Lessons from sick bay

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November 23, 2013 by Caroline Mincks

Ethan has been sick for about three weeks now, though you wouldn’t know it just by looking at him. He’s still my happy little introvert, singing to himself and lining up his cars, laughing hysterically at things I either cannot see or cannot understand, and, for some reason, touching all his toys to his head before putting them back down. He still has a great appetite, drinks plenty of milk and water, and has tons of energy.

But almost every night for three weeks, he has thrown up his dinner. It’s a pattern and it passes quickly – he wakes up crying, throws up, we clean him and his bed up, he starts laughing and trying to go play, and we manage to coax him back into bed. There have also been some lovely diapers, but I’ll spare you the details on those. Let’s just say diaper laundry has increased by roughly 6,000%. We’ve seen the doctor twice and started Ethan on a prescription on Tuesday. Finally, there was a little improvement today, but we are all exhausted from this ordeal. Wrestling with every diaper change and dragging yourself out of bed to locate and scrub vomit off of crib slats and a confused child is a little trying, to say the least. He has been a lot more clingy than usual, so I’ve been holding/wearing him almost constantly. We also haven’t really emerged from the house very often over the past few weeks, except to run the odd errand here and there and go to the doctor. We went for a stroll yesterday and it felt like a novelty. Adam has been working and rehearsing like crazy for the past month, so I have barely seen him. My mom’s holiday work hours have begun, so she’s practically a ghost. I’ve tried to keep up with the housework, but that’s a joke. I barely had the energy to heat up a bowl of soup for myself last night, let alone scrub anything.

So, yes, I’m frustrated. I’m exhausted, physically and mentally. I’ve been worried sick over Ethan’s situation. I have felt terribly lonely since everyone else has been working and we haven’t been able to get out much.

Despite all of the negatives, however, there are a few things I have learned this month that I don’t want to forget.

Cherish the snuggles. Ethan is a tall kid, a very active kid, and one who usually saves his snuggles for Daddy. Since he has been almost exclusively with me while he has been sick, he has begun to actively seek cuddle time with me. Yes, my back is a train wreck from holding and wearing my enormous kid for hours on end, but the second he puts his head on my shoulder, I feel no pain. I know these snuggles won’t last forever, so neither will the soreness of my arms.

Vacuuming can wait. I was irritated by the state of the house – normally I can keep it at least presentable on my own. However, the crazy holiday schedule, Adam’s rehearsals, and Ethan’s new status as “cuddlebug” have all conspired to keep me from fulfilling all my duties. I’m doing my best, but it’s not perfect. The mess will have to stay for a little while longer. The world will not end if there are some pine needles by the side door.

There is no such thing as too much baking soda. Ethan weighs 25 pounds. I’m willing to bet we have used about as much baking soda in hid room to hide the lovely smell of sick. Seriously, stock up. It’s a miracle.

It’s okay to be a little nutty. Ethan is not the type of kid to get sick. He doesn’t really catch colds or get sniffles. He barely made a fuss while he was teething. The moment all this started, I knew we had to keep a close eye on him. I may have been a little overzealous and paranoid about the whole thing, but he’s my baby. I’d rather be the mom calling the doctor three times in a week than let something go.

Give yourself a break. At the end of the day, you’re doing your best. You have yogurt all over your shirt and there are crumbs on the floor and you’ve spent the better part of three hours cleaning bodily fluids out of every conceivable surface. The house is a mess, you haven’t eaten, and the kid fell asleep early, so you know he’ll be up at the crack of 4:30 AM and ready to party. You’re ready to drop – and it’s only 7:30. You know what? Go ahead and drop. You should. We should all be able to say “I’m done for the day” on those really difficult days. Pour a glass of wine, grab a book, and soak in a bath hot enough to scare off one of those nutcases who walks three feet away from flowing lava in the name of science. Do the dishes tomorrow. Skip folding the laundry and just restart the dryer – we won’t tell.

Caring for a sick child, even one who seems otherwise fine like Ethan does, is draining. What you can accomplish while they’re resting on your lap is pretty limited. So don’t sweat it. I promise that you will regret not taking the opportunity to cuddle and comfort far more than you will regret not washing the windows. Allow yourself to rest and recharge, because this will pass. And until it does, you have to be at your best – tidy house or not.

Now then, I’m going to have to bring this post to a close. I have been typing the whole thing with one hand while holding Ethan with the other and I’m fairly certain that the blood flow to my arm is reaching critically low levels.

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Worth it.

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