You be illin’

There’s nothing so universal, so inevitable, so very normal a part of life as a sick baby; and yet nothing seems able to make you doubt you own parenting abilities in quite the same way. Even a bruised baby (and believe me, since our New Adventures in Standing started with a vengeance we’ve had plenty of bruised baby) doesn’t pierce the parental heart nearly so much; something about a bug or virus really sets off the internal It’s All Your Fault sirens even though in most cases it isn’t, and categorically can’t be anybody’s fault unless you actually are a wandering bacterium with mischief on its mind.

Scarlett has only had a few minor ailments so far – all of the cold-y cough-y variety with a couple of vomity bouts and a nasty touch of conjunctivitis last week. All of these she has borne in very good spirits, pausing only to cough up a ball of mucus or soak a duvet in sick at 6am between her usual smiles and play. I find her illnesses much more distressing than she seems to, and only partly because it’s me rather than her that has to deal with the resulting laundry.

Baby illnesses, even minor ones, are incredibly gross (I mean, have you used a nasal aspirator? Just, ew) and really quite emotionally afflicting with it. We always wish happiness and good things for our babies. We wish it extra super-much for a sick baby; sometimes we can offer a comforting cuddle or a soothing lavender bath, and sometimes that happiness and wellness is not in our gift to give.

Babies that are out of sorts are tough to deal with. Just when you thought you knew what makes your little one tick, along comes a bug that prevents your child from eating as normal and sleeping as normal; that makes your normally sunny little sweetheart cranky and tearful; that messes up any semblance of a routine you might have been getting into; that causes every surface in the house to be covered in Calpol (no, we’re still not very good at getting it into the baby) and breaks all the trust you’ve built up over ten months because now you have to physically pin her down four times daily to insert appropriate medication. Or that’s how it feels up here in Maternal Projectionsville: like my child will never trust me again because last time I gave her a hug she ended up with antibiotic drops in her eye. Intentionally, on that occasion at least.

We’re very, very lucky to have got this far with only minor, common-or-garden ailments; I can’t imagine what it must be like for parents of chronically sick children. Thanks to our unusual situation, we don’t even have to negotiate the minefield that is time off work outside the home (yet), and I’m aware that particular joy is yet to come along with all the properly nasty infectious illnesses of childhood. People manage, of course they manage, but when something as simple as a cold or a nasty eye infection can floor me so completely, I have no idea how caring for a sick child is supposed to tessalate with working or keeping house or simply being. Perhaps badly. Perhaps not at all.

Have you survived the ravages of under-5 illness? Send your comments, suggestions and messages of hope on the back of a snotty hanky, or in the comments below:

3 thoughts on “You be illin’

  1. My son barely had a sniffle unftil one month before his first birthday… And then, out of the blue, 39+ fever and a dash to a&e to be diagnosed with tonsilitis. What followed was about six months of infection after infection. Turns out my son is like I was as a child – he gets really, really high temps when he has an infection that run up quicker than we can renew our calpol/nurofen allowance. It was the most stressful, anxiety ridden time of my life. We are the other side of it now and i am convinced these infections were the same thing recurring. Eventually they did a chest x-ray (more terror!), found a specific infection and prescribed specific antibiotics and since then he’s been absolutely fine. What I have learned is to trust your Mummy instincts and, even if you feel a fool/ over-anxious, be tough in the Drs surgery. I was fobbed off so many times in Drs surgeries – often by kindly, well meaning physicians – because i was apologetic and i think they thought i was an anxious parent rather than actually right that my son wasnt getting better or getting the treatment he needed. Also, whenever we went to the hospital the moment i said he’d had tonsilitis it was almost like they had their answer – they needed a diagnosis to discharge him and that was the obvious answer… They would always say they needed to find the source of the infection before they could let us go but i think for the most part they know babies get infections and a course of X antibiotics will serve. I got them to take a swab once i got wise to this and his tonsils were clear. I guess one good thing to come from all this is I know he is a tough cookie and I know how best to manage when he is poorly. And I have learned that I really do know best when it comes to my boy. But it is the pits, the very pits and I have such respect for any parents of chronically ill children. Seb is fine now, his old self… Ive aged about a million years and still have to check on him more times in the night than I care to admit for fear of a fever coming on while im not with him. But I am enjoying him again, whereas for a while I was just scared, and Im learning to let go of the thermometer! Always love your posts. Keep them coming X

  2. Glad to hear you were eventually able to get the care you needed – I agree, it’s vital to be insistent about healthcare, and there is a known gender issue here, or at least one of national politeness. We need to get over the internal voice saying “demanding things isn’t nice” and just get on and demand them. Poor you – hope you are both recovering, emotionally and physically!

    • Thank you, we are – though the bubba was rarely phased to be fair. As you have said, it was me that was the wreck! And I agree… When it comes to our kids especially we have to be outspoken on their behalf x

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