I take my health for granted, which is why when I get sick, you want to avoid me like the *plague. (*Quits day job to go write for Big Bang Theory.)
I’m suddenly the introspective ancestor of the most depressed Bronte sister, all long lopes out of rooms with tears prickling the corners of my eyes, non-blinking gazes out windows, and martyr-like dramatic declarations. “I’ll be FINE. It’s FINE. It’s just a FULL BODY INFECTION really.”
Nobody likes me. Everybody hates me. I think I’ll go eat more germs.
So when my kid gets sick and she is not a huge pussy, I am proud as fuck. Genetics may have bequeathed her my 17,000 body moles and horrific singing voice but she’s tough as nails in the face of any and all illness.
Overall, over the years, we’ve been so lucky. Kids are typically giant dump trucks of whine, worry and warts. Not mine. My 4 year old has weathered goo-filled common colds with grace; kicked croup’s ass with ease as we wrung our hands; let us slather eye ointment into each eye for a week with no fuss; and every bang and bruise is totally negated by our kisses.
She has never vomited. Weird, right? And if she did, afterwards I imagine her staggering to her feet, wiping her mouth and sighing, “Woof. Pass the mouthwash Ma. I’ve got funky year old Cheerios wedged in my molars.”
She’s tougher than the skin on the back of Mick Jagger’s neck.
I’m as fragile as Mick Jagger’s taint hair.
It makes me so proud.
Cue up Friday night.
(I joke and joke and exaggerate and fill those meaty sentences above with fewer commas than they deserve because I was scared.)
An autumn cold had morphed into something treacherous. Her guts were being forcefully pushed out and then in with each laboured breath. We took her to the Emergency Room to figure out if she had an Alien in her chest or some other reasonable explanation.
(I joke and joke and complain and lament and roll my eyes about this parenting gig, but if you ever took it away, I would break into shards of lost bones.)
While we waited to be seen by a nurse, the 4-year-old heaving warmth on my lap asks the room loudly, “Does she have nails?” I look to our left and see the woman beside us has cultivated an almost Guinness World Record set of yellowed talons and I swallow a deep sour mouthful of spit.
(I don’t believe it when they say if you lost a child, one day, you could feel alive again. I just do not.)
She lounged on her hospital bed, ankles crossed, arms above her head like she was on a Mediterranean yacht, as I paced around the tight room. Not imagining the worst but rather holding a hand over that part of my brain that muffle-whispers terrifying things…
(Children are just a loose sac of parts that work in tandem, because, why? What if I continue taking that for granted? What happens then?)
The diagnosis was bronchiolitis; something that sounds like something Barney Rubble would catch. She was asked to inhale steroids through a hissing misting mask and she pulled the mask on with a matter of fact face, like YEAH YEAH YEAH, I’ve got my programs to watch at home so let’s get this shit started.
Our heart rates slowed to a number the Doctor liked.
(When your child is sick, your child, you are more sick in the head, and your heart pounds out I MADE THIS HAPPEN because I paid more attention to blogging about her instead of being with her.)
My husband carried her back to the car, her socks pulled high on bare legs. Feet stuffed into sparkly Mary Jane’s and her Elsa dress thin against the night.
I slept on the couch in her room and didn’t sleep at all. Every time she coughed my eyelids flapped open like cartoon character venetian blinds.
(By next Tuesday I’ll have exfoliated this guilt and fear. I’ll have found something thisbig that I turn into THIS BIG. And then get 46 flu’s because I firmly and completely deserve it.)
She woke me up the next morning at 10:50 am, over-the-moon delighted to see me in her room, hovering with her blinding breath, already launching into a story about our day.
(I’ll learn a little from this, then press it away in the back of my head that remembers my Mom is going to leave me one day too.)
She’ll get better.
I’ll get better too.
I’ll tweet about her being a dick and the black oil in my brain will rear back and remind me of that night in the hospital. So I’ll put my phone down and ask her 47 questions about Frozen and actually listen as she tries to break down the plot with sweeping arm gestures and repeated “true love heart.” I’ll tell her I think I know what that is and she’ll shush me for interrupting and I’ll think this, this right now is what I want to take for granted.
(This post first ran on missteenussr.com)
I adore your reference to the sickliest of the Bronte sisters. I, too, lean in this direction. There really is very little worse than the kind of worry that comes with having sick kids. It’s terrifying and sleep depriving and appetite snatching and my heart breaks for those whose children suffer from long term or serious illnesses.
Thank you Shannon! I agree – I can barely hang on with a minor illness. I cannot fathom long term or unidentified ailments. I would crumble all the time.
You poor kid! Both of you! I know of what you speak–my daughter had pneumonia when she was three months old. It was a multi-day drama. They sent us to Children’s for a night for observation. I spent long, anguished minutes watching the sweep second hand on my Mickey Mouse watch (the only one I have with a sweep second hand) go around and around as I counted the number of breaths she took, praying that when I multiplied by four it would be within an acceptable range. They warned us that having gotten pneumonia once, any time she got sick she would be at risk for developing it again.
Not only has she barely ever been sick since then, the few times she was she’s been fine. It’s like she got all the sickness for her whole life over with in one anxiety-inducing episode. She’s a tough as nails kid too, and when I grow up, I want to be JUST LIKE HER, because she ROCKS.
Can I just tell you how much I adore your never ending support and love for my words? Sincerely. You are amazing.
I’m fairly certain I would have not made it if S was sick at three months. At that time I could barely remember how to shampoo my butt, erm, hair. It sounds like she does indeed rock. 🙂
That made my day. My kid pukes on my bedding but only if it’s the last clean sheet set. Also on the rug if there’s no clean towels. I’m a miserable sick person. You are such a great writer, I love reading your work!
Thank you Alison! I think it’s time to teach your prolific puker to do some goddamn laundry. 🙂
I love this Brooke. Aside from your potty mouth, which makes mine feel less lonely, like we could have a cursing playdate, I’ve been there, sleeping but not sleeping, next to a sick kid. I have a chronic illness/weakened immune system so I catch everything but have my lifestyle set up to manage it. Still, when one of my boys is sick, all bets are off. I slept in a tiny ball on the end of the lumpy hospital bed when my little one had pneumonia. I backed myself up to my boy’s feverish body when he shook with chills. I listened to breath, every cough, every wheeze. Yup. Those illnesses are so scary.
Thank you Jenny! You sound 157% stronger than me. Let’s all agree that kids are no longer allowed to get sick. *pinky swears*