Bed Bug Update

I mentioned several weeks ago about our long struggle with bed bugs. On Wednesday of this week, we had our ninth (you read that right, NINTH) bed bug treatment. The one before this one happened about a week before that. That eighth treatment was very thorough but focused only on the kids’ room (Lilia is the only one who gets bites). Max, the member of our apartment crew who did the treatment, had us empty out the room, as if we were moving. We left only the bare furniture. We dried every piece of cloth in the dryer for a full cycle. We washed every toy with bleach and swabbed items with alcohol that could not be submerged in water. We put all of the kids’ books through the oven at its lowest setting for one hour. Then, Max used the harshest chemicals and afterward “knelt down to pray over it all” (his words). Two days later, Lilia had a bite or two for a couple of days, but it was much less than we experienced before. This week, Max and Josh took apart Lilia’s entire bed and did find some tiny holes in the bed frame where bugs were hiding. We emptied the room of all but the furniture again, but we did not re-sterilize everything this time. Max sprayed the room Wednesday morning, and Lilia has not had any more bites since then! We are feeling hopeful. We need to have four to six weeks of no bug sitings or bites before we are declared “bed bug free.” Thank you for your prayers for us through this three-month-long saga.

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Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite.

Many of you might not be aware of the current bed bug infestations happening all over the country. I thought bed bugs were some long ago issue, and (until a few months ago) I knew nothing more about them than the old bedtime admonition, “Sleep tight! Don’t let the bed bugs bite!” We heard about some families and houses having them in our area, but we assumed that it was contained and that we were not at risk. We had been warned to be careful about buying things from thrift stores. We never anticipated that these bugs would affect our lives.

And then, Lilia started waking up with little red circles on her arms, legs, neck, and face. She had been a little sick and had a fever earlier in the week, so I thought this might be related. My nurse friend did not recognize the spots, so I decided I needed to take her to the doctor. Soon, people were telling us to do a check of our mattresses, just in case it might be bed bugs. Josh and I were pretty sure it wasn’t. Until we found them. They were living in Lilia’s extra pillow that I keep on the side of the bed to keep her from rolling into the wall. These nasty little buggers are the size of ticks and get bigger after having a meal. I will spare you any more details, but you can look up more about them on your own, if you like.

This all began a whirlwind of stripping our beds, vacuuming the walls and baseboards, removing everything from underneath our bed, and making phone calls to our landlord and to friends to find out what to do next. Through this process, we also found the bugs in our mattress. It was late on a Saturday afternoon, and no one from an extermination company was available to speak with us. We went to Target and bought vinyl covers for our mattresses and box springs. The next week, we got instructions to dry every piece of cloth in our house (curtains, clothes, towels, toys, etc.) for at least 10 minutes at high heat. Josh and a co-worker of his took about 30 garbage bags of our cloth belongings to a nearby Laundromat to get to work. Meanwhile, an exterminator came to our house to do the first of many “treatments” to our home.

The treatments began just a week or two before my sister Savanah’s wedding. I had fears of bed bug eggs in the quilt I was making for her and her husband-to-be. We had to back out of staying with friends and opt for a hotel, instead. My fellow mom friends were extremely fearful about us spreading the bugs to their families. There was a lot to consider, and we hesitated to tell our own families, not wanting to extend hysteria to those we would be spending time with soon. We received the allotted 5 weeks of treatments (once per week), and Lilia was still getting bites. Fortunately, the company we are working with has a guarantee, so they keep coming until the bugs are gone.

Currently, we are still fighting this battle. We have had seven treatments, we have done everything (and more) that the exterminators recommend…and Lilia continues to get bites. I must admit that this process has been exhausting. We sterilize all of our bedding most days. We vacuum our baseboards and spray our beds almost daily. And, there is no sign of an end in sight. Our upstairs neighbor has bed bugs, too, and so we assume the bugs have gotten into the walls. The exterminators see absolutely no sign of the bugs in our home (which is extremely clean these days, by the way!). Yet, Lilia continues to get bites. This week, we will have Gonzo (our cat) treated for fleas, on the outside possibility that Lilia’s bites are flea bites (which apparently look the same as bed bug bites).

Mostly, our spirits are still high. We feel thankful that no one else in our family appears to be allergic to bed bugs and that Lilia’s bites are not itchy or uncomfortable. We are thankful that we have received so much support and attention from our landlords and apartment crew. But, there are days when we are weary and feel discouraged. We do not feel like we can keep up this level of action indefinitely. Please pray for our continued strength and for my own feelings of rejection that this has brought up. Very few people have entered our home in the past two months, I cannot bring cloth bags or a purse with me to meetings or playgroups, and the conversation comes up frequently about how to be more cautious so as not to spread the bugs to others in our building and friendship circles. I would appreciate your prayers as we continue to hope and trust for an end to this battle.