Sick Days

Sam was sick this weekend, one of those vague childhood illnesses that isn’t really anything definable but that still had him whining and sleeping a lot during the day both Saturday and Sunday. He didn’t eat a lot either day (we couldn’t even entice him to eat by giving him cookies for breakfast, which shows both [a] how crappy a mom I can be when I’m desperate to get my son to eat and [b] how desperate I was to get my son to eat), and on Sunday morning, he slept until 8:30, as opposed to his usual 6:30. He was fine after his nap on Sunday, but we still spent most of the weekend working our way around an almost!three-year-old who wasn’t quite sick enough to merit being called “sick” but was still too sick to act like his normal self.

He almost never got sick during his first year of life, or at least nothing that I would call “sick.” He spit up a lot, just a little bit after every feeding, and we were concerned about that until his pediatrician pointed out that he was still in the 65-70th percentile in terms of weight for his age and size, so he must be getting some nutrition. He was something of a unicorn baby in that and other regards–he slept through the night at three months (by which I mean, he slept from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m., which totally counts) and was an excellent eater. He was healthy, and it was great.

He got his first cold about a month before his first birthday, the same weekend that we had the funeral for my beloved grandmother AND the same weekend we celebrated Easter. The pictures I took of Sam from that weekend are the saddest thing ever: there he is, in an adorable Easter outfit (featuring Thumper from Bambi because what’s the point of being a mom if you can’t dress your kid in adorable Disney clothes?) with bright red eyes and nose and cheeks, looking stoned out of his mind.

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Colds quickly became routine for us, as Sam started daycare about two months later. I forget when he brought home his first cold, but it was quickly accompanied by his first ear infection, which quickly spread to me and resulted in me missing a total of four days of work during my first month. Understandably, my bosses weren’t exactly fans of this and told me that I needed to make sure I was available or else. I don’t blame them for this; I worked remotely as a call center representative back then, and a lack of presence on my part would result in a more difficult time answering call volumes, especially since it was the busy season.

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(call center work is a special type of hell)

Busy season or not, Sam kept bringing home colds and ear infections at predictable three week intervals. He’d get a cold, it would turn into an ear infection, he’d suffer miserably, get better, and then have a week of being healthy before another cold turned up. As I understand, this is par for the course during the first year of daycare, but it was exhausting. We saw our pediatrician so many times during the first year that she now actually gets excited if it’s been more than a month since she saw us last.

Eventually, we had to face the fact that Sam had inherited his dad’s eustacean tubes (those are the tubes that go from your ears to your throat and drain excess mucus). They clogged easily and would have to be held open by ear tubes, which he got the December before he turned two. The procedure was quick and painless, and Sam hasn’t had an ear infection since–and we’re to the point now where he may have to get surgery to get one of the tubes removed, since it’s still firmly in place a year and a half after the fact.

I’d happily keep it in there forever, though, because it’s just that nice to have gone so long without having to go and get a bottle of the pink stuff or having to negotiate whose deadline was less important and therefore who’d stay home with Sam because the daycare won’t take him if he has a fever or is contagious. That’s not to say that he hasn’t been sick at all since getting the tubes, but his illnesses have been… well, let’s just say both rarer and more dramatic.

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(if a three-year-old could express this sentiment, he would)

For example. About a year ago (a year ago today, how ‘bout that?), I started a new job at as a marketing assistant at a construction firm. Not a week after I started, Sam had a nasty bug that acted very much like the flu, even though he’d gotten his flu shot that year. The flu stuff went on for about a day, and then he started to get spots around his mouth, on his hands and feet. He’d contracted the dreaded hand, foot, and mouth disease, and guess who had to take a week off within the first month of her new job because she also contracted hand, foot, and mouth disease?

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Things went back to normal for a while after the spots all went away (they are TERRIBLE, they feel like someone is pricking your fingers and feet with needles if you put even the slightest pressure on them), and they remained normal until this winter, when Kyle and I noticed that Sam, after a few days of a minor cold, had a spotty rash on his torso. Sam’s fully vaccinated, so we didn’t expect measles or anything of that ilk, but we did rush him to the doctor, just in case it was something very serious that we’d never heard of.

As it turned out, we had heard of it, just not in a modern context. The spotty rash on Sam’s torso turned out to be a sign of scarlet fever, as if our son had decided it was actually 1917 rather than 2017. Fortunately, a case of scarlet fever in 2017 is very different from a case of scarlet fever in 1917–Sam just got a bottle of the pink stuff and was declared fit to return to daycare the next day. Go figure.

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(meanwhile, in Little Women, scarlet fever eventually leads to Beth dying, so I’m glad it’s 2017)

All-in-all, he’s a healthy kid, and that makes me exceptionally grateful for vaccines. They have a vaccine for rotavirus now–that’s a stomach bug, the one that causes really bad diarrhea in babies. Sam got that vaccine right on schedule, and even though he’s had some pukey bugs, he’s never had a proper stomach bug, which blows my mind. I’d always heard tell of stomach bugs so bad that a kid would be confined to a tarp for the duration because it was just that hard to keep them from puking everywhere. That’s never happened to us, and it’s amazing.

And then I think of the stuff I had when I was a kid that Sam won’t have to deal with because he’s been vaccinated. There’s a chickenpox vaccine now; isn’t that wild? I missed my sixth birthday because of the chickenpox, and I remember that chunk of time as miserable, itchy, and boring. Sam won’t have to deal with that. He also won’t have to worry about coming down with certain types of pneumonia, which stole a good month of my life away when I was seven and has left me with bad lungs, like I’m the protagonist’s sister in a Tennessee Williams play.

I just really love that there’s technology now that prevents these illnesses and that keeps Sam from having to suffer the way that people suffered in the past–or worse. I hate him being even whiny sick like he was this weekend; that I’m able to prevent him from dealing with more severe illness is legitimately so awesome to me. Science is amazing.

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