Let’s face it, nothing actually truly prepares you to become a parent. You have some idea of the struggles you might face though you still can’t appreciate the enormity of things like the sleepless nights and the huge shift in your life until it has taken place, but one thing I was not expecting was the toll the illnesses would take.
And quite honestly, it is only in my second year as a mother this is something I have come to understand. As a new mum I didn’t quite get it either. Sure, when I was on maternity leave, Elliot had a handful of small illnesses and they were stressful in their own way. Your first time dealing with a high temperature or the first time your baby is ill can be incredibly daunting and frightening, but I’m talking about the sheer relentless grind of constant colds, coughs, viral infections and all the contagious illnesses that come when you’re back to work and your child is in childcare or in school.
Sweet Jesus. I had no idea, none. When I was on maternity leave and Elliot was sick, if we had a couple of sleepless nights, I tried to grab a nap if he was able to sleep during the day. And while it would be a few tough days, I would ride it out, knowing that while hard, I just had to get through the day me and him, there was no other real logistics involved.
Now I am at work, and if he is up all night, I still have to show up and be a functioning adult. I can’t just let him sleep late and see how the day goes, we are now on a schedule. And if he’s sick it’s not just about caring for him, there is the stress of what to do about work. Let’s be realistic, not everyone can afford to take unpaid leave, so that is a huge stress for parents.
And if you are lucky (and let’s face it that luck comes with its own double edged sword) to have an understanding boss who will let you work around a sick child, that will inevitably mean working late into the night, finishing up possibly just in time to get an hour or two of sleep before they wake again.
There have been nights lately where I feel like he’s a new-born again with the level of sleep I’m operating on.
I find myself getting panicked now when I notice the start of something else wondering if this is going to take him out of crèche or not, trying to mentally think of my work and any important deadlines for the week ahead and considering contingency options based on which day he might get sent home.
But it’s not just the juggle, it is the sheer relentlessness of it. Since November, there has been something in this house every, single, week, literally every week for four months now and I am honestly half alive at this point.
At the GP, I struggle to give accurate answers to when exactly this cough started because honestly, I’m not fully sure. Is it the same cough he had last week but that was just a remnant of the last illness. Or is this something to do with the new illness? Was the vomiting bug this month or last? Was it five days for my husband’s antibiotic or mine, all the illnesses have started to blur together.
Gone are the nights of wine and a takeaway, our usual Saturday night date is now eDoc more often than not, waving at dada through the window. If it gets really romantic, my husband can nip in and be the designated parent quickly while I run to the bathroom.
That’s actually a good Saturday because it might mean, all three of us aren’t actually sick at the same time. Because like many things with parenting, illnesses are a 2 for 1 offer, either your child is the one that is sick, or they are like a mini assassin, deftly side stepping the illness themselves but carrying it straight into your loving arms.
As I write this, my husband is sick in bed, I’m working with a hacking cough and a chest infection, the baby is asleep (for now)…but also sick with an ear infection, and the dog just started heaving and I swear to god if he is also sick, I am just done.
Because that’s the other thing about the relentlessness of this sick season, there is no sick day for a mother, no rest period. A weekend in bed isn’t going to happen the way it did to pick you up pre baby. In many ways my husband remarked to me, it feels a bit like living in that first crazy newborn haze.
He is right. The groove I had got back into, being back at my old workout classes, playing tennis just before I returned to work, are a distant memory. I have regained a huge chunk of weight I had lost from sheer emotional eating, and opting for takeaways because neither of us could face shopping or cooking. No one in the house is sleeping much, we both feel like we’ve been hit by a bus, and we are both jealously watching the amount of rest and sleep the other gets.
Fights easily break out over who got to go to bed the last time they were sick, and when one of us goes under with the latest illness, our first thought for the other, if we’re truly honest, is not sympathy. It is despair. For ourselves. Because when you are living in the warzone during the sick season, you are a little bit selfish and honestly who could blame you. Solo parenting, working and dealing with a sick child is no joke, and right now I couldn't have more respect if I tried for single parents.
It’s hard not to feel guilty for moaning, honestly every time I talk about anything to do with parenting these days the word guilt creeps in there somewhere! But I do feel guilty for moaning, let’s be real.
There are parents out there with seriously ill children, who would love to only be dealing with the trifling illnesses that I am right now. I also know that the Blathin who struggled so long to get my baby would love nothing more than to reach into the screen and give me a slap if she was reading this. That I should be grateful for what I have. That is all true, but it is also true that this is really really hard right now and that’s ok too.
From just a quick glance at social media, I have seen so many mums say they are struggling with the constant illnesses the past few months, one used the word drowning, and that is honestly what it feels like. And like those early new-born days, no one really understands just how awful it can be, until you are in it.
My GP and probably the person I see most frequently these days outside of creche, tells me this has been one of the worst years in history. Covid has done us parents some favours, seriously if I wasn’t at least able to work from home I really would be done, but it has created absolute havoc with our immune systems. And children in schools and crèche are now suffering the consequences of our prolonged isolation.
The silver lining is I’m told, we’re getting it worse because Elliot only started crèche this year, when his immune system builds, everything will get easier. The bad news, (and this is the bit I didn’t tell my husband, because honestly I fear it will tip him over the edge), is that I’m also told this is an annual event. But I’m choosing not to dwell on that, ignorance is bliss and all that… Until next year.
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