The first time Tilly got a cold, she was about 8 weeks old, and I didn’t sleep a wink that first night- checking on her constantly, terrified she’d stop breathing because of the congestion in her nose.
She survived that (obviously) and on we went with our life. Sniffly noses have popped up occasionally, but it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that we really encountered a sick baby, and it was an experience I won’t forget lightly- especially as it happened twice in a matter of weeks.
Sick babies present their own set of challenges- the biggest being that they can’t tell you what they’re feeling, or even that something is wrong to begin with. Because in that moment where you don’t know that baby is sick, you can find yourself wondering when the devil began possessing your child.
It started on the Saturday night- she’d gone to bed as normal, only to start waking from about 10:30pm onwards, refusing to settle back to sleep, only wanting to be on me (exhausting). We tried everything- changing her nappy, feeding her, turning the air con on, turning the air con off, giving her Panadol/Bonjela/Infants Friend. Nothing worked, and I was losing my mind. By the next morning, we called the doctor, who came to check on her- but by then she’d had a sleep and a feed and seemed fine again. We put it down to a bad night- teething, perhaps?
She slept the next night fine, and Monday she seemed normal- until I noticed she refused her lunch (unheard of for Tilly, the gorgeous grubby guts that she is). By the time she had had her lunch sleep, she was burning up, and I knew for sure something was wrong.
Fast forward five days of fever, zero sleep, almost no feeding, cool showers at 3 and 4am to ease the fever, hours of crying, multiple bottles of baby Panadol, and mucus and coughing to rival that of an adult, and we were beside ourselves. I had taken her to the doctor multiple times, with swabs coming back showing viruses most likely picked up from daycare, but with no treatment for viruses, we had to ride it out.
By Friday, I took her back to the doctor, he had received more results showing bacterial infection as well, and as I went to take her back home, my bright sparkly little Tilly was lethargic and barely conscious in the back of the car. I took her to hospital, moaning and whimpering the whole way. She was seen immediately, and a chest x-ray showed she had developed pneumonia as a result of all the little buggies in her, and was dehydrated from the fever and her reluctance to feed.
We were admitted to the paediatric ward for the night, and she was given antibiotics and fluids to help get her back on track. It was a long, sleepless night, after already a week of no sleep, and by 5am when I’d finally got her to fall asleep on me and the second her eyes closed, the door opened and a doctor came in to do his checks on her, I burst into tears.
Over the next few days, she improved in leaps and bounds- although she was a little dubious of anyone who got too close to her (memories of being poked and prodded obviously didn’t fade quickly!). She was cleared to return to normal activities, and so we did, but here I am right now, in the midst of the second wave of illness in three weeks.
It seems fate has had other ideas for us yet again. Sleepless nights, hospital visits, and this time a rash- most likely hand foot and mouth- and a bub who has just been through the absolute works. It’s heartbreaking, soul-destroying, and such an epic reminder of how fragile and precious life is. To see her perfect little body being ravaged by these sores, her sad and sorry cries, her desperate desire to sleep but being unable to, both pains me, and- I’ll admit it- frustrates me.
You cannot be selfish when your child is sick- although it can be just as draining and painful and emotional for you as it is for them. When they need every ounce of you, you give it, but what happens when your reserves are empty, and the wanting is still going? I won’t lie, the past few weeks have brought me to a place of worry, anxiety, and shaky sadness, as much for myself as for my daughter.
In the long run, the repercussions of her being sick will fade- her sleeping routine will eventually return to normal, her skin will heal, her memories of being poked and prodded will fade, and we will continue on as a happy and healthy family as before, but for me, right now, it is a stark reminder to be grateful for the time we have together.
And sleep. That’s on the list too.