Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Confessions of a Sick Child's Mother

It was funny when, in a fit of sleep-deprived delirium, I tried to stick an infant pacifier into Middle’s mouth.

But it was a different story when I held Middle’s shot-glass sized portion of children’s Tylenol up to Tiny’s lips (twice) and let her sip away at it (once).

Lucky for Tiny, I stopped myself in the nick of time, before she consumed the maximum a Tiny liver can tolerate.

I was mortified. Still am. I was five seconds away from having to get Tiny’s stomach filled with charcoal and pumped like an accordian. Please, don’t ever mention this to my husband.

Sickness with the older girls is much easier than it used to be. Middle, with hearing loss and double ear infections, scooted the yellow leather recliner two feet from the 48” flat screen and turned on PBS with volume cranked up so high I felt like I was in a sports bar on game night. There she stayed, red-cheeked and glassy-eyed, from morning til dinner time except for potty breaks and a brief but urgent desire to sit outside in the sunshine.

I used to be the kind of mother who sat with her children on the couch for the whole day, reading to them, talking with them, snuggling. Now I’m the mother who almost wouldn’t know they are home but for “Viewers Like You” service announcements blaring in the background and the occasional refill on a cup of juice. Oldest and Middle used to be the kind of children who asked for stories and snuggles on sick days. But they’re not so much those kids anymore. They’ve passed those needs down to Tiny like an outgrown pair of jeans.

Of course, Tiny can't ask yet like they used to. Currently battling two ear infections, she whimpers, smiles, whimpers, tugs at her ears, blows raspberries, whimpers and then buries her face in the skin that stretches beneath my clavicle. Last night she woke after an hour of sleep and cried—but not hysterically—for two and a half hours straight. Then we took her to the ER, and—I was right—she had ear infections.

Tylenol mishap aside, Tiny has a lot going for her in that Oldest and Middle have trained me well to recognize illnesses that merit a doctor visit. I’ve got a 4-0 score this past year, 4 being the number of times I accurately guessed what was wrong with my children and took them to a doctor for the necessary treatment. Strep, ear infections, allergies, flu, warts, slivers, stomach aches, bug bites, coughs and colds and asthma. I know what to do and who, if anyone, to call. I’m a walking Merck Manual.

But I'm not Donna Reed, and I don't have the most devoted bedside manner anymore.  I wonder if I should.

My latest guilt-inducing moment of the sick season was that I was so tired last night that I sent Tiny off with her father to the ER. Without me.

I’ve never. Ever. Ever. Sent my children “off” to the ER. Without me. I'm the one, at all crazy hours of the night, who goes to emergency rooms--because what if something happened and I wasn’t there? And what if they needed their mommy to hold their hands or talk to them or sing a song and I WASN'T THERE?

But last night (here it is) I was too tired. Really. Balled up on the couch exhausted, and I asked the husband what he thought about the ER and taking Tiny and he said he would and I pushed them out the door. To my credit, I immediately made a contingency plan to join them at the hospital if necessary. And then I went to sleep, on my bed, with the phone volume on high. And slept peacefully until he called with news.

My take-away from the week: Motherhood is getting easier?

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