Coping (or not coping) with my baby’s first illness …
I’ll let you into a secret. There was a time I wasn’t hugely enthusiastic about having a baby. I just didn’t know if I had the requisite maternal gene. So, I crossed my fingers and hoped it would emerge.
I remember my first feelings of fierce protectiveness towards my baby. Living in Amsterdam, I cycle(d) to work every day – some 8km each way – up until I was eight months pregnant. Cycling in Amsterdam is extremely safe, but other cyclists are experienced, fast and aggressive. You need your wits about you. As my bump grew, I found myself imagining scenarios where someone knocked into me on my bike and the furious conversation I would have with them. In my fantasy land, I was ready to spring like a tiger at anyone who might in any way harm this growing person. I should have seen the signs back then: I clearly wasn’t going to be the super-chilled Mum I thought I might be.
Over the Christmas break, our DamBaby (DB) fell sick for the first time. We’d endured low-level colds before – snuffly nose, tickly cough. But this was a full-blown cold. For two days I listened to the rattling sound of her chest as she breathed, and I woke with her every hour throughout the night to feed and soothe the hacking cough and sore throat. I knew it wasn’t the done thing to leap to the Doctors at the first hint of a cold. But my over-protective instinct wouldn’t let me relax. I was as miserable as she was. I felt like I was experiencing every cry myself. I was certainly experiencing the sleep deprivation.
After two days I broke and called NHS Direct (we were still on holiday in the UK). I have nothing but praise for the service I received. They asked me a series of questions, including some reassuring extremes to which I could easily answer ’no’ (‘Is she bleeding out of her ears or mouth? Have you recently visited the Middle East?’). They then booked me an outpatient appointment at the nearest hospital, appointment time less than two hours away. Talk about efficient. The doctor was equally wonderful. DB was screaming her head off and coughing at him. “I’d much rather she cry at me, it shows she’s still got the energy,” he remarked.
The doctor diagnosed a chest virus. He prescribed DB a baby inhaler and gave us tips about how best to soothe her – continue feeding on demand, tip the head of her cot so she sleeps more upright, give her baby paracetomol to ease her throat. But most of all he gave me reassurance that yes, my baby was sick, no it wasn’t anything more sinister than a very common virus, yes going to the Doctor was a reasonable and not completely paranoid thing to do.
It has taken over two weeks for recovery. Finally, DB is starting to sleep for longer stretches at night. She’s excited and curious about the world around again. She’s smiling and laughing. And so am I. As much as her sickness was hideous it taught me something – I did have that maternal gene after all.
How do you cope with illness? And any tips to soothe a baby cold?