When people await the arrival of their children, you often hear them say “I just want my baby to be healthy”.
I’d like a natural birth, but at the end of the day, I just want a healthy baby.
I’d secretly really like a girl, but honestly, as long as they are healthy — that’s the important thing.
Next to outliving your child, the second greatest worry for parents is loving a child who is not healthy — watching them suffer through an illness we can do nothing about.
A gastro virus is a speck of a burden within a surging sea of sickness which can plague a child, and I am grateful I’ve never had to place my child in a cold hospital chair and watch chemotherapy drugs take their grip on the very life I am desperate to save. The heartache I’ve escaped by giving birth to healthy children is a privilege I don’t take lightly.
Eleven days straight of my daughter enduring a gastro virus is enough for me to know that an unhealthy child changes everything about life.
The pressure it places on a family unit is so great that every ball must drop except the one in your child’s hand. It’s like a sieve – sprinkling all the light, fluffy stuff out, leaving only the chunkier, heavier, bare minimum bits left.
Our advent, much like our life, has taken a back seat to cold face washers and thermometers and since there is a Pema Chodron quote for every occasion, in this instance it is “The main point is that we all need to be reminded and encouraged to relax with whatever arises and bring whatever we encounter to the path”. The path, obviously, is peace and contentment, and while fun Christmassy stuff would bring my little beating heart a whole thunderstorm of contentment, fighting against what is actually happening never would. So I’m finding it elsewhere — in the way I get to stroke her forehead while she drifts off to sleep, in the way she curls right into me and the protectiveness I feel, in the way we can stay in bed and watch Disney movies all day without feeling guilty.
She calls out for me continuously, so much that I can barely take a shower, and I am reminded that while it is painful to suffer, what is worse is the sense that we are doing so alone. So I stay by her side for days on end, stroking her hair until she falls asleep, reading in the candlelight until she wakes again. I change the sheets every day so she lies in a soft, fresh bed. I give her tonics and burn oils and paint her nails and put face masks on us both and I learn that great family moments — the ones our children hold in their hearts long after they’re over — are often less about the dances we do and more the comfort we offer. When we retrace childhood memories of our mothers, many of us associate the way we were nurtured by them when we were unwell as a defining representation of who they are to us. That’s what we remember. We don’t remember the lights and streamers. We remember how we were carried by them, how we were loved, and there is a profound beauty in being the one our children hold onto when they can’t bear to face a single thing.
We can’t stop their suffering, it’s one of the hard truths of life, but what we can do is prevent them from feeling alone in it. Suffering together with someone you love holds its own kind of beauty, anyhow.
“Mummy”, she weeps. “My tummy is sore.”
“Oh sweetie, I know.” I say. “It hurts so much. There’s a bug in your tummy and your body is trying really hard to fight it.”
She is silent and looks away. A minute passes. “Mummy?” she says. “There’s a bug in my tummy and my body is trying to fart it?”
She smiles, then laughter, like a dam wall breaking.
There is temporary relief for us both in that blissful moment.
Yeah sweetie, I laugh, your body is totally trying to fart it.
Because aside from relieving the sense that we are alone in our suffering, fart jokes FTW.
Today marks the final day of our Red Tent 12 Days of Christmas photo challenge. Thank you to everyone who joined in. Did you have fun? I had fun. Some of my favourite picks of yours:
And picks of mine:
Loving these articles this week
- What Is Gasslighting & How Do I Deal With It? Friends, why ‘You’re so emotional. Calm down. Take a joke’ should sound alarm bells. Great article.
- Why Women Don’t Want To Have Sex: A Non-Scientific Analysis. God, I laughed. Favourite bit: “Generally, female libido fairies have little in common with male libido fairies. This is probably because male libido fairies are not fairies, they are warriors. Almighty superhero warriors, who wear full body armour, wield light sabres and have magic powers of resilience capable of withstanding virtually any threat. Fatigue, anger, weight gain, hangovers, heartbreak, homelessness, Ebola, low self-esteem…they are immune even to kryptonite and gastro. Stress? Illness? Solitary confinement? Pah. Male libido warriors laugh in the face of such assailants and flick them off like lint.”
And ending with our Friday Photo Dump (theredtent on Instagram if you want to follow the feed).
Christmas on, sisters. I’ll be watching all starry-eyed from the comfort of my virus infected home.
Joy to the world!