Thursday, February 18, 2010


On Tuesday morning, I put Baby down in his crib to play with his mobile. At eight weeks, he's still sleeping in a cot in our bedroom, but I sometimes use the crib in his nursery for naps or play time; I also use the changing table in that room for changing and dressing him. To my horror, I noticed two or three tiny black moving dots on the bed sheet!

I immediately picked him up again, and upon further inspection, noticed that there were similar moving black dots all over the bed -- on the sheet, on the railings, and even on the mobile! I was horrified!! What were these insects? Where did they come from? Where they in the mattress or bumper pads? Would I have to throw any of them out? Did they bite??!!

I called the school's grounds manager -- thank goodness there is someone like that to call -- and he came immediately, with another man in tow ... a bug expert? No one knew what the bug was, but one speculation included wood mites. Within 15 minutes the room had been cleared of its few items; all fabrics were in the washing machine at a scalding temperature; and some kind of bug spray was being sprayed, both in the room and inside the attic.

We all stood around trying to figure out what kind of bugs these were and where they had come from. The men concluded they had ''fallen'' from the wooden ceiling.

Thank goodness my cleaning lady was here that day; Baby was on day 2 of a nap strike, and was overtired and fussy. As a result, I hadn't been able to put him down to play in his bouncy chair or crib much, and he'd been attached to me for two days, it seemed. Had I had to actually do anything other than organize the bug defensive, I think I wouldn't have been able to handle it. With Baby alternately on my hip and down for 5-minute naps, from which he awoke screaming, all I had to do was watch, ask questions and instruct. ''There are some more over here. Let's wash this too. Are they over there, too? You say the bug spray doesn't harm humans; why should we stay out of the room for a day, then? What would happen if I licked it? What would happen if I licked the dried spot where the wet poison had been?''

An internet search turned up nothing, and I concluded that we hadn't truly gotten to the heart of the matter. But what could I do? It was a mystery: why were the insects only in one room? And where did they come from? Could they really have rained down from the ceiling? In one room only?! Our building is historic but poorly maintained, and I suppose the combination of cracks in the wooden ceiling and decades' worth of dust in the attic could have created the breeding ground for something like this. But I wasn't convinced. I wanted to believe we'd found an explanation, but my instinct told me we were kidding ourselves.

The next morning, I hesitantly went to the nursery to see if there were any bugs on the white surfaces of the crib or changing table, or on the bed sheets hanging to dry on the drying stand. There were. We'd cleaned off all surfaces the previous day, so these were new bugs. Although it seemed that 95% of them were dead, and there were fewer than the day before! Hooray! I wiped off all the surfaces and held my breath until the following morning.

Again I went to the nursery first thing in the morning. More insects, although fewer still than the day before, and mostly dead. My unscientific calculation told me now we were at a 99% mortality rate. This was good news, but I wasn't celebrating yet. Why did they continue to appear each morning? And we still didn't know what kind of insect they were!

I had no choice but to get back to life-as-normal as much as possible, and try not to obsess. I've set up an impromptu changing station in the living room, where Baby's travel changing pad has now taken a permanent place on the sofa; spare diapers, wet wipes and cream lie beside it; a change of clothes is draped over the back of the couch. My laundry stand is in the kitchen, where nothing rains down on my clean clothes. And I avoid the nursery like the plague, entering only when absolutely necessary. Which unfortunately is several times a day, since our bathroom is off that room. But I always put shoes on and hold my breath as I pass through.

I continue to check the room each morning, each time finding a few less bugs. But there doesn't seem to be an end in sight. I've gotten kind of used to this new normal, though. I admitted to my husband over breakfast this morning that the thought of five adult humans, standing baffled in the middle of a room covered by near-microscopic crawling dots, trying to kill them all, was somewhat comical.

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