2014 is already bringing it

Here is a post I hope no one else ever needs. It all started when Caroline started telling me that her head was itchy.

You can imagine where it went from there.

We have seen signs about head lice in her afterschool program, heard from school directly about cases in her classroom. I have received many an email from moms letting me know that they regret to inform me that their child has lice and how sorry they are if this in anyway affects my child. Each time I panic a tiny bit and check her head and remind her to ALWAYS tell a grown up if she is ever feeling like her head is itchy. She listened and I am so very grateful. She had been telling us for a few days that her head itched and each time we peeked briefly through her hair and feeling satisfied, sent her on her way. My head is particularly dry in the winter and a bit itchy as a result and I chalked it up to dry scalp.

I pulled myself up from bed on Thursday morning and she told me again that she was itchy. It was still quite dark, so I turned a bright bedside lamp on and took a peek and what I saw in her head was a grey adult louse. I immediately froze, screamed so loud inside my head that I swear it almost came out of my actual mouth, and raced her to the bathroom because I had no idea what to do.

I have never SEEN lice before, so I wasn't even sure what I was looking for. We stood there together in the bathroom as I googled images and instructions on what exactly one does when they make this discovery. It was shortly before 8am when it was clear that she was not going to school and I needed to act quickly. To distract Caroline and because I needed to SOMETHING. ANYTHING. we stripped all the beds, tossed sheets and comforters and pillows downstairs, and sadly bagged all the animals from the beds. I didn't know what to do with it, I just needed to do something because man, I was feeling completely overwhelmed and powerless. I was planning to call the pediatrician, but called the school nurse who happens to also be my neighbor instead. She was wonderful, told me to come in after the buses and to bring Connor to and she would check all of us.

I knew what I had seen, but it took her a few minutes to find anything concerning on Caroline's head. I urged her to please keep looking and then she found first one nit and then another before locating a live nymph which we caught with a piece tape. A piece of tape. She showed me what to look for, how to remove them, and sent me home with all the tools I would need including an amazing magnifying lamp.

I bought only one bottle of shampoo at CVS because I didn't read the directions to see that long hair required two bottles, so we had to go back before we could even begin. That was fun. This was all after somehow convincing Connor that it would NOT be fun at home with us today and school was really a preferable place to be. He didn't buy it.

I had a moment of extreme weakness looking at alllllll that hair, scissors in hand. I reasoned with her that I wouldn't cut that much and it would be easier and THANK GOD she wouldn't let me. I was just so overwhelmed looking at the curls and the length. It was far from my proudest moment.

Once we got the shampoo in, I was feeling better, until we started combing and combing and combing. FIVE HOURS later we could finally relax a bit, but can you ever really relax again after that experience? Her hair was challenging to get the comb through and we weren't look forward to another comb session, but she requested one later that night before bed and with a very wet head, it went more smoothly. I had finally found a method that worked and a strategy to section and then work through each painful comb. She was an absolute trooper, with very few complaints. I reminded her that even one nit left could mean more lice and having to relive this all over again. I was determined to get her nit free, but only her patience allowed me to work so carefully.

We talked a lot. We talked about what lice were, how people can get them, and more importantly that this was not her fault. I wanted to be sure she knew that she was not alone in this, that we were a lice fighting duo. More than anything I didn't want her to be ashamed. The school nurse said we caught it quite early and I reinforced to her over and over that it was her telling me her head was itchy that helped us to identify this early on.

It was quite possibly the longest day of my life. Even when the combing was done, I was attending to a massive pile of laundry and remaking our bed and Connor's and lining up pillows that had all received 20 minutes of high heat in our dryer along the hallway. I didn't eat more than a yogurt all day, snuck sips from her glass between sections of  hair and listened to a lot of Sophia and Jessie on the Disney channel. Even when she went to bed, I continued the work of lice and sent emails and text messages to all the moms I thought we should notify and like so many before me expressed my hope that they were not affected.

The following morning, I checked in with the school nurse again to ensure she could go back to school. She had been treated and combed and policy would allow her to return, but she needed to warn me that first graders are pretty smart and they had put it all together that Caroline had lice. I had to break that sad news to her and it did not go over well at ALL. Having lice was bad enough, walking into a room of your peers who all know you had lice was probably twice as bad for her. I'm a social worker, so I immediately started role playing it with her and she fell apart, refusing to go to school. We were tardy, but I got her there. I would normally not be that helicopter mom at the classroom door, but knowing what potentially waited for her on the other side was too much for me after what she had endured the day before. I spoke to her teacher about how sensitive she was and she assured me she would not allow Caroline to be hurt.

I called her bestie's mom later that day who reported to me that the first thing her daughter shared with her at school pick up was "Caroline got to watch five hours of TV yesterday!" I guess all my worrying was for naught. Looking ahead, I'll be using that Fairy Tales Rosemary Repel and checking her frequently, probably until she goes to college. I will put her hair up each day, just as I always have. The message of prevention and the importance of sharing with school and other parents however, has become something I will continue to be incredibly passionate about. I want to urge all parents to be more transparent with this. Secrets like this don't help anyone. Yes, it is embarrassing and hard and I get it, but it is not okay to not help others from having to go through this. As I told Caroline, "bad things sometimes happen, they do, but what we do when bad things happen is way more important than the bad thing ever was."


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