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Saturday, 22 August 2015

The frustrations of looking after a poorly poppet

Duckling is under the weather again. Just a mild bout of conjunctivitis (so far) this time, but it comes hot on the heels of tonsillitis, a never ending snot barrage of a cold, then hand foot & mouth. The poor kid has spent more time ill than healthy over the past couple of months. And it's summer! God only knows what will happen when autumn sets in and the school germs start circulating again.

The neurotic part of me is worried that he has some kind of immune disorder. However, he never seems to get properly, worryingly unwell, he hasn't yet suffered a secondary bacterial infection and he has no wound healing issues either, which, Google informs me, probably all mean his immune system's completely fine. I can only conclude therefore that it's normal for a child of 18 months to get sick this much, as essentially he hasn't built up any immunities to anything yet (breastfeeding gives them antibodies my arse!). It doesn't make it any less frustrating though.

First, it's horrible seeing your child so sad and uncomfortable. Duckling does a good line in plaintive whining, looking morose, and melodramatically crumpling in the middle of his play mat because he feels so rotten. It's heart-breaking because I feel so powerless to help. Calpol is my only real weapon, but spat out and smeared all over clothing, the sofa and the curtains, it's not much use.

Second, the flip side of the heart-breaking lethargy is the rage-inducing clinging. Duckling is Mummy obsessed enough at the moment, but illness seems to have intensified his velcrosity by a factor of thirty. I completely understand why he wants constant cuddles and breastfeeding - I would too - but it doesn't make it any less frustrating when you're trying to cook / play a nice game with him / put your socks on / sleep. Constantly being in demand is totally knackering, however much compassion you have for their unhappy state.

Third, it often puts you in an impossible quandary when it comes to socialising. When your child is supposed to be coming out with you, you have to assess how ill they are (is it fair to take them out?), how infectious they might be (Day 2, probably very; Day 7, less so), the vulnerability / tolerance of the people you're going to see, your own energy levels and how much you need to escape the prison of your own home. If your kid's not coming with you, you have to try to balance the guilt of leaving them with an alternative carer (crap for both the child and the carer) with the urgency / necessity of your planned outing. I don't know about anyone else, but I find myself paralysed by indecision when trying to take all of these competing factors into account, as I know whatever choice I make, someone will end up with the shitty end of the stick. Possibly literally.

Fourth, in a similar vein, is the eternal 'what do I do about work?' question when they're too ill to go to nursery / the childminder / school. I have very laid back colleagues but even they have raised an eyebrow or two at the amount of time I've had to "work from home" over the past couple of months. Because we all know working from home is impossible with a child present, particularly a clingy, sickly child. Heaven knows what I would do if I couldn't pretend to work from home. I think my Mum would be called upon to rescue us every other week...

Fifth, there is always a point in all but the mildest of illnesses where you think "ooh, that doesn't look / sound good. I wonder if I should take him / her to the doctor?" You will then proceed to procrastinate for as long as possible ("I'll just see how he is in the morning") as you weigh up the severity of the symptoms with the pain in the arseyness of having to book and then undertake a visit to the GP, in the full knowledge that they will recover the second you step through the surgery door. So far we've only had to visit the doctor once but I do fear we're riding our luck a bit - most of my friends seem to have ended up in A&E at least once in their baby's first year or two.

Sixth is the mysterious nature of a lot of childhood illnesses. Three day temperature with no other real symptoms? What's that all about? (Viral tonsillitis for reference). Purple green poo? (Overdose of blueberries). Fever and spotty rash? (Chicken pox! Or maybe Hand Foot & Mouth. Nope, Chicken Pox. No, no, definitely H, F & M. Probably. Bloody clueless pharmacist.)

Seventh = snot, sick, spots, squits, scabs... Just yuck.

Eighth, the requirement to sit through endless episodes of Peppa Pig and other kiddies' telly delights (which is the only thing that'll keep Duckling vaguely content when he's sick). It will be better when he's older and can be left to have a duvet day on the sofa largely on his own, but for now, he'll only sit still and watch happily if he's on my lap. Which is kind of lovely for five minutes. Less so after an hour. Altogether now "Peeeeeppa Pig! Do do do do dodo, dah dah dah dah dah dahdah."

Finally, at nine, is the knowledge that however fastidious you are about hand washing and quarantining soiled items, at some point your darling offspring will sneeze / throw up in your face and you WILL get whatever they have. The only thing worse than looking after a sick child is doing it when you're sick too.

Essentially, in a shock revelation, looking after a poorly baby is a bit rubbish. Who knew?!  It is ripe with possibilities for self-flagellation ("I know I was threatening to spit roast Peppa Pig, but I can't believe I took him to the park with that cough. I'm such a terrible mother!"), exhausting, upsetting, miserable if you catch it too, deeply inconvenient in terms of work and your social life and generally a bit gross. On the plus side though, at least Duckling will already be immune to a whole bunch of stuff by the time he goes to school.  That'll mean fewer illnesses once he's there, right?  Right?!

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