(Sorry, were you eating?)
I feel that since Sunday just past, I have witnessed a new transition in myself. I really think that I am now a mother. Yes, I know that she’s 18 months old and that actually, in real terms, I became a Mum the day that 7lbs 1oz of cute popped out of me (makes it sound easy, eh?).
What has changed is that it’s the first time that she’s been ill. She suffered terribly from reflux when she was small, something that was hideous and that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy (well, maybe one or two of them…). But actually being ill, sick, poorly? This was the first experience. And I can tell you that I found it scary, heart wrenching and a pretty messy business.
A vomiting bug or maybe something she ate. Either way, we didn’t expect to find Sunday’s roast dinner in her cot at around 5am on Monday. Three days later and she’s almost recovered and getting her personality back, followed by her appetite.
I know that as soon as she is playing more actively with other kids (rather than just staring past each other as babies do), or when she’s unleashed into nursery, she’ll catch every bug going. You know that child that you see, before you become a parent yourself, with the permanent little green snotty nose? The one that you wonder how on earth the parents can be seen out with THAT? That’ll be her. Because there’s no avoiding the germs, the lurgy. It’s everywhere, on every toy that they share and lick at playgroup.
But this first illness took me by surprise. I scrutinised her skin for rashes, had my glass at the ready to press for the meningitis check (see the symptoms here just in case…), looked for weird eyes, funny crying, general intuition that something was badly wrong. To be honest, apart from the constant vomiting and her being so upset, she seemed pretty ok. Off I trotted to the GP anyway. I began my snivelling speech to him with “I’m a first-time mum and she’s my first baby and it’s her first illness and she’s been really sick and I’m worried and can you please look at her?” (There was no punctuation in the way I spat out my frantic words to him either). She was fine, just a tummy bug.
But the biggest change of all was that I became my own mother. Some of my childhood memories when I felt most loved were those when I was poorly. Cuddled up, hot water bottle, as many hugs as you want, food that you love, a comic, some sweeties if your tummy allowed, cartoons, lying on the sofa with cushions, a blanket and favourite toys. All in all, just feeling very well looked after. I knew that both my parents would do anything to take my sickness away from me (and they still would today, too).
And that’s how I felt this week with my own little girl. That I’d have done anything to make her ok and to make her smile again. I sat her on my lap and cuddled and kissed and much as I could. I didn’t shower for 36 hours so that she would never be alone. I slept sitting up in a chair so that I could be next to her cot. I held her up and aimed her directly at me so that she’d vomit over my tatty clothes rather than over her nursery carpet. (I did, it’s true. No idea what I was thinking other than I’d take that spew bullet rather than have her sleep in a stinky room. Selfless, that’s me!)
Most of all, I managed to pretty much ignore the fact that my own body is falling apart and that I shouldn’t be lifting things at the moment. When you’re a mummy, you always put yourself down the priority list.
All of this put me in mind of my own mother, as though a big circle is forming. I want my daughter to remember this and to feel as loved as I did when I was on the sofa, under a blanket. No medicine can make you feel as good as that love does.
Anyway, she’s better now and looking like herself again. Which is a lot more than can be said for my poor stinky clothes.