My dear friend Ms. J wrote about a scary experience that recently happened with her daughter, Peanut. It reminded me of something that happened with Will when he was about the same age. I never wrote about it because. . . well, I'll be really honest, I was embarrassed about it. And though I am fortunate that most of the comments I receive here are positive (or at least polite if voicing disagreement), I have had a few negative comments from time to time. And if someone had issues with me letting my son go potty by "himself" at the zoo, I am sure that someone will have issues with this and I was a little too raw about it to blog it in "real time".
That being said, I am not a rainbows and lollipops parent. There are many wonderful things about being a mommy, but there are lots of things that are frustrating, embarassing, and downright confusing. And then, there are times when you mess up, plain and simple. Some time has passed since this happened and, as I was thinking about it today, I realized that sharing this story might actually be a bit of a PSA. Because other people might not think about things the same way you do, so even a loving family member can unintentionally put your child(ren) at risk.
Rewind to a little over a year and a half ago. It was late fall 2009 and I was just barely pregnant with Emma and Will was somewhere around 17 months old. Battling morning sickness and exhausted, I was laying on the floor of his gated playroom, listlessly watching him play when he toddled over to me and handed me a WET, CHEWED ON half tablet of mystery origin. A tiny bit of white powder was at the corner of his mouth, dismissing my fervent hope that a dog had chewed the unidentified pill. Fortunately, there was still enough of an imprint left that I was able to Google and figure out that it was. . . VICODIN. Only half, mind you. IMMEDIATELY, my mind freaked out, wondering where the heck the other half was. Oh, and WHERE IN THE NAME OF GRAVY DID THIS VICODIN EVEN COME FROM?!?! I had percocet following my c-section with Will and couldn't remember the last time I had vicodin before that. And super-healthy, surgery-free M hasn't ever been prescribed vicodin. Even if we DID have vicodin in the house, we keep all medications (even the "baby" ones) in a LOCKED cabinet far above young childrens' hands in our upstairs bathroom - and WILL DIDN'T CLIMB STAIRS at that age and we had baby gates at the top and bottom of the staircase.
After identifying the mystery pill, I immediately called our pediatrician's office, and was told to call poison control. That phone call might have been the lowest point of my parenting career. Calling poison control and admitting my child had a vicodin in his hand, that was clearly chewed upon, and that I didn't even know where it came from. . . yeah, my Parent of the Year Trophy definitely was a bit tarnished. Fortunately, the lady on the phone was very, very nice. She said that even newborns can safely tolerate small doses of vicodin and that unless he ingested more than half a pill, he would be just fine, if a bit drowsy. She said he could have taken several pills and still be okay. She gave me warning signs to look for and did suggest I try to identify the "source" just to make sure it didn't happen again and that he had, indeed, only had a half tablet.
I scoured our house, looking for stray vicodin. Then, coming up empty handed, I then started making calls to people who had recently been in our house. It was awkward, but I was desperate to find out where this pill had come from. Fortunately, I was only two calls in when I discovered what had happened.
Turns out, it came from my MIL, who had visited the day before. She keeps half vicodin tablets in a baggie in her purse for her geriatric dog who travels everywhere with her. The baggie was in her purse, but after checking it while we were on the phone, she realized it was partially unzipped and had spilled into (and apparenlty out of) her purse. She was POSITIVE she had 9 half tablets before and she had 8 in her purse now. And Will had found the 9th. I was all at once both furious and relieved. Will was fine, but I felt as if we'd had a close call. I (very politely) made it clear to my MIL that she was no longer allowed to bring any sort of medications into our home if they weren't in childproof containers AND I put her purse in the closet when she visits. She felt terrible about what happened (she loves Will more than life itself and would never want to harm him - she just wasn't thinking about the potential danger) and was eager to make sure it never happened again. Problem solved (though I still went through the house twice more to make sure there were no more halves that she might have miscounted).
This story serves as a good reminder that those that visit you might not be aware of the necessary precautions you should take when you have children around. Obviously, vicodin is a scary one that most people would think about taking special care with, but even the more "innocent" medications like acetaminophen can be dangerous in high doses. It is likely that most people who enter your home have medication in their belongings. It is a sensitive topic to broach with some people, but there are gentle ways to do it. If you have people visiting, especially overnight guests who might have a medicine bag with them, it is easy to offer them a special place to keep things where accidental access is less likely to happen (a locked cabinet or high shelf of a closet for example). I usually phrase it like this: "I can't guarantee Will, Emma, or our dog will stay out of your purse (or whatever personal items they might have brought). Can I put it in this closet for you?" I show them where I am putting said belonging(s) so they have free access to it, but it keeps the kiddos out and whatever they might have brought in. It also takes the burden off of them and places it on me and I don't need to get into the whole "are you carrying drugs" with you conversation. And yes, I also do think that it is very, very important to teach my children not to get into peoples' things and not to eat things that haven't been given to them by an adult they trust. But my children are still very young and I do not want the cost of them breaking a "rule" to be their lives.
So, all is well that ends well and I learned a valuable lesson. Hopefully, you can learn from it, too.
Without a call to poison control.
*If you have other suggestions on this topic or stories to share, that's great. If you disagree with how I handled this, that is fine, too. I am always eager to learn from others' perspectives. Just keep it respectful, please, we're all on the same team here!