I live in the Northeast. So we experience all four seasons: spring, summer, autumn and cold and flu season. Break out the Tylenol, people, cuz we’re in the middle of another one.
Granted, my immune system is a bit . . . oh, what’s the word I’m searching for? . . . PATHETIC . But having had at least 2,035 cold and flu viruses as a child (*moment of nostalgia for life before the flu vaccine*) I should have built up some immunity by now. Right? Apparently not. I think that, when I became a mother, all of my antibodies realized what they were up against and just surrendered. (Wussy antibodies.) You see, when my first child, Jacob, was three months old, I sent him off to daycare. Which is essentially a big, colorful Petri dish with lots of children playing in it. So of course, Jacob was instantly exposed. To every virus. Ever invented.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus. Better known as RSV. Bronchiolitis. Also known as Bronchitis-for-over-achievers. Fifths disease. Croup. Really most of these childhood plagues should simply be called: You-will-spend-the-next-ten-days-sitting-with-your-baby-in-front-of-a-nebulizer. AWESOME. Because, as a baby, there was nothing that Jacob LOVED to do more than sit patiently on our laps and inhale questionable vapors from a scary looking machine. And the SUPER fun part? Many of these albuterol sessions happened at 2:00 am. The photo below shows Dan (with the fixed gaze of a man resigned to his fate) holding the nebulizer up to Jacob’s face. Good times.
Okay, a teensy mother confession. There is one thing that helped us get through those 2:00 am huffing sessions. One thing that kept Jacob (and Dan) from becoming too fidgety. Phineas and Ferb. (Don’t judge.) Apparently, the only thing on TV at 2:00 am that is fit to be seen by a baby is the nightly Phineas and Ferb marathon. (An aside: what mucky muck at Nick Jr. decided that there would be an audience for Phineas and Ferb at 2:00am EVERY NIGHT?!? Whoever it was, I heart you.) At least one person in this house became addicted. So I got him a Phineas and Ferb DVD for his birthday. (His fortieth birthday. Nuff said.)
Anyway, Jacob was sick almost non-stop from December through April of his first year in daycare. Poor baby. And, as I said, my immune system isn’t the most robust. Which means that about 48 hours after Jacob got sick, I had a unique opportunity to empathize with him. Yup. Sometimes this was helpful. As in, “Ohhhhhh, so that’s why he was so fussy. This cold begins with having 1,000 little razors slice the back of your throat. Mmm. It all makes sense now.”
Of course this information was inevitably two days too late. So there were times– many times– when we just had no idea what was wrong. And panicked. And called the pediatrician. (Who, truthfully, should have served us with a restraining order long ago.) Jacob got sick once and . . . threw up. *Bring, bring* Jacob got sick once and . . . had a sore neck. *Bring, bring* (HEY, it could have been meningitis.) Then we had our second child, Emma, who got sick and . . . started coughing. To Dan it always sounds like croup. To me it always sounds like . . . coughing. But I don’t fault Dan. I always think that Emma is wheezing. *Bring, bring* Of course, by the time we get her to the Emergency Room she is neither coughing nor wheezing. Because she is too busy: 1. sleeping peacefully or 2. playing and giggling. Seriously. IT’S MORTIFYING. Try convincing the medical staff at a children’s hospital that you are worried about croup when your baby is flirting with them and blowing kisses. WITH HER CLEARLY UNENCUMBERED RESPIRATORY SYSTEM.
But speaking of the Emergency Room . . . The first winter after I had Jacob, I got a hacking cough that wouldn’t go away. For months. My doctor said my lungs were clear. And to just wait it out. So I did. And woke up each night coughing so hard that I think I broke a rib. One night though, things changed. There was a different kind of pain in my chest that hadn’t been there before. So I went to the ER.
ER Doctor: Your lungs sound clear.
Awesome. Then can you just find the sharp knife that has somehow lodged itself in my chest and remove it? They did a chest xray. Oh, looky there: double pneumonia. (Apparently, stethoscopes lie.) I had been walking around with pneumonia. For months.
My husband Dan, by contrast, rarely gets sick. But when he does, you know. Because suddenly he is wrapped from head-to-toe in a blanket. Wandering the house like a lost soul. In search of the Tylenol. (Spoiler alert: IT’S ALWAYS IN THE SAME PLACE IN THE MEDICINE CABINET.) And we are having conversations like this.
Dan: I can (LOUD SNIFF) watch the children while you make dinner. If you want. I mean, if you don’t think I’ll (TUBERCULAR COUGH) infect them.
Me: Sounds good. They are probably the ones who got you sick anyway.
Dan: Oh, no. Not them. I’m sure I could fight off anything from one of them. I must have been infected by . . . someone in the grocery store. Or someone at work. Or maybe a Navy SEAL.
(Or perhaps this is the doing of the Evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz?)
Me: Okay. Well, if you could just keep an eye on them, I’ll make dinner. By which, of course, I mean microwave something.
Dan: Sure. Sure. I’ll just sit here on the couch for a minute. You know. Until the room stops spinning.
Me: Dan, if you feel like you need to go back to bed . . .
Dan: Okay. If you don’t mind.
(The end of this sentence trails off because Dan is already half way up the stairs.)
So, here we are in cold and flu season again. Already several viruses in. Emma just finished a round of antibiotics for her first ear infection of the season. (But, bless her, she loves the bubble gum taste. And gets absolutely giddy when we bring the little cup of pink stuff toward her.) Meanwhile, Jacob (who generally has a titanium immune system after three years of daycare) has already had the dreaded vomity-high-fever-then-weeks-of-congestion plague. Which of course he shared with Emma. And me.
I am still coughing.
And counting the days until spring. Or, as Dan likes to call it, Hay Fever Season.