June 26, 1991


Author Affiliations

Houston, Tex

Houston, Tex

JAMA. 1991;265(24):3237. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03460240033008

My baby is sick.

I fall into a terror so disorienting that it feels like my old nightmare of stepping into a twilight world patterned like an abstract expressionist painting. Silence and sharp, angular structures are everywhere, hurting me when I try to find my way home. I cannot afford to take a deep breath, but I also cannot cry yet.

It's very early in the morning—a Texas winter. The trees are dark and green against our bedroom windows; the air is cold and still. When I woke him for his bottle I still wanted to believe he only had viral gastroenteritis. In my arms he vomits propulsively, begins to wail, then abruptly falls silent. The physician inside this terrified mother notes in a flash of insight that I am observing the joint clinical manifestations of lethargy and irritability—remembering how strange I used to think it was that such polar