Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The Fear

As my baby, or Mr Boo as my partner and I embarrassingly call him (not just in private we noticed to our shame last week) is now nearly 9 months old I'm not starting this blog from the start but somewhere in the middle of the beginning, but I will inevitably hark back to childbirth and those first weeks - filled with both elation and hideousness in equal measure.

But for now I'd like to share with you my first experience of a sick baby. Yes, he's had a few colds before but last week picked up the Rotavirus - a hideous bug easily passed between babies and toys which starts with a fever and then turns into a pooing vomiting free-for-all.

My mum always used to say to me 'you know when your baby is unwell, they get that look' and I always wondered what she meant and feared that without the aid of snotty nose would I be able to spot it.

I fretted if I had that connection with my son that would enable me to spot the signs of illness before they started and then a strange thing happened last week during one of the baby classes I take him to, I spotted the sign.

During a water activity which involved stripping our babies down to their nappies and immersing them in a paddling pool full of plastic fish and pretend seaweed I spotted an oddness about him. He sat, not unhappily in the pool but did not splash and looked strange.

He seemed subdued, for him especially as he has sometimes been a difficult 'big baby' who hates to sit on laps and has wanted to stand from about three months even though he can't. He just sat in the pool, and stared, and without knowing quite what was wrong an icy shard of fear sliced up through my stomach.

A few moments later he seemed back to himself so I continued the day, went home and prepared lunch for a friend who was coming over with her newborn later that day.

When she arrived Mr Boo was asleep in his buggy so we sat in the lounge and admired her son and played and drank tea. When I heard a rustling from the pram I picked my son up and plopped him down onto the living room carpet.

Normally he would have done something; rolled around, cried, smiled, looked curiously at my friend and the interloper baby, grabbed a toy protectively - but he just sat, slightly slumped forward and looked at me and my friend.

I voiced my concerns to my friend and she said 'He seems fine to me' and of course to an onlooker he was fine, he was just sitting serenely on the carpet. The Fear was there again and my heart lurched so I made an excuse and went upstairs to change him and take his temperature.

All seemed fine but I knew there was a change in my little one, my little part of me - now detached but still forever connected but an invisible chord that can never be cut, even when he's 18 and at University, or 30 and married, or 40 and going through a messy divorce.

As I changed him he rolled off the mat in the gung-ho manner I usually find frustrating mid-nappy change but my heart leapt with joy at this return to normality. I returned to my friend, tried to be cheerful and attempted to cast off my worries.

The day passed uneventfully, as did the next day but something didn't feel right and at 4 am on Saturday morning, the day before our first mothers day together, he started running a fever and producing bright orange-yellow vile smelling diarreah.

He rallied for mothers day but the following week was a blur of explosive nappies, projectile vomiting, thwarted attempts to leave the house and numerous outfit changes.

Mr Boo, who usually naps very little during the day, was constantly sleepy and would fall into slumber quite suddenly on my shoulder, his head nestled fretfully into the crook of my neck.

I usually long for him to sleep, as he so seldom does, and take him for long walks which sometimes rock him into a 10-20 minute sleep, if I'm lucky. Now he was sleeping constantly and although played in between, did not have his usual gusto or lips-pursed determination.

A trip to the doctors and a stool sample later and it was confirmed that he had the Rotavirus and so a thorough clean of all toys and door handles commenced whilst my parents helped to entertain my poorly infant.

The icy shard in my stomach had spread and the sudden realisation of an impending lifetime of worry hit me with a force I wasn't expecting.

As the week ended and the diarreah stopped the ice began to melt and I started to feel myself again, only to be hit by a 24 hour flu bug that my son then caught.

Another day and night of high-temperatures and my partner and I taking it in turns to hold him whilst he slept on our laps followed - constant temperature taking and eventually the fever broke to be replaced by a familiar and less frightening snotty nose and grumpy temperament.

He is now much better, although not quite the baby he was a week and a half ago. Something in him has changed this week and I wonder whether it is because he has experienced pain and trauma in way he hadn't yet in his short life. He looks less innocent somehow, sadder and his smiles, though still frequent, are interspersed by thoughtful stares, as if remembering recent unpleasantness.

As for me the ice is back, and I'm beginning to realise it will never melt. The Fear is familiar now and I think for me and most mothers it just becomes a part of you, like a mole or a scar or a weird toe. The Fear is good because it keeps me vigilant, I just can't let it overwhelm.

Motherhood is wonderful, it is worth it, but it's hard. The choices made after birth will always be difficult ones; breast or bottle, to vaccinate or not to vaccinate, go back to work or stay at home. There are no easy answers and whether you're with your little one's or not at any given moment, The Fear will be your constant companion.

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