Anna has had a really bad cold since last week (a result, no doubt, of her first kiss), but she’s been handling it so well, hardly fussy even though the rattly cough wakes her up from naps and at night so she must be feeling as zombie-ish as Jer and I are. We were prepared to just ride it out, doing whatever we could to make her comfortable. (They should make a carnival game called “Insert the Snot-Sucker Into the Tiny Nostril While That Nostril Shakes Vehemently Back and Forth Trying to Get Away.” It’s like a cruel variation of Whack-a-Mole, where missing could mean the loss of an eye.)
These few days remind me of the reflux weeks, except now my hands and sleeves and face are covered in phlegm instead of regurgitated formula. (Jer actually was covered in spitup after a particularly bad coughing episode…Since she’s eating so much more, it was a regular spitup fountain. So festive!) Good thing, by the way, that one isn’t grossed out by the boogers and vomit spewed by one’s own child. It must be an evolutionary thing that allows us to take care of children during sickness, without reservation. She sneezes in my mouth and I just laugh…although…I’ve just imagined her vomiting in my mouth and have realized that perhaps love does have its limits after all.
Anyway, the cold was progressing as colds tend to do (i.e., not getting better) until Monday morning when she woke up wheezing. This was the first time Anna had ever been sick, and I’d read a lot on colds (“a lot” meaning everything in existence, since as you’ve seen from earlier posts I have a tendency to be paranoid.) Everything I’d read said that a rattly chest, which she’d had previously, is fine, the mucus is loose and will eventually dissipate. But if a baby starts wheezing it’s a sign of something potentially more serious. (And yes, I am still calling her a baby. If I’m calling her a baby in ten years you have my permission to squeeze my shoulder and give me a little talk. Till then, just let me have this one thing.)
Her breathing was labored too, and that’s what really worried me, so I took her to the pediatrician first thing and he diagnosed her with RSV. Then told me that kids who get RSV after colds are at a higher risk for developing asthma, especially if there’s a family history of it, which in Anna’s case there is.
Hey, paranoia, meet potentially deadly diseases. You’re growing stronger, aren’t you. There’s no stopping you now, you win. I will never put Anna down, and will be one of those parents who calls the pediatrician every single time her child burps. God help us all.
I sat in the doctor’s office holding Anna’s arms as they strapped a mask over her face and attached it to a nebulizer. She was terrified, screaming and thrashing, tears streaming down her face. And who could blame her? How would you feel if you had no idea what was going on, one minute you were laughing and flirting with office personnel and the next a stranger was pressing this contraption over your face, its motor as loud as a construction drilling site, making you inhale strange smelling smoke? The whole time she was looking up at me while she screamed, pleading with me to save her when all I could do was rock her back and forth and sing to her and try to pin down her arms to keep her from tearing the mask away. I was trying (and totally failing) not to cry myself, and feeling awful for the nurse who looked like she wanted to rip a hole in the plaster wall and disappear through it.
And then, oh joy, they sent us home with one of those wonderful machines, for treatments 4-6 times a day. She’s getting used to the treatments luckily, but I know she hates them. Last time I took out the mask she gave a little heartbreaking moan, but then sat there and let me slip it over her head. I have broken her spirit.
We’ve been so lucky that she’s been healthy so far, that this is the worst we’ve had to deal with. But every time I sit there with her I find myself thinking of the moms of diabetic babies, or of babies with even more immediately dangerous diseases, and I think…How can they possibly stand it? How strong are these parents that they can somehow work with their children and stay strong through the pain of shots and blood testing, insist on jabbing sharp things into their kids’ bodies even though it might bring tears, manage not to show them their fear of high and low sugars and of what might come in the future?
I want to tell Anna’s damned virus to leave her the hell alone and take me instead, which of course is what every parent of a sick kid feels. When I was holding Anna in the doctor’s office all I could think was that I’m used to being the sick one, I can deal with it and I rarely get upset or angry about it, but having to do this to my child was making me more pissed off than I’d ever been in my life. But then the treatment was over and Anna grabbed my shirt and snuggled her face against my neck, cried a little and let me rub her back. All she needed was that minute of comfort before she grabbed for Henry, her stuffed cat, smiled at him and bit his ear. Then flirted with the women at the reception desk as we paid the bill, let me carry her to the car and slept on the drive home and when she woke, she was fully herself.
This is what I bet all diabetic kids would want to say to their parents, that it’s just part of life, not worth stressing over. Anna looks up at me while she wears the nebulizer mask and gives me little reassuring smiles, almost like she knows I’m having a hard time seeing her suffer, and wants to reassure me. I remember purposely not telling my parents about low sugars I got in school, about the few kids in fifth grade who teased me for being different, about times I felt weak and nauseous and thick-blooded from being high. Because I somehow understood their pain at seeing those things would be a lot worse than mine was at experiencing them.
It’s so hard to be a parent, see the inevitable bumps and bruises, small and big and very big. I’ve told this same thing to d-parents before, that whenever you’re feeling pity for your child please remember that you’re imagining a burden that they don’t really feel. Yeah, they feel the momentary pain of a lancet or syringe, just like Anna feels the frustration of having her hands pinned against her sides. But when it’s over it’s completely over for her, she doesn’t stress about next time or worry about taking her next breath. We do the worrying, it’s our pain. If they could, I’m sure they’d tell us we’re making it harder on both ourselves and them. That it’s okay, they’re okay, and we need to just let it go.