It never ceases to amaze how totally grueling and punishing it is to be ill when you have children.
It all started with Boy 1 and a nasty stomach bug. Needless to say, it wasn’t pleasant. It was exploding from both ends and started at, of course, a chilling 4.00am in the dead of night when the sight of a bed full of sick leaves you dazed and confused.
Then begins the minute-by-minute care. The extra cuddles and kisses as you put them in fresh PJs and into a clean bed. You mop their brow with cold cloths, you fetch and carry water and lemonade and anything else they think that may help. You tell them how brave they are and let them sleep and rest as much as possible to build up their strength. Their wish is your ultimate command. I literally syringed water into his mouth to keep him hydrated and reached for the bucket each time it resurfaced. I was nurse extraordinaire! Boy 1 got better and I sighed with relief until… “Mummy, I feel sick” and it was time for Boy 2 to take centre stage. There followed another 24 hours of fetching and carrying. Having bleached the house from top to bottom and tumbled into a heap, I lay in wait for the inevitable.
It also started in the dead of night with Boy 2 cuddled up be my side recovering from his own bug. I crawled out of bed trying my hardest to stay as quiet as possible and groping for the toilet in the darkness. 7.00am a perky Boy 1 is bouncing on my bed.
“Mummy isn’t feeling well, darling…”
Boy 1 stares with malice, “What’s the matter?” he says with an indignant grunt. I explain that I have the same tummy bug as he had but he is already glazing over. “You’ll be ok” and I have been dismissed.
“Daddy says he is ill too – I don’t believe him!”
Husband is in the spare room to make way for Boy 2 and I send Boy 1 off to bother him instead. That is until he explains that “Daddy says he is ill too”. An overwhelming sense of panic descends. How can we both be sick? How sick is he? Please say that he just has a headache or a stubbed toe or something. Boy 1’s bed side manner kicks in again with a rather aggressive “I don’t believe him – he hasn’t been sick or anything”. Good point, I think, I win a few extra points for actual vomiting, surely.
“Where’s my breakfast?”
By this point Boy 2 is up and bouncing. 24 hour bug has been and gone and he is ready to make up for lost time. All I want now is some kind words, a glass of water and a little rest. Instead I am getting a barrage of questions, demands and attitude. “Where’s my breakfast?”, “Why aren’t you getting up?”, “What are we doing today?”. I feel numb with panic and distracted by the need to return to the bathroom. “Go and find Daddy” I croak, “he’s not really ill, he hasn’t even been sick!” I whisper in desperation. They disappear off as I stagger back to the toilet of doom.
“I’m more ill than you!”
Relief pours over me as I hear Husband pad downstairs to throw various spoons, bowls, milk and cereal in their general direction along with our customary iPad and remote control. Husband appears at the door. The battle begins. “Are you not well?”, “No. Are you not well?”, “No”. We circle each other like predators. It is deduced that he has a ‘flu like illness” (I secretly snort in contempt) and that I have full blown stomach bug complete with vomiting (I win! I win!). A brief but intense negotiation takes place where terms are set. A tag team between bed and kid duty – one hour on and one hour off. Deal.
“Ok Mummy, stop crying now”
As I stumble down the stairs, I am greeted by two children who are starting to climb the walls. “Are you better now, it’s so boring. Can I have snack?” the frustration and exhaustion gets the better of me. “What did I do when you were ill? Did I scream and shout? Did I make any demands? No, I looked after you and cared for you and…and…”. I am brought up short “Yes, OK Mummy, stop crying now”. He looks at me with pity, rolls his eyes and wanders off to find his game. Boy 2 strokes my head and then announces “Better? Good, can I have that water now?”
We had more of the following over the next 24 hours including a particularly nasty episode of gagging over the boy’s dinner preparation (I won’t go any further). The house was a mess, neither of us had the energy to clear up, bleach or fetch water and we were left in our dirty clothes, dehydrated yet, still running around after two little people. We knew no one was going to set foot near the house to help us because no one wants to hit by the same bug! We were alone and in quarantine.
It struck me the resilience two parents have for protecting their young children, family and nest even when weak and incapable. The relief when we started to feel better was unsurpassed although I still maintain that Husband was never sick, he was just ‘very tired’. I think we all know who was really the most ill here.