Parental Terror

baby turtle mobile1:37 A.M.

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.

8:45 A.M.

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…

Loni Townsend

About Loni Townsend

Wife. Mother. Writer. Ninja. Squirrel.

12 thoughts on “Parental Terror

  1. Aw, sweetie. It’s real aches and pains and tiredness combined with the hormonal baby blues and the worry of having an ill child creating ‘mother’s guilt.’ Don’t listen to it.

    You are a GOOD MOTHER. You didn’t ruin your daughter’s language development. (I can say that with authority because I’ve been through something similar.) Kids learn to talk every day, even in far less enriching homes than yours. And I’m sure yours is very enriching.

    If you’re nursing, your son will be protected from what your daughter has through antibodies you’re passing to him. He might get sick, but it shouldn’t be as bad. If you’re not nursing, consider giving him mother’s milk for a time. You don’t have to commit to it long term.

    The writing quote a friend told to me applies here. ‘You doubt because you care. And that can only lead to great things.’

    You will get through this, and the sun will shine again.


    • Thank you for the encouragement. It really was a relief reading about the breastfeeding part. At least I can do this little bit to protect one child.

  2. Oh hun, it sounds to me like you are doing a great job. Hormones are really high after you give birth for a while. It takes a bit of time to get back to normal. I hope your little girl is getting better and your little boy too.
    Kids all develop differently, my son was slow to talk and now he is just like all the other kids at his school, in fact if anything he talks even more. I guess he is making up for lost time.
    Sending big hugs your way, stay strong you are doing great.

    • Thank you! I’m hoping my daughter will be like your son and becomes a strong talker.

  3. Oh no, no guilt! God, just from reading this one post I can tell that you’re a dedicated and wonderful mother, and that your kids are as lucky to have you as you are to have them.

    Take care of yourself, take care of them, and the rest will follow. And yes, you WILL make mistakes, but your kids will thrive and grow and live and love, anyway 🙂

    • Thank you. It would be nice if I could raise children without making mistakes, but I suppose I’d never learn how to improve. I’m lucky to have the benefit of having others to help guide.

  4. I hope your daughter is feeling better!

  5. Hope everybody’s feeling better!

  6. Yup. I can see why that post made you think of this one. Ugh. Why do we do this to ourselves when we are clearly not BAD moms? We’re not perfect (but that would just be creepy). We do the best we can and have to forgive ourselves for the times when we’re not at our best.

    P.S. I’m sorry. Really. But I don’t think the terror ever goes away. It probably lessens. Yes, let’s say that. 🙂

  7. That headache sounds like it was brutal! I think having a sick child is the most horrifying think I’ve encountered to date and I’ve been blessed with an overall very healthy child.

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