Oh, So THAT is Why You Were Screaming…

It happened.

I can’t believe it.

Something so small, yet almost as evil as The Evil Cough.

Something capable of bringing anyone to tears.

It brought a new level of understanding to motherhood.

You see, I have an ear infection.

I woke up on Saturday night around 1 AM. At first I thought I simply had to pee, but then I breathed and became aware of this incredible pain in my right ear.

I wear earplugs and thought perhaps one had become lodged too tight. Removing only reduced the agony slightly. I rolled over, noticing it hurt less if I laid on my right sight.

Less. But not by much. My sinuses throbbed with weeks of congestion and I could only breathe through my mouth.

I swallowed some Advil in hopes it would allow me to sleep.

I slept, but in one of those horrible, fitful ways where you wake up in worse shape than you fell asleep.

I had blissfully forgotten the torture of an ear infection (I was under the age of four during my last one). 

My children tried to tell me, through nights and days of inconsolable screaming and clinginess, just how much they hurt.

Each time I tried my best, soothing them, giving them what medication I could until we could visit a doctor. I wished countless times for an otoscope (which, yes, I had to Google the name of)—the thingy doctors have with a light that can look into your ears.

The Tackler had so my ear infections as a toddler, we had to get tubes in his ears at 18 months (best decision ever). Lil Diva’s were more spread out, but she had quite a few as well.

But through it all, my exhausted mommy brain thought, “Please, please go to sleep. It will make you feel better.”

I am here to say today that I was wrong. 100% full of sleep deprived bull.

Sleeping with an ear infection is agony. It hurts. It makes you want to curl into a little ball and cry. All you want is for the pain to stop and sleep and yet you try to sleep and the pain worsens.

I was “lucky”. It was just one ear. I could sort of sleep on one side.

The kids have both had double ear infections.

My poor, poor, babies.

I get it now.

I get the screams. The tears. The reason I would have to sit upright in a chair or on the couch and have my child sprawled on my chest, head on my shoulder for most of the night. Why they would scream when laid in bed.

I soooooooooo get it.

The new normal.

This older photo of Lil Diva sums up what an ear infection feels like.

I spent most of Sunday reclining on the couch, careful not to bend my head. I couldn’t get a doctor’s appointment until 1:30, and it was the longest four and half hours (from when after-hours care opened) of my life.

I have drugs now. My ear is still sore, but no longer in agony.

I still can’t breathe.

But my new insight into ear infections will live on. I will never think of their cries as overly dramatic, or beg them to stop whining.

And I am so glad my children are old enough to tell me, “Mommy, my ear hurts.”—before we get to the inconsolable screaming stage.

For those of you who don’t remember having an ear infection, here are some tips for your child who does (who cannot articulate why they are screaming):

Why Your Ear Infected Child is Screaming Inconsolably

1. It hurts to bend forward/look down.

2. It hurts to lay down.

3. It hurts even more to lay down on the opposite side of the ear infection. My guess is this is because any drainage from the ear infection is trapped in your ear and makes the pain worse. So whichever ear you think is infected in your child, lay them on the opposite side, or keep them upright on your chest as much as possible.

4. It hurts to blow your nose because your ears can pop.

5. Ibuprofen helps… barely.

6. Blocking the infected ear way (by rubbing ear or having doctor look) cranks up the pain.

7. This pain is impossible to ignore. Employ any distractions available (I read two books).

8. They need antibiotics. See a doctor as soon as possible. I know sometimes kids can get over it on their own, but I wouldn’t wish that torture on my worst enemy.

Good luck, and may you be ear infection free.


About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos (www.writingwithchaos.com) sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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12 Responses to Oh, So THAT is Why You Were Screaming…

  1. Kir says:

    First I am so sorry. I hope you are feeling better..and next time ask for VICODIN. Seriously.
    I had 2 ear infections between Oct and March this year and I agree with every single thing you said. I found myself crying and begging John to take me to the ER or at the very least to ply me with Vodka until we got there. I was reduced to uttering things like “F*** this hurts!” and “it’s never going to feel better.”

    after October I swore I would never make light of pain my children had in their ears, it was god awful.

    wishing you an ear infection free year. 🙂

    • It never occurred to me to ask for Vicodin. I think you might have something there.

      TWO ear infections?? Oh my dear, I am so, so sorry. May the next one never happen.

      But that whole vodka and cursing thing? I soooooooo get it now.

  2. John says:

    So far, we’ve been incredibly lucky – at 3 and 2 & a half, we’ve only had one ear infection (CJ). At the onset, he was actually easy to distract, but we had new toys and his cousin around. But if I look back on it, I realize that he wasn’t acting like himself.

    I remember double-ear infections in my tween years and going to urgent care, and people in the waiting room demanding that I be the next patient seen because I just looked so miserable. I don’t remember the intensity of the pain – but I do remember that there was NOTHING that worked to make anything better.

    • How odd, I had to fish you out of spam. How did my blog not recognize you?

      You are very blessed on the ear infection front. At least from here on out, they can say, “My ear hurts” and you don’t have to play the “guess why they are screaming” game.

      NOTHING works. Although I like Kir’s idea on vicodin..

  3. The last time we went on a week vacation our, then 18 monther had an ear infection. Well we waited about 3 days until we went to the local hospital, trying to dose her up with fever reducing over the counter meds before. She was an unhappy camper and we mostly were too.

    • When we fly, at least one child gets an ear infection. If they are even the slightest bit congested or cranky (usually while visiting my mom), I will take them to a doc before we fly back, because I have had a child on a plane with an ear infection and it is ugly.

      Given what I know about how much they hurt, I imagine the pressurization is unbearable and don’t blame their screaming one bit. It’s worth the copay to be sure.

      It is why driving places seems like a good idea now (that and the cost of four plane tickets…).

      Sorry your vacation sucked. I wish they could tell us at that age “MY EAR HURTS!” and then we’d know.

      • Exactly… and we didn’t know.

        • It’s so hard to tell. That is the age my children teethed their molars and they would run low fevers and scream and cling and I never knew when the line crossed into ear infection territory–I could only guess. One day they might be just like that but only teething and a day later have a horrible ear infection. I can attest how quickly that can change.

          The day my son was able to say, “Mommy, my ear hurts.” I rejoiced (behind the sympathy and curse of having to do another copay to get antibiotics as I can’t prescribe them myself). The most recent uttering? The end of this February when he came home, told me that, I managed to get last appointment of the day and was so glad I did as he constantly repeated it for the next hour.

          And now? I know why. It really does hurt.

          Trying to guess for babies and toddlers is so hard.

  4. Katie says:

    Goodness! Hope you’re better soon! I’m alway thankful that my anatomy, and apparently that of my kids, is not particularly prone to ear infections (hoping I don’t get dinged with #3 on that count).

  5. Annie says:

    OUCH! I hope as you are reading this comment the pain is much, much less.
    My oldest has “permanent” ear tubes. She had so many sets as a child that they finally fixed her up with a set that would stay put for a good long while. I’m so thankful for that technology!

    • I didn’t know there was a permanent option. Your poor daughter (and you)!

      I am feeling much better thanks to antibiotics taking the ear pain away. The other meds (steriods interestingly enough), have made it so I can breathe for the first time in two weeks. It’s like I’m a new person.

      It also means I have to wash the dishes and do the laundry that have built up..

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