I kept staring at the line down Jelly Bean's face and finally decided I was either going crazy or something weird was happening with her body and either way I needed a second opinion. Mr. Bean hadn't moved despite my audible laughter, so I paged a nurse. She came in and said, "Oh my! That is weird. I have never seen a baby do that before." After some discussion and convincing her that I was not freaking out over the odd coloring, the nurse took a walk down to the nursery to talk to the newborn nurses to ask them if they needed to see Jelly Bean.
A couple of minutes later, the same nurse burst into the room and hurriedly took Jelly Bean to the nursery while yelling over her shoulder for us to join her as soon as we were able. Mr. Bean was stumbling to wake up from deep sleep, and I was just fresh from a Cesarean Section.
Upon arrival at the nursery, I was asked all sorts of questions about the weird coloration on Jelly Bean. By the time she had arrived in the nursery, her coloring was normal. They had her under the warming lights and stripped down to just her diaper. Another nurse was on the phone with the on-call doctor who insisted she be monitored for the duration of the night.
I returned to my room and consulted with Dr. Google. His diagnosis was that Jelly Bean had a rare condition called harlequin effect. It is a benign condition where the immature vessels over dilate when a baby is placed on her side. It can take several minutes or just a few seconds. Whichever side the baby is lying on turns red and the top side goes pale. A sharp line forms between the two from the forehead down the entire length of the body.
Several times throughout the night I was able to get Jelly Bean to change colors when I nursed her. The nurses insisted I let them know when she did it so they could chart the symptoms. Based on their reactions when I alerted them to the harlequin effect, I think they really wanted to know so they could call every nurse within yelling distance to check out the sideshow act going on in the nursery. Of the approximately 30 nurses on staff in the Maternity ward of the hospital, only one had ever seen this before.
For your viewing pleasure, we took a photo for you to see and enjoy this sideshow attraction for yourselves. Please excuse Jelly Bean's jaundice which seems severe next to my pale skin which apparently has not seen the sun in several years.
Photo taken May 5, 2010 in the wee hours of the morning in the nursery of the hospital where Jelly Bean was delivered. Jelly Bean is a few hours shy of two days old.
Photo by Mr. Bean
I am told it takes up to 3 weeks for the harlequin effect to disappear when the newborn's system matures. Jelly Bean is 2 weeks old today and we have not seen her "go harlequin" on us in a few days, so she has apparently grown out of it!