When I imagined taking care of sick babies, I thought of wiping their adorable
little noses with a tiny thermometer sticking out of their mouths as they looked at
me with a face at once pathetic and grateful. We’d snuggle on the couch, reading
stories and watching the movies that I used to watch when I was sick as a little girl. The next day, my children and I, fully recovered, would run out and play, restored after a day of rest and cuddles.
Fast forward to last night. It is two in the morning. Child #1 is finally asleep after a 24-hour cycle of intermittent vomiting that began when she threw up the cranberry juice she just drank…in my bed. Her room smells like a mixture of puke and carpet cleaner. I have done ten loads of the foulest smelling laundry imaginable. I have attempted to force Gatorade down her throat only to have it come back up on her.
We are all exhausted. I lay down on the bed next to her only to hear a familiar guttural heaving coming from across the hall. It is Child #2. In the next 48 hours, this bug will rip through my entire house. The doctor tells me it is Norovirus. “Of course it is,” I say. We have it at least once a year.
The kicker? I had never even heard of Norovirus before I had kids.
Being a parent of children means doing things that, on your best day, you would never do to help out a friend, unless you were in that movie where the people ate one another to stay alive. I’ve sucked snot out of noses, been covered in puke and poop, served as a human napkin and food dispensary, and that’s just the beginning.
Having children also means being introduced to any number of illnesses and health care issues that you did not know existed. And if you’d even heard of them before, you thought had been relegated to the annals of history.
Here’s a list of the top five:
- Croup. I thought this was an illness that a girl died from in Downton Abbey. I didn’t think this was something that would knock my entire family out for two weeks. Characterized by a seal-like barking sound, you and your entire family will most likely get croup when you’re about to embark on a two-week summer vacation to the beach, just like me.
- Norovirus. While this one may not be relegated to the 19th century, I thought that I was safe from this particular virus as long as I didn’t go on a Carnival Cruise, where the entire ship, including Captain Steubing, would be expelling their all-you-can-eat buffet dinners over the side of the ship. But alas, this highly infectious virus wiped out my entire family last Thanksgiving, as we all took turns emptying out the contents of our stomach in an Alien-like ritual for 24 hours straight.
- Hand foot and mouth disease. When I first heard about this one, I thought this was something that only cattle could get. That’s actually called hoof-and-mouth, and it, too, is a real thing. I thought my daughter was teething. No such luck. Pretty soon we all had rashes on our hands, feet, and the insides of our mouths. Bonus points to this virus for hanging around much longer in adults who get it from their germ infested children.
Hand foot and mouth disease is a cousin of hoof-and-mouth, and is another one likely to show up near your summer vacation. So glad that we paid for that pool membership.
- Lice. It’s not just for monkeys. Is your child starting elementary school, like mine? Congratulations! Pretty soon you will be picking nits off your child like a protective mother simian, and ruing the fact that the lice have evolved past any type of medicinal treatment, so that the only sure way to get rid of them is to spend hours and hours combing through your children’s’ hair, your partner’s hair, and your own. You will never stop itching. You are probably starting to scratch your scalp even as you read this.
- Scarlet fever. I thought this only existed in The Velveteen Rabbit, and I was pretty sure that it was something imaginary that the stuffed rabbit came down with, rather than the child. Turns out, it’s pretty common, and made the rounds at my kid’s daycare last summer. Stuffed animals were being made immortal all over the place, as parents everywhere destroyed their child’s favorite and irreplaceable lovey for fear of contamination.
The takeaway from all of this? The next time you are considering buying a new parent one of those “How to Parent Your Kids The Best Way Ever” books, you should probably just given them a copy of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, some hand sanitizer, and the business card of your pediatrician.