Do you remember the luxury of being unwell pre-kids? Calling in sick to work, crawling back under your duvet, day-time napping, hot drinks consumed while they still retained their descriptive qualities? All the while lamenting how wretched you felt.
Then you had kids. And you realised how wretched you could really feel when you’re unwell because * NEWSFLASH * you can’t call in sick. Ever.
I write this on my sofa, snuggled with my eldest while my 11 month old sleeps. I have tonsillitis. It’s my thing. Whenever I get run down, it seeks me out. It makes me rest, I suppose.
I was lying awake last night, with fever and chills (it is so much more than “just a sore throat” people) and razorblades in my throat thinking, “how am I going to get through tomorrow?”. My youngest has also been unwell this week with hand, foot & mouth, but thankfully at the tail-end of it. I was thinking of some of my previous bouts of tonsillitis, weighing them up: “is it as bad as that time…?” and “what about that week in Argentina?”. Unfortunately I had to conclude that yes, it is that bad!
So to illustrate just how awful it is being sick when you have to look after small children, in my experience it is worse than…
- fainting mid-wee off of a toilet seat onto a cold, tiled floor, smashing your glasses – on to your face! – in the process. My then flatmate found me, shrieked a lot and called an ambulance (the paramedics concluding I was simply dehydrated from the tonsillitis-induced fever). There is no dignified way to faint off of a toilet seat. Fact.
- having tonsillitis a couple of days after arriving in Argentina, your then boyfriend (now husband) keen to get box-ticking and practically frogmarching you around Buenos Aires while you clutch your throat, using rusty back-packer Spanish to try to buy throat lozenges. I recall Eva Peron’s family tomb in the beautiful La Recoleta Cemetery being a real low point, along with a rocky boat ride to Uruguay the next day.
- being on your second all-nighter while working at a City law firm, throat throbbing, sweating profusely, trying to survive on Percy Pigs your room-mate has kindly brought you and being allowed, as a special dispensation, to go and lie down for a bit in one of the partners’ flats in the basement of the building (yes, these exist) but being instructed to leave your blackberry on so that every couple of minutes it vibrates next to your head, somehow making the pain of the tonsillitis worse.
So there you have it. It’s worse than all that. The double all-nighter experience close (I can still remember the relief of falling asleep in the taxi home when I was finally released into daylight) but not quite there.
My hands down worst ever tonsillitis experience was last May.
We had moved the week before from East London to our new home in Kent; me, my husband and our two sons (then 24 months and 2 months). Most of our things were still in boxes. We knew no-one and very little about the local area. I didn’t know where the local doctor was and was obviously not registered. I was exclusively breastfeeding. By a miracle, Arthur at 2 months, slept through the night I was feeling really bad. I don’t know how I would have been able to feed him had he woken and that thought alone was seriously stressing me out. I had nothing left. My husband was busy at work and not able to be around. It was a stressful time for all of us.
I still don’t know how I got through those next few days, trying to keep both the boys fed and occupied (thank you CBeebies!), other than that motherhood gives you the opportunity to dig deeper than you thought you could.
Children give you strength.
I wrote a little ode to my sons that day, medicine.
That’s the thing with parenthood. With every low, there’s a high. I may have felt insanely rough that day and like the world’s worst mother but the only thing guaranteed to make you feel better on days like those is a smile or a cuddle from one of your kids.
So I thank my sons for the medicinal powers of their love. And apologise that they’re probably going to be having another cheese sandwich for tea.
How do you juggle being sick with looking after your kids?