When I touched my lips to her cheeks and felt what I'd already suspected, I hated that I had to utter the words: she's burning up.
Just like that, and almost just as quickly gone, a 102 temperature was detected, treated and gone. Just like that. Who knows what she was fighting, what unseen battles were raging within her tiny body. Who knows?
What I do know is that no matter how much I read, no matter how much I heard, no matter how much I realized that one never really stops needing their mother when they don't feel well, this was all so true. The helplessness, the fear, the anxiety . . . all very real when all you can do is offer some baby Motrin, fluids and the comfort of your lap as you stroke the head of one of your babies when they don't feel well. And you hope that a fever is all it is.
She was placed in her bed, a limp form who'd already fallen so fast asleep that she could not be woken up. I fought the overwhelming urge to lay a sleeping bag out on her floor next to her bed, knowing that if I'd be taking care of a sick girl the next day I'd need to be as well rested as I could (which we all know is a joke, when is a mother ever able to rest well when she's worried about her child?). And I fought a deep sleep all night long, getting up to check on her and feel her forehead for any sign of coolness at least once every hour.
Finally, sleep won and those delicious two hours made up for the night of worry. I woke her up to take her temperature yet again and give another dose of medicine. She said, "I'm okay mommy," before falling back asleep for most of the morning. Sleeping it off, as I wandered from room to room busying myself with my domestic duties, fortifying each step with a cup of steaming coffee in my hand and waiting to hear her cry out to me.
And just like that, the clock struck noon and there she was.
"I'm all better!" she proclaimed from the top of the steps.
Further investigation proved that yes, yes she was. We'd wait and see. Sure enough, no fever, nothing. And it was over just like that.
I know there are many, many parents with more to worry about than I - but that doesn't make my worry any less real or valid when it comes, for it comes just as fiercely and unexpectedly as any other kind of worry. It takes me off guard, while poking along at the predictable cadence of our routine and foreseeable chaos, a sniffle here, a runny nose there. No big deal. But a fever. A fever gets me every single time, like a Mac truck out of blinding darkness, it hits me and this is the part of motherhood that nobody could warn me about. This is the part of motherhood that nobody can explain. This is the part of motherhood they are talking about when they tell you that your heart will be walking around outside of your body from now on. Forever.
The immense and crushing feeling of worrying about a sick child is suffocating, immobilizing and exhausting, to me. Every movement, every word is carefully chosen so as to not anger the gods in charge of such things - if there are, indeed, gods in charge of such things. And I do what I can, and I wait, completely helpless. Helpless, helpless, helpless . . .