Last week my family was taken hostage by a very small virus that lodged itself in the throat of my 17-month-old little S.
To all the parents reading this who have survived croup, thank you, in advance for your sighs, your pearl clutches, and your collective knowing gasps of, “Fucccckkkkkk
Before I get into it, last week was a really bad week period. I know second hand far too many people who know people who were shot and or killed in Las Vegas last Monday. This one hit very close to home.
And then there was every other thing that dominated the headlines, from paper towel tosses to birth control, to the kneeling of players at NFL games. It felt like a really fucking bad week in a series of unending bad weeks that makes me want to turn off all the lights, hide under the covers, and long for the days of a Bush presidency.
Within our relatively safe bubble of our family, work was particularly challenging for both my husband and I. Emotionally. Physically. Mentally.
So when we went to bed on Thursday night, we did so looking forward to one more day until the weekend, where we had plans to go to the pumpkin patch and participate in the local Alzheimer’s walk for a cure. These plans could temporarily take me away from the anguish and nail-biting and worrisome mind tunnels that I find myself in so frequently these days.
I wanted a break.
But last Friday morning at around 4:30 A.M. I woke up to the telltale sound of little S cough-barking like a seal. A sound that is familiar to us, having survived a croupy cough with J two years ago that sent us to the ER.
We were under siege.
I couldn’t find any sitters to watch S (and part of me hates doing that anyway because when he’s sick he just wants the comfort and familiarity of Mommy) which means I go in late, Chris leaves early, and I stay until 10 PM to make sure I catch up on all the work I missed.
The guilt that comes from being a working parent, who is tasked with taking care of a very sick baby might be up there with some of the worst of all the working parent guilt.
I feel guilty when I’m home with him because I see the emails, and the text messages, and the conversations about what I’m missing at work. The pressure of making sure I’ll be able to catch up weighs on me heavily as I rock his helpless little body back to sleep.
I feel guilty when I’m at work because I know how hard it is to care for a sick baby. And I’ve either trusted a babysitter to help, or I’ve left it all to my very capable husband.
But even he has his moments.
On Friday night as I was leaving work, Chris called me in a panic trying to remember how bad the cough would need to be for us to take S to the emergency room.
It was 10 PM, and S had just gone through the second of two major coughing fits where it almost sounds like he can’t breathe or that he’s choking.
Wisdom and experience tell us he’s not. He just needs help opening up his airway… and the uncontrollable coughing fit scares him.
Chris went through the routine of steam from a really hot shower in a small bathroom for 10 minutes to sitting outside on our porch swing rocking him in the cooler air for another 20.
The pediatrician told us if he can’t calm down relatively quickly with either or both options, or if his fever gets very high, that’s when we’ll know to go to the ER.
And so began the yo yo nights of up every few hours attempting to provide relief for a baby who is just fucking miserable.
Three nights of this.
Each night, Chris and I would end up on our porch, one of us rocking little S, while we talked through whether or not now is the time to head to the ER.
It gets worse at night, they say.
You’re not fucking kidding, I say.
On the plus side my skin looks amazing from all the steam treatments, and also I have a new awareness of how busy my otherwise quiet little cul de sac is at all times of the night…which is surprisingly quite a bit more busy than I thought.
I’ve written about the chaos that caring for sick children can do to our house before but there’s something about this particular round that has left us battered and dazed.
Monday morning came and he was still not getting better so off to the pediatrician we went, again, where they thankfully gave him a dose of steroids (the only treatment for croup.) This seemed to help within hours.
S was finally eating and drinking more than a few bites or a few sips. He was smiling. He was even laughing.
He took a three-hour nap and I felt relief that during the entire three hours he only woke up once to cough but then quickly fell back asleep.
The terrorist virus in his throat had been weakened. But not yet fully destroyed.
You're only as happy as your unhappiest child, they say.
No shit, I say.
And now, I should be sleeping.
It’s Thursday night. Almost a full week since the initial attack and yet somehow I’m wide awake, my mind racing with whether or not tonight will be the night that he actually sleeps the whole way through again.
I’m listening to the hum of the white noise machine in his room on the monitor, hoping that the congestion that remains in his little chest and head doesn’t some how turn into something else…something worse…
I will not hex it by writing about how I hope his brother doesn’t get it. I will not hex it by writing about how so far he’s showing no signs of it. I will not hex it by writing about how other kids in his class have gotten it but so far he’s avoided it. I will not hex it by writing about how maybe he really has built up immunities from all these prior experiences.
I'm just going to try to go to sleep.