When Sick Moves In

The Kids Are Sick Again
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When sick moves in, you don’t always know it’s happened at first. It’s just a cold, right? Okay, a long and extended cold, a toddler who needs a “tih-oo” every five minutes, but no big deal. An infant who has to have his nose suctioned periodically for a week, then two, then three.

When sick moves in, you load up the kids and go to the doctor on a Thursday to make sure the baby really is just getting virus after virus, and it’s not something that needs treatment…and then, that night, the toddler spends the entire night wailing and screaming, until your nerves are raw and you wonder what you were thinking by having children in the first place, and in the morning there’s crustiness outside his ear and you feel horrible for not recognizing that your child has an ear infection, the first ever in six years of parenthood. And then you think how lucky you are to have avoided it so long, and berate yourself for your shot nerves and hair-trigger temper. And you load up the kids and go to the doctor again…at nap time…with kids and a mommy who haven’t slept well. Nearly hysterical, you call your husband and tell him to COME HOME FROM WORK RIGHT NOW. Which he doesn’t, of course, and by the time he does–early, just not as early as you wanted–everyone’s calmed down and you feel like a total loser for calling at all.

When sick moves in, it’s the cruelest kind of face slap: just as you think you’re finally going to get a good night’s sleep, the toddler’s roommate comes down with a cough bad enough to make you waffle about sending him to school. But he wants to go, you want him to go, and he’s borderline, so you send him. Half an hour after you put the kids down for nap, the school calls and says, “Sorry, come get your kid.” So you lose yet another day’s nap for the sick children, and top it off with two days with four kids in the house and nowhere to go.

When sick moves in, you come face to face with the reality that it’s not the big stuff that gets you, but the minor ones. You tell yourself that this too shall pass, that kids need to get sick, that this will make them healthier when they get older. But the truth is, you want to murder everyone, or at least exile them, or at least find a really deep hole to dive headfirst into. Preferably one where it’s quiet and will allow you to sleep uninterrupted by coughs, screams, and wails, not to mention that cute baby you have to nurse twice a night. And you berate yourself for your poor attitude, because you know other people who really have it bad, and others still who would give up several years of their life to have medical problems so trivial as viruses to deal with, instead of the ones they’ve been given. You snip at your spouse, burn with resentment because s/he sleeps through it/doesn’t do enough/isn’t being sensitive.

And then child number two hops a plane to Ear Infection Hell. Another sleepless night, and the spouse snips at you because he didn’t sleep, and you want to scream, “THIS IS MY LIFE ALL THE TIME, AND YOU’RE ACTING THIS WAY BECAUSE OF ONE NIGHT???” A date night canceled. Doctor visit #3. (Thankfully, Daddy handles that one.) Another round of amoxicillin, and you breathe a deep sigh of relief…until Daddy starts hacking, adding yet another layer to the Reasons Why You Will Never Get A Full Night’s Sleep Again, and you feel guilty and selfish for thinking about that when those you love are suffering.

When sick moves in, the sickos breathe all over the healthy ones: the immuno-compromised child, the newborn, and the caretaker of the whole household. And you start thinking, Oh, no, when is it my turn? So you spend Saturday morning running around with a spray bottle full of vinegar and a rag, wiping down every surface you can think of that might be harboring microorganisms. You develop the worst plugged milk duct you’ve had yet this time around, and all tricks are powerless against it when you have a baby who doesn’t appear sick, but just wants to sleep and nurse back to sleep without really eating.

And then Toddler starts coughing. And wakes up the next morning with a high fever and spots all over his body. And now you know which child it was that had a sensitivity to penicillin. Only it’s Sunday, and your only medical option is a trip to the ER, which seems an overreaction considering how long it took to show up. And Baby decides he doesn’t want to nurse.

When sick moves in, you start perusing the mental calendar and realize  it’s only January. We have two full months of sick season left, and we’ve already been sick for six weeks straight.

Entering week seven, and hoping that I’m telling the end of the story. This has been a very self-indulgent run, so if you’ve made it this far, you should also know that although I’m incredibly sleepy this morning, I’m in a better emotional place simply for having vented it all out. Sometimes that’s what you need most.