Even though I’ve been visiting Ischia since I was 2 years old and I’ve been married to my Ischitano husband for nearly four years, I still experience some form of culture shock every time I step foot on the island. This time around might have been the worst yet. My seven-month-old son had diarrhea for seven days straight. There was one day that he made a total of 10 poop bombs. He cried. I cried. On top of this, he already a rash of red bumps all over his back and bottom. With the diarrhea came diaper rash. At one point, he had the rash, which we thought was some sort of allergic reaction, and the diaper rash at the same time. His backside looked like a tomato and it probably felt like a hot pepper.
When the pooping first began, since he already had the rash, everyone, including the doctors here attributed it to some sort of allergy. Meanwhile, there was a stomach virus going around the island. After a few days and some cortizone cream, the rash started to go away, but the diarrhea became more intense. We tried one medicine that seemed to put my baby in a catatonic state, which scared the bejeezus out of everyone. We took him to the hospital, where they found that he was hydrated but gave him different medicine to control the diarrhea. On the eighth day, despite still pooping a little too often, the diarrhea finally stopped.
I was worn out from the culture shock. It came in the form of my inability to voice an opinion over his medical care. I don’t know the medications here or the terminology for different illnesses. The doctors were perfectly kind and gave me good direction. (In fact, the main doctor he sees here is my cousin and she’s an excellent physician.) But because you’re in another part of the world with their different ways and beliefs, you’re at the will of others. My in-laws and husband directed me on what to feed the baby. I had little choice because I also have to use what’s available here. He lived on cream of rice, fennel tea, and my breastmilk for weeks. Now, he’s finally eating some good ol’ fashioned American oatmeal again, and he’s just starting fruits and veggies. Even though I’m the mom, I didn’t have much say. I had to let go and trust the folks here. Although I’ll be grateful when I’m back in my own element and can call the shots with my own kid, I’m glad everything turned out all right. And Baby Boy is finally feeling better. Through it all and to his credit, he always had a smile on his face.