Friday, September 26, 2008

Helpless

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 . . .

8 comments:

Carrie said...

There's nothing worse than when they're feeling sick and you cant fix it right away. I'm glad she's feeling better now!

Shania said...

It's a horrible feeling, no matter how minor the illness. Fever gets me every time too. For some reason, even though with four kids it's never happened, I'm convinced they're going to go into seizures.
I'm glad your both feeling better.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Danger Boy used to run a 104 temp for 24 hours every 3rd week when he was a toddler. They tested him for everything (of course Leukemia always jumps in your head first). It turns out he just runs hot so you always new when he was fighting any little thing off.

You're right, fevers are just plain scary. I'm glad she's better now.

Sarah said...

Fevers are the worst because you can't see what is wrong. I'm glad she is feeling better.

Julienne said...

I used to do that to my mom constantly as a child. My fever would jump to 103.5 for no reason other than it was fighting a little virus off. I still spike fevers like that and am slowly training my hubby not to freak out every time. But I still feel sorry for my Mom and for you Carrie - fevers in kids can be terrifying!

OHmommy said...

Yes, those are poopy times when you can't help them at all. I just put mine to bed and they seemed warm. I hate not knowing if tonight I will sleep well or be woken up.

Glad she is better.

Kyla said...

You are right, our hearts do walk around outside our bodies. When worry strikes, for whatever reason, you realize how little protection your heart has, and how little power you have over any of it.

I'm so glad it passed quickly.

Wyliekat said...

See, this is what petrifies me. Rosebud hasn't been sick like this yet. She's three. I know that I'm not going to be emotionally prepared for it. I don't know if you can be, but I can say for sure that even if it's possible, I'm not there.