her ear isn’t infected anymore, as soon as the doctor mentioned she’d like to prescribe them to keep the ear drum from getting infected as it heals, I was all over it. Bring them on. Anything to protect my baby. Even though intellectually I know that they won’t help it heal faster, I want them because it makes me feel like I’m doing something to help. The exact argument that I was scoffing at the night before. So much for being all superior. I should know better by now.


  1. motherhoodandpotatoes

    The “mama-guilt” will do it every time! We had taken C to the doctor a few days before her eardrum perforated and there was no sign of an ear infection, believe it or not. I can’t help but think that if I kept trying to find out the reason for her high fever, the doctor may have prescribed the antibiotics earlier and prevented the perforation. Oh well.

    I’m glad to read that Zoe is better. It’s a strange coincidence that both our daughters got perforated eardrums at the same time!

  2. I think that was a pretty natural reaction. πŸ™‚ I’m sure I would have done the same…it’s always easier in theory than in practice.

  3. chris's sister

    I used to get ear infections with no symptoms? That’s news to me! clearly, they caused me to turn out badly — I’d be worried πŸ™‚

  4. awe!! poor girl! you are not a bad mom though! kids get sick, its ok! at least she is getting better now right?

  5. Angela Heffernan

    We’ve got one now, too, and reading scary Dr. Greene’s “Green Baby” and how you should avoid the antibiotics unless it’s really bad, w/ a fever, and use ‘warm olive oil in the ear’ as a pain reliever … I don’t know. No ruptured ear drum, yet, but lots less sleep … we got through our first year with none, so I’m still proud of us … but it’s stressful, isn’t it? We went to a new ped. too, and she was Egyptian, w/ lots of Egyptian eyeliner, and maybe it was the fever, but R, who is usually always so good w/ Doctors, screamed through the whole thing, poor boy. Sigh …

  6. Awwww, poor little girl! Don’t let the mama-guilt be too hard on you. If it didn’t seem to bother Zoe, no reason for concern right?

    Of course I say that and everytime my cat sneezes I’m all looking in his eyes and checking him over for a potential-something-wrong. I am going to be a terribly overbearing parent!

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