The past week, my daughter came home from school with red, splotchy cheeks. It had been a very windy day, and with our family history of allergies, we thought it was merely a reaction to the high content of pollen in the air. I gave her her allergy meds, and hoped it was indeed hives and nothing more. But deep down, motherly intuition told me it was something else. Still, I was hoping it wasn't a rash. A few months back, one of my friends had told me there was a rash outbreak at her preschool where she teaches, and parents were warned not to send their kids to school if they have a rash because this illness is dangerous to pregnant women.
As if I didn't have enough to worry about. Sheesh.
Call it foreshadowing, but my friend's casual remark (yeah, I was barely pregnant at the time we had the conversation, and she didn't know it then) stuck with me. So, by the third day, when my daughter's rash showed no signs of fading despite the allergy meds, I took her to the doctor.
Fifth Disease, or sometimes known as the "slapped cheek" syndrome is supposedly a common illness among children. I say supposedly common because the people I've talked to don't even know what it is, or remember having it while they were kids. The name itself sounds oddly scary, though in reality, it is harmless to children and adults who acquire it. They may get a low-grade fever, and mild cold symptoms, but the rash doesn't bother them (non-itchy) and they feel otherwise healthy. (Unless the sick child has underlying illnesses, such as an autoimmune disease, then it could be dangerous, for obvious reasons.)
BUT! For women who are pregnant in the first half of their pregnancy (up to 20 weeks), there is the risk of a miscarriage. For those in the latter part of their pregnancy, the risk only occurs if the mother and the unborn baby both acquire it. It is said to cause severe fetal anemia, and when unmonitored, can cause premature fetal death.
Cases of fetal death are rare. Still, when I read that sentence while researching, I crumpled down in the bathroom. I couldn't help it. I'm a mother, after all. The tricky part of the disease is that you don't know you or your kid has it until the rash shows up. But the child is contagious before the rash shows up, and no longer contagious after. So how do you prevent yourself from getting exposed?
You can't. So, as a public service to all pregnant women out there, if you think you've been exposed to this, please call your doctor and get a blood test done. There really is no reason to panic (don't be like me) but it is good to be aware. Chances are, you already have immunity, and then you don't have anything to worry about. They can also test to see whether you acquired the virus or not, and if you do have it, they will monitor your baby through weekly ultrasounds. There's a high percentage of babies unaffected by the virus even when their mothers have it. The body has its own defenses, after all.
Waiting for a blood test result is unnerving. So to keep myself from going crazy, I tinkered with my query and wrote different lengths of synopses. How's that for productivity? *high five* Don't know if they're any good, but at least I felt I was doing something other than just waiting for my phone to ring. Then this weekend, I threw a Pirate Birthday Party for my boy, who turned 4. Ah, where did the years go? This blessed distraction afforded me laughter and smiles and peace of mind. To have kids running around the house and giggling between mouthfuls of cake...it was a reminder of how good life is and can be. Despite uncertainties we face everyday, we are gifted with the knowledge that there are certain things in life we can always count on. Such as warm hugs from my little boy who thanked me for giving him the "best party ever!"
I'll end this with a positive note: I got my results last night, and while I am NOT immune to the virus, the test shows NO sign of exposure. I still need to do a retest in two weeks' time, but for the moment, I can breathe freely.