Upper respiratory tract infection. It sounds downright innocuous when you think of the havoc it’s played on your routine.
Sure, she’s had high temperatures before, but not 39-40 degrees for four days straight. You know it’s back as soon as you pick her up from her nap. It’s the sustained blazing that troubles you. The disturbing sensation that her skin is scorching right through her clothes.
So you scramble for ear thermometers and spend hours waiting on doctors. The logical part of your brain tries to take over: Remember, you’re a first-time parent. You’re probably just over-reacting. All kids get fevers. It’s nothing to get worked up about.
But logic has no power over a mother’s heart.
Your child has never been this listless. Her skin is too pale. Her eyes are more enormous than usual. Her lips are so chapped they start to crack and bleed. You have watched her slump forward in her car seat and struggle to stay awake. You have heard her pitiful cries for water during the night.
Make this stop, make this stop.
You find yourself offering her anything to get her to drink, to eat. Juice, pop, chocolate milk. Cookies, chocolate, ice cream. All the usual treats are on the table, but she’s not interested despite her tummy rumblings and dry mouth. You observe the signs of dehydration set in with a sense of dread: the barely-wet diapers, the strange odour of her breath. It all scares you to death.
No, she’s not dying, but this common affliction still has you in its grips. You and your husband find yourselves at each other’s throats over what steps to take next. You both feel frightened, and powerless. As the days drag on, it seems as if all you do between doling out Tylenol and Advil is watch Dora on repeat.
You let your daughter sleep on your chest and in your bed. You employ anything and everything to stop the incessant crying and clinging. During the most trying moments, you aren’t allowed to leave the room or put her down.
Just when it all becomes too much, she will smush her face against yours and make you forget the fact you have to force liquid down her throat with a syringe.
When this four-day fever finally passes, it will leave little lessons in its wake. So try not too beat yourself up too much, and remember you did your best.
Soon the weight on your mother’s heart will begin to lift. A natural lightness will return to your step. You'll discover that your reserves of patience have increased. In the midst of the departing chaos, don’t forget to look down at that little face and remember you’re blessed.