I'm awakened at two a.m. by the pathetically wailing cries of Chase. His throat is scratchy and gummy. I peer at the baby monitor, seeing his arms weakly flailing about. I blearily stumble into his room to hold him and nurse him through his stuffy nose. As I tuck him back into his crib twenty minutes later, I know I'll repeat it all again in a couple hours... but for once it's ok, because I'm glad to be able to check on him through his illness.
I put both boys down for naps and settle down to fold laundry, only to be interrupted by a panicked, "MOM!!! MOOOOOOMMMMM!!" from Cole's room. He's frightened and upset after throwing up from his incessant coughing. As I fold his feverish, burning hot body into my arms, I desperately wish I could make his discomfort disappear.
Chase is miserable: coughing, sneezing, feverish. He cries brokenly when I have to set him down for any reason, so I hold him constantly and pace the floors. I remember doing the same when he was a newborn and I'm glad I can offer him any sort of comfort.
"Double ear infection," says the doctor, after examining my poor boy. On our way home from the doctor's office, I check Cole's reflection in my rearview mirror. His eyes, swollen and bleary, with dark circles underneath. His usually animated and happy face drawn and pale. The usual constant chatter and questions are absent. When we get home, he makes a beeline for the sofa and snuggles up with a warm blanket and his ninja turtle - a truly rare event to see my active boy so still and quiet.
I check my list yet again to see when I can give Chase more medication to bring his fever down. Both boys are on so many different meds I write each down with the time so I can remember who gets which dose when.
It feels like my eyes have been closed for a nanosecond after getting up for the third time with Chase, when I hear Cole's call. He's feverish and frightened from his latest bad dream. Together, Chris and I tuck him into bed between us, hoping our close presence will ward off any nightmares.
The endless loads of laundry to clean vomit off of; the dishes to sanitize; the bathrooms to bleach; the quick naps stolen in between night wakings; the nights spent on the floor next to a sick child's bed; the naps spent holding a sleeping babe in the rocking chair because he could breath just a bit easier... all so hard and so worth it.
I'm never more aware of the hardships and difficulties of parenting than when my boys are sick. The stress and constant worry of making sure we're doing everything we can to help them. The worry that we'll make a mistake, wait too long to call a doctor or ignore a symptom that's crucial. The crushing concern of our sweet boys feeling miserable and ill.
It doesn't feel like much, when all I can offer my sick ones is my presence. To hold them, hug them, kiss them, stroke their hot foreheads. But I know one thing: when I'm sick, all I want is to be held, kissed, hugged, loved.
So maybe, giving my babies all my love when they're ill is helping them feel just a tiny bit better.