* Warning: This post contains a mildly graphic description of an incident involving Julia that took place today. I am not, however, including any images. If you are squeamish, perhaps you’d prefer to skip this post.
Julia got her ears pierced back in May, as a birthday gift. She was a very brave girl when the earrings went in, and everything went fine with the healing process, and the daily cleaning around the site with alcohol or peroxide, and the twisting of the earrings to make sure they weren’t sticking to unhealed lobe.
The big day came in late July – the day Julia could change her earrings. Or, rather, the day Mommy could change Julia’s earrings.
Julia picked a tasteful pair of gold butterflies; a birthday gift from a classmate. She wore those for a while, and then switched to something else. I don’t remember what.
I do remember that when we were in Seattle, the back of one of her earrings came off. Fortunately she didn’t lose the butterfly, and my sister-in-law was able to supply a spare back for Julia. It was the only pair of earrings Julia brought on the trip – I didn’t want to bring little things like that. They’d just get lost.
The earring back thing happened once again before we left Seattle. I was wondering if Julia was playing with the earring or twisting and pulling it without realizing it, and maybe that’s why the backs came off.
So we got back home, the summer ended, school started, and we got back into a routine which also includes swim classes, gymnastics, and fall ball, with skiing once the snow falls.
In gymnastics, Julia has informed me, one of the rules is this:
NO DANGLY EARRINGS!
So we make sure on gymnastics day that Julia is only wearing studs and not any sort of drop earring.
The most recent pair, which she likes a lot and has been wearing for a week now, are tiny – less than a quarter of an inch in diameter – little dark pink balls that sort of look like flowers. I think they may have been my sister’s at one point, and then mine, and then I let Julia have them.
The backs are these whitish rubbery tube things instead of the usual metal backs. I kind of like the tubes – they seem to grip more tightly than some of the metal backs.
Today when I picked up the kids after school, Julia’s teacher beckoned to me. First she asked if Julia had really been to Egypt. I looked at Julia and looked back at Mrs. W. and laughed and said no, she hasn’t. Mrs W. laughed, too. That Julia. And then she mentioned that the back of one of Julia’s earrings had come off. They found the earring, and it was in a bag in her backpack. But they hadn’t found the back. Apparently Julia had been upset about it.
I told Julia, on the way home, that it was no big deal about the earring back, and that we would change her earrings when we got home.
Fast forward a few more minutes and we have walked home. I’m getting Alex settled in with his homework when Julia puts another pair of earrings on the table beside me. I tell her I’ll be done in just a minute (I’m looking through the pile of stuff they bring home because there’s a paper Alex needs to study from and I really need to get some sort of accordion folder or something for him so we can organize all his papers when he brings them home and if he needs to study the inner ear for a science test, he can find the paper easily.) and next thing I know she’s put her other earring – from her ear – on the table as well.
“Julia! I said I’d be done in a minute. Why did you take that out? And where’s the back?”
All of a sudden, the wailing begins.
“I don’t know!” she cries in a panic, “I think it’s in my ear!”
I admit it, I groaned and was completely annoyed and unsympathetic.
“There’s a bump!” she added, her voice quavering.
“Go into the bathroom; I’ll be right there,” I say, as I continue to sift through papers. But finally I realize the earring situation will be quicker to resolve than the search for a diagram of the ear, so I tell Alex to start on his spelling homework while I get Julia sorted out.
I go into the bathroom.
Julia has climbed up onto the vanity and is trying to see her ear in the mirror. I turn the lights on and ask her to turn around so I can look.
She is crying, but she does as I ask, until I touch her ear.
“I didn’t do anything!”
“Don’t touch it!” she wails.
Fine, I won’t touch it, I’ll just look. I have her hold her hair out of the way, and I look at the earlobe.
The whole area near the pierced hole is swollen, but it’s not red or pink or anything. It looks normal, just…big.
I risk the wailing and touch it again. There is definitely a lump of some kind, but Julia freaks out again and I can’t explore any more. I look at the back of the ear – no blood or anything. I clean it with peroxide on a cotton ball, just in case there are any germs lurking.
I take a look at the other ear, for comparison purposes, and the lobe is definitely flatter. I feel it. I can sort of feel a small firmness where the pierced hole is, but it’s just the tunnel through the lobe, basically.
And Julia doesn’t wail when I touch it.
She won’t let me touch the other earlobe again, and there is definitely something going on with it.
“Mom,” she says between sobs, “I think the back of the earring is in there!”
I am skeptical, and mildly annoyed because there is a big part of me that wants to press more firmly on that earlobe and figure out if it’s an abscess, in which case I must be a bad mother because otherwise there would not be an abscess that my daughter thinks is the back of an earring.
I get Julia to calm down and I call our pediatrician’s office to see if they can see her. Yes, they can see her at 4:15. So when Bill comes home a little before four, I give him the condensed version and then Julia and I hop in the car and race to the doctor’s office.
