Life Inside the Petri Dish, Part 2

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Sickness . . . it’s catchy, especially with kids. As I wrote in my earlier post, kids can be pretty dirty and gross Is anyone else out there sick of hearing about sick kids? Because I am stuck singing the same old song—since the fall, my little lamp-post-lickers have been down with one virus or another. We are currently coming off 11 days of fever for the 4-year-old—a mystery virus that it turns out is pneumonia. And, after spending all day yesterday at the doctor’s office going over the slew of lab petridish-fbtests they gave her, we came home starving and started eating a humble dinner of whatever I could throw together fast. As is apt to happen, the 2-year-old hopped up in the middle of supper to announce she needed to use the restroom, because here at our house, it’s not a meal unless someone takes a #2 in the middle of it. Anyhow, she does her thing and then calls for me to help, and what I find waiting for me was the stuff of a horror film; I’m not going to be too descriptive because it literally will make me sick. One word: pinworms. So I have Little Ms. Pneumonia and Ms. Wormy Poop, and I haven’t worked for two weeks and aside from the real-world consequences of such—our bank account dwindling, unpaid bills, up-teen apologies to clients who are waiting on me—there are other, less concrete ways this ongoing sickness sucks. My kids are now addicted to TV, jonesing for it like junkies and having high-level hissy fits when I won’t let them watch it. Emotionally, my 4-year-old has been sick long enough that she seems to have forgotten life before, when she went to school, did her thing, and was a somewhat independent person. Now she has separation anxiety and cries when I go in the next room. As a result of all this forced time together while feeling crummy, I’m worn-out, resentful, and so ugly I can play the lead hag in Pinworms, the horror film. But the truth of it all is that I’ve been a really angry person — yelling at insurance agents, throwing pillows, and generally acting out — because, yes, taking care of two sick kids is a pain. But as my father, the good armchair therapist taught me, I know this ferocious anger is only serving to mask my fear. Before we found out it was pneumonia yesterday, I’d taken my daughter to the doctor three times and each visit they couldn’t pinpoint anything actually wrong. She kept running high fevers, which don’t scare me (fever is a good sign of the body fighting something off) but her ongoing lethargy did. She was pale as onionskin, sleeping all the time and losing weight. When I’d find her each morning lying on the couch after just waking up from bed instead of playing with her sister or ravaging the kitchen for breakfast (her usual, healthy behaviors), it was as if someone threw an anchor at my chest, mooring me down to the bottom of the sea. That sinking feeling of not being able to help your kid is horrible. All the crazy supplements, the bone broth soup, the raw onion I made her sleep with, the urban witch brews, nothing was working to make her better. And the doctors had nothing to say about it other than come back in, again. If this experience has taught me anything, it’s just a small glimpse of what parents whose children are really sick go through—a tiny peep into a world that I am fortunate to know so little about. The cliché about taking health for granted is totally true, and for almost five years now, I’ve had incredible luck—sure, they catch all the normal bugs and annoying viruses that children do. Some are gross and some last longer than others. But they are ordinary, finite, and ultimately, make them stronger in the end. Today, as I wash every article of clothing and bedding in the house, hoping to deworm it all, I do it with hot water, Tide, and immense gratitude. And I hand my daughter her icky antibiotic with joy, grateful that she has something so common, so easily curable, and that the means to heal her sick body is right here, in my hands. We are so freaking lucky. We are not shipwrecked at the bottom of the sea. Read more of Andrea’s posts below.

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