My nine-month-old baby is sick. Again. Ugh.
No, sadly, the first thought I had when I woke at some ungodly-hour o'clock to discover a 101.4 temp and an inconsolable little man was not, “Oh my god my poor sweet baby! I hope he's okay!” No, that thought came later. Instead, the first thought I had was, “Well Fuck.” And more specifically: “What does this mean for work?” Because I've been conditioned to fear the work repercussions both imagined and real of having to stay home and take care of a sick child.
When one of our children comes down with something our house turns into a suburban neighborhood ground zero… like we’ve been hit with a natural disaster and that disaster comes with a runny nose, a nasty cough, and a high fever. At first, it’s total chaos: lots of freaking out and running around assessing the damage of just how bad this one is….Is it the Big one? I.e. ER in the middle of the night? Or is it just a little tremor? Something that can be fixed with a steady regiment of Tylenol/Motrin/Zarbees/Babyrub/Nose Frida/Humidifier/Diffuser/and my latest favorite placebo effect: a cut raw onion.
Once the dust has settled in the form of a diagnosis - the process of survival kicks in. This particular round of sick hell came with a nice dose of insomnia. Him. Not us. And no amount of holding or rocking or soothing or singing or even doubling up on Motrin and Tylenol staggered at appropriate times could soothe our otherwise super easy-going little man. Heartbreaking, to be sure, but add to that a toddler with boundless energy who’s love language is quality time, and it feels like some master plan to test the strength of even the most sound marriages.
Also, little S coughed so hard that he puked four fucking times. Three times on me, and one time on my husband so badly that he walked out of the room covered from head to toe in vomit and said “He just barely missed my mouth.”
I'll let that imagery pass for you. And sorry, not sorry at least you didn't have to live it.
While we fall head first into Defcon 4 dealing with whatever calamity we’re currently dealing with – the rest of everything stands still. Laundry piles up to epic proportions. Dishes don’t get done because fuck dishes. Toys and clothes and everything else multiply and ooze everywhere making you wonder in rare lucid moments of clarity, “Is all this shit moving around on it’s own?!” Also, fuck healthy eating or exercising or sleeping or having any kind of fun with your significant other that doesn’t involve a conversation that goes something like this: “Was it arm temp or butt temp. Butt temp? Fuck.”
I’m bitching a lot because I’m bitter as hell about this. As each sickness sweeps through our house it adds to the weight I carry of all of the fucking guilt. The guilt that I can’t do enough to help comfort my child; The guilt that I can’t do or say enough to make it feel right with work; The guilt of missing work, of missing home, of hiring a stranger last minute to snuggle with the small person who really only wants me because let’s be honest -- we tend to want our mommy when we’re feeling like shit. But I can’t be that person all the time because I have a fear that I’m going to get fired, or at least not considered for the next season because, “She’s got young kids.”
In actuality, the one thing I should really spend my time worrying about is my sweet little man who is so beyond miserable and yet doesn’t have any way to tell me exactly what hurts other than to cry and insist that I hold him and comfort him as much and as often as possible. Which I do, without fail, even though I’m definitely risking coming down with the latest in CDC mysteries and missing even more work in the very near future.
Bottom line: sick care is fucked in this country. But so are a lot of things. And if there's anything I've learned about working as a freelance producer it's that you make it work. So my husband and I lean into it. We dose ourselves with Zicam and emergen-C to hopefully prevent or lessen the impact of a transfer of the fresh new hell to us. We try to sleep as much as we can when we can. We Clorox wipe the fuck out of our house and wash the fuck out of our hands. We go to work when we can and try to keep it together on even less sleep than normal and even later nights catching up than we’d prefer.
And when I do return to work, I‘ve come to look forward to the nods I get from my fellow compatriot co-worker parents that seem to say, “How bad was it?” They get it. They know the war I’ve been fighting for the past several days. Which is comforting. Integrating back into society after a particularly bad round of sick hell can be isolating and strange. The only thing I’ve thought about for several days is this sickness and the cause and effect of each new detail of it…so having real conversations with real people about other very real things feels foreign and weird. And it’s like I have to get my bearings again.
But in a sick way I’m actually grateful for all of this. Pun kind of intended. I’ve read the studies that have found that babies in day care miss less kindergarten than their later-to-start-school counterparts because they’ve already been exposed to many of the germs. I’m grateful that both my husband and I are in relatively early stages of our respective careers where there is plenty of responsibility, but not all of it. I’m grateful that from time to time I do end up working for a very supportive and understanding show runner.
But none of this makes it any easier to survive this shit right here, right now.
This particular sickness took five days to work it’s way out of our house, and we're still waiting to see if the older one has caught it or not. Luckily we had a random four-day weekend situation (my husband had Friday off and we both had Monday off) and so we could attend to the littlest man with all of our energy and love. I know this is a unicorn in the land of sick care, but I’ll take it.
Meanwhile, I'm feeling a bit of a scratchy throat. Ugh. Stay healthy, everyone.
Some of the links above contain affiliate linking, which means that at no extra cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. You can read my full disclosure policy here.