You may have got the impression that I am a nervous wreck. You would be right. But if there’s one thing that makes me more nervous than anything, it’s illness. My kids’ illness. (I don’t get ill, full stop.) Just hearing those dreaded words, ‘There’s a lot of it going round’ strike fear into my heart. Please, PLEASE don’t let it ‘go round’ in my house.
Just before I gave birth to my eldest, a stranger said to me ‘Kids are great when they’re well’. I didn’t get what she was talking about. It was seven months later when my son had his first illness and suddenly it all made sense.
I’ll save the detail of the illnesses for another time. This is all about me and my fear of illness.
As a child and right into adulthood I had a phobia of vomiting. I don’t know why. I haven’t vomited myself since I was 12. Seriously. But whenever my brother or sister threw up it was like the world had ended for me. I would run and cry and hide for hours.
I still struggle with it now and will always be out of the room when one of them is being sick if at all possible. Luckily my husband will usually deal with it for me.
Once I had the kids, I learned to be afraid of temperatures too. 38 I can handle. Up to 39 I’m OK with, but every time the thermometer tips over 39 it’s like a little bit of me dies inside.
At the first indication of illness – headache, tummy ache, temperature, vomiting, diarrhoea, my own stomach turns to jelly. I have about five minutes in which to avert the immediate crisis before I am forced to dash to the toilet myself. Sometimes just the slightest bit of uncharacteristic behaviour, like not finishing a meal, is enough to set me off. Usually with no reason whatsoever, they just didn’t feel like eating all their dinner.
I am a tightly coiled spring. High on adrenaline and fear. Mentally going over when they can have some more medicine, shouldn’t the temperature be coming down by now, should they go to the doctor’s, should I call NHS Direct, have they had enough to drink, what if someone else catches it?
When you’ve been a parent for over 10 years and brought up three kids, there isn’t much that you haven’t seen before. I’ve seen 40 degree temperatures and sickness bugs. I’ve seen tonsillitis and chest infections, so why does it scare me so much?
I really don’t know. I know they’re not going to die, and surely that is all I should really fear?
I guess I fear my own inability to cope. My own inability to protect them from getting ill in the first place and to make the right decisions to get them better as quickly as possible. Needless to say, I am usually managing these situations alone, often with two other children hovering in the background because Daddy is at work. Luckily my mum and dad are always very supportive to me and the kids, the well ones as well as the ill one.
Generally, the reality is not as bad as I fear. Calpol or Calprofen can get a temperature down and cheer up a poorly child for a couple of hours. A dose at 11pm usually ensures a reasonable night’s sleep and they usually pick up within a day or two. Either good hygiene or good luck usually ensures only one child ever gets ill.
When they start managing without medicine every four hours, start asking to eat or being cheeky it is the best feeling in the world. It’s the happiest it is possible for me to feel, like I have been dragged out of a big black cloud into the bright sunshine.
Then I usually just have a week of flashbacks to deal with combined with the underlying fear that someone else will get ill before we are all properly back on track (until next time).