“This is your first…isn’t it?”
These were the parting words the walk-in doctor said to my wife and I, as we were about to leave clinic with my sick daughter.
I don’t think he meant ill with his words –my wife even described his approach as “suave” (I think smug was more fitting) — but it did make me question where I stand as a parent.
Was it right to come here?
Are we just overreacting over a little Cold?
Should we not have taken her to the hospital the night before?
I really didn’t have a clue. Being only 19 months new into this parenting gig, this was the only way I knew how to be.
An over-worried parent.
Fear of Being Inadequate
The fact is, in the 19 months as parents, this is something that we haven’t experienced before.
I know, all kids get sick – especially those who start daycare – and this is something that is expected.
I also know that there are kids out there that have it worse than she did, and there are parents that go through even worst than we went through.
But that doesn’t discredit how crappy and inadequate I felt as a dad — to not be able to do anything to help my daughter other than tell her to, “cough it out”; or tell her “I know you don’t feel good, but you’ll feel better” — it’s a shitty feeling.
She’s had her fevers and colds, and we’ve responded to those with hugs and baby Tylenol, but this time those didn’t have an effect, and she was still sick.
While we’re still not 100% in the clear, the worse (I hope) is behind us. Here is the scorecard for the past three weeks:
- One midnight hospital visit;
- Four walk-in clinic visits;
- Six straight days of fever;
- One ziplock bag urine sample;
- One allergic reaction to antibiotics;
- One inhaler;
- One case of hand, foot, and mouth;
- Two projectile barfs…(or is the plural barves??)
Again, I’m not dismissing other families who go through much worse, but for our family this was the worst ever.
But — there’s always some light, and there’s always something positive to take from this.
You see, I’m a firm believer in the levelling-up mentality. Maybe it’s a gaming thing, but even during my wife’s pregnancy, I viewed every challenge and setback as “preparation for next time.”
The mentality has always been: “Now that we’ve faced that, we’ll know what to do the next.”
And with my daughter being this sick, we’ll know to do better next time she gets sick.
Thinking like this doesn’t always work though. I remember there was a night where she was finally sleeping for a long stretch where my mind started to wander.
The Dangerous Game of What-ifs
I’m usually a pretty positive guy, but that night I just let my mind go into “what-if” mode, and I began to thinking of the worse.
I know it’s silly and I may be overreacting – I even feel a bit embarrassed typing this out – but I think it’s worth admitting how vulnerable I felt during this period.
The same fears that I had when we first brought her home as fragile newborn from the hospital came back.
The number of times I jokingly asked my wife, “I wonder if she’s breathing” started to become less of a joke, and a sign of legit concern. I remember watching the pixels on the video monitor to just see whether there’s movement.
*Even as I type this sentence now, I quickly checked my phone to see if she’s sleeping soundly during her nap.*
It’s strange. Before she was born, whenever I saw kids with runny noses or flemmy voices I would think: “Get that disgusting thing away from me!” Now that I have a daughter of my own, I’ll willingly take a hundred slimy sneezes point blank to my face without hesitation, if it meant her clearing her sinuses. Though it might be physically draining for her to be sick, it feels just as crappy mentally as parent. When your kid is sick, it looms over you even when they’re sleeping soundly in their room. I admit though, I do like the extra neediness – like her leaning on me on this photo – but I’d much rather an independent virus free kid any day.
To Worry Is To Be A Parent
I remember being told: “Once you have a kid, you’ll never stop worrying. You’ll worry til the day that you die, cause that’s just the default setting now.”
I realized that notion was 100% true the moment I heard her tiny heartbeat during the earliest ultrasounds, and it is no truer than it is now.
So when Dr. McSmuggy made that remark, it left me a bit confused.
Was it somehow uncool to be worried for your sick child?
Of course not.
When did a stranger’s (albeit a doctor’s) opinion of how I am as a parent matter?
Never should a parent feel embarrassed or mocked for worrying about their kid, and as parents we should be able to wear our worry with pride.
This is something that I need to remember for the future, and this is something I would like to maintain for the future.
Whether it is my first kid, or tenth (sorry wife), it doesn’t matter.
I believe it is my duty as a parent to worry the way that I do, it’s who I am and who I will forever remain.