Down the hall, my daughter coughs, cries and complains as Daddy cools her skin with a damp cloth. Her temperature has risen from a balmy 97 to a scorching 103. She’d clung to me when I’d put her to bed, burying her face in my neck with sad whimpers. Now she wails.
I clutch my newborn son–minutes shy of being a week old–tighter to my breast, though he’s already fallen asleep while feeding. What if my daughter’s temperature doesn’t go down? What if he catches what she has? I hear her cry again. I want to go hold her, cradle her like I had before bedtime. But my husband is taking care of her. Still I fret.
My son cries. I stare out the window at the overcast sky, morning light a dreary gray. The weather has plummeted, mocking me by withholding sunlight. I sit up and the epidural headache resumes its pounding behind my eyes and at the base of my skull. The pain is enough to lay a person flat. Literally, since lying down is the primary form of relief for positional headaches. The doctors say it’ll go away by the tenth day. Just need to make it until the weekend.
I fetch my son from his bassinet and he opens his eyes–the whites tinted yellow. This isn’t my first encounter with jaundice, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Two days ago, his blood test showed a decrease in bilirubin levels. He won’t have to return to the hospital like my daughter had to. I hope.
Outside, it starts to rain. How appropriate. That is how the saying goes, right? When it rains, it pours.
My daughter coughs and wanders in–smiling, giggling–reminding me that things do get better. She’s still feverish, but her mood has improved. She seems older now, my baby girl who is now a toddler. When did she get so big?
I lie back down and the pain ebbs. My daughter jabbers at me, using words strung together in not-quite-complete sentences. She’s improved with speech therapy, but I still wonder if the talking issues are my fault. I’d spent the first two and a half years of her life reading her body language and understanding what she meant through gestures. I hadn’t forced her to talk. It never occurred to me to do so. That fear of failure settles over me. How else am I hindering my child?
I suppose my experience with jaundice has given me a different perspective. I cheer every time I have to change a messy diaper. It means my son is flushing the bilirubin from his system. It uplifts me when I hear him cry for food every two hours. He’s not lethargic and I don’t have to force him to eat.
Does the terror ever go away? Maybe when they are capable adults with families of their own? Probably not.
It was my goal to dedicate this week to Melissa Maygrove’s Follow Fest. There are so many interesting and talented writers out there that I want to meet and connect with. But this pain-in-the-neck headache has kept me (lying) down, which isn’t very conducive to hopping the blogs (or socializing at all for that matter). I will find you. I will visit. As soon as this blasted pounding goes away…