“Mom, I don’t want earrings any more. I just want my ears to be plain! I don’t want earrings again until I’m…seventeen!”
I keep asking her if it hurts…if it hurts when she touches it. No and no. Every time.
We get there, and relatively quickly we are brought into an exam room where Julia and I explain what may or may not have happened.
I am still skeptical that it’s the actual back in her ear. The tube thing is definitely rounder than the little earring hole in her ear. How would it fit? Wouldn’t it hurt going in? The nurse took a quick look and then told us the doctor would be in shortly.
Fortunately OUR pediatrician was on staff that night. He’s a great guy – he’s been our pediatrician since Alex was born and he’s just…terrific. And he’s got kids of his own, around the same ages as our kids, which is nice, too.
Anyway, he came in and asked what was up. I let Julia explain. She did pretty well. I just had to explain what type of back it was.
“What color is it?”
“Kind of off-white, yellowish.” I said.
He had Julia come closer and he took a look at her ear.
Then he felt it.
Then he looked at me.
“It’s in there,” he said.
“Yeah, and hopefully I can get it out here. I’m going to have to numb her ear first.”
I had to fight the urge to laugh.
This is life with Julia.
Dr. S left the room briefly to get what he needed for the very minor surgery, and I cheerfully told Julia that the doctor was going to take the back out of her ear! Yay!
When Dr. S. came back in, he told Julia he was going to have to make Julia’s ear very cold first and then numb, and then he’d be able to take the back out.
He asked her to lie on the exam table facing toward the wall (it was her right ear). Then he sprayed whatever the freezing cold numbing stuff is onto Julia’s ear.
She thought that was kind of funny and very, VERY cold.
Once that was done I came over and held her hands and Dr. S told Julia her ear should be nice and numb and wouldn’t feel anything.
Then he got the needle of Novocain and carefully stuck it in her earlobe.
“You felt that?” he asked, quickly injecting more Novocain in another area of her earlobe.
Blood was drizzling out of both injection sites.
“YES! IT HURTS!” she cried. And she really cried, real tears, real pain, “I want to go HOME!”
I held onto her hands and rubbed her belly and told her how incredibly brave she was being.
Novocain in, Dr. S had me hold some gauze on the earlobe while the rest of the numbing took effect. I told Julia to squeeze my hands when things hurt. She squeezed, and I pretended it hurt and we did that a few times and I got her to laugh.
Dr. S came over and had me take the gauze away.
And then he too a long, skinny pair of tweezers or forceps – very narrow a the end, and went into Julia’s earlobe through the pierced hole and tried to grab the earring back.
“OW!” Julia yelled.
“It’s okay,” I tried to soothe her, “we’re almost finished.”
Dr. S hadn’t got the rubbery tube that time, so I watched as he inserted the forceps/tweezers once more.
This time – success. I watched as he pulled the quarter-inch long rubbery tube out of the little hole in Julia’s earlobe.
After that, it was some iodine and some more gauze, and Julia was done.
We were given a prescription to apply peroxide and this other healing ointment that we’ve used before for other Julia applications in the past. I just can’t think of the name and the tube is upstairs.
I was still kind of amazed at the whole thing, but Dr. S told me he’s even had to fish whole metal backs out of earlobes before. Wow.
Then he told Julia she was a brave girl, and told me to call if the swelling didn’t go down in a couple of days.
Oh, and I brought the earring back thing home. It’s a little bloody, but I had to show Bill.
When we arrived at the house Julia leaped out of the car so she could run and tell Bill that SHE was right about the earring back, and Mommy was wrong.
And if that’s all it takes to cheer her up today, that’s fine.
I was going to end there, and then Alex just came downstairs to tell me Julia was crying and wanted me.
I went upstairs and Julia was bawling in her bed.
“Julia, what’s wrong?”
She sobbed and babbled out something that I couldn’t understand, so I had her say it again.
“I SAID I DIDN’T WANT ANY EARRINGS BUT I REALLY DO AND NOW IT’S TOO LATE!”
And she burst into a fresh round of tears and shaky-voiced sorrow, and I asked her if she wanted me to put an earring back in the OTHER ear. The one that didn’t suffer today.
She stopped crying briefly, and then started again, wailing that the hole was ALREADY CLOSED UP AGAIN!
“I don’t think it is yet,” I said. “Come on.”
We trooped into the bathroom and, after more tears and her pulling away twice when I was trying to put the earring back in, I finally got a nice silver stud in her ear, and the wide metal back on it, too.
“Does that hurt at all right now?” I asked, when I was finished.
“No.” She sounded mildly surprised.
“Okay, then you’re all set.”
And back to bed she went. I tucked her in and kissed her again, and that, finally, is the end (today) of this saga.
I know it is not THE end.
There’s still the fact that she’s not going to be able to wear an earring in the OTHER ear any time in the near future.
That’ll be fun.