I became a germaphobe overnight. Literally, during one “night’s sleep” on a hospital chair as I watched a doctor and nurse shove tubes down my newly one-year-old baby’s throat, I developed a strong desire to put both my children in a bubble and never let them leave the house.
You see, this past weekend, our daughter spent three days in the hospital, two of those in the intensive care unit. And I can’t help but wonder if my child required oxygen support for three days because someone refused to cancel a hair appointment or miss a meeting.
When something traumatic happens, it usually takes me a solid month or two to be able to talk about it. But here we are, hours after being released from the Children’s Hospital at Scottish Rite. What started as a cold in her big sister, elevated to something that wiped out a three-year-old for a week, before wreaking havoc on Kingsley in the form of RSV and acute bronchiolitis. It’s peak cold and flu season – and if seeing my sweet princess in a hospital gown is enough to make you think twice about dropping a feverish child off at school tomorrow, then I’ll break my silence and come out of hiding.
Children are filthy little creatures. No doubt. They explore the world by putting things in their mouth and pick their nose for a laugh. I’m fully aware that my girls could have picked up this cold from a shopping cart at Publix.
But I also know that parenting is hard. That we’re busy. And sometimes it’s easier to turn a blind eye and drop a sick kid off at school so you don’t have to reschedule that 10 a.m. meeting or miss a mani/pedi that feels necessary for your own mental health.
Ironically, as I was scrolling through my emails at 2 a.m. in between sessions with the respiratory specialist I received an email, subject line: Wellness Reminder. It was from our church, reminding parents not to bring sick children to Sunday school. I was grateful for the email. And at the same time, I was like why the f*ck do parents need this reminder. Is this not common sense? Or better yet, common courtesy?
I’m emotional. Guilty. Did I mention this past weekend was also my big sister’s wedding? She was supposed to have two flower girls. I was supposed to stand next to her. My husband next to her groom. I made it down the aisle, with Bauer by my side. But my arms were empty. And my husband wasn’t at the end of the aisle serving his duty as groomsman. He was alone in the hospital, watching over our baby.
It’s impossible to protect our children from everything. I saw that first hand as I walked the halls of the ICU. There were babies in hospital cribs with “My First Christmas” stockings hanging from them. There was a boy, maybe 10 or 11, who slept in a coma. We were just two of the many zombie parents that got off the elevator on the floor I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. But we left three days later with our baby. And I know many have much longer roads.
It’s not the Christmas post I pictured I shared this week. No professional photos and witty remarks. But it’s real life. Seventy-two hours ago I looked at my husband as the doctors wheeled our world away from us and said, “This is the worst day of my life.” My heart hurts for any and all mothers who share a similar experience now or in the future.
We can’t protect our children from everything. That’s without a doubt the scariest realization. But I’ll protect them from as much as I possibly can. I’ll cancel play dates for flu rumors and I’ll bathe them in Purell after school.
Hug your babies. Wishing you all a happy and HEALTHY Christmas.