I've spent a stressful couple nights with my cold-virus suffering four-year-old daughter, who also happens to be on an immuno-suppressant drug, and boy did it bring back memories. Some years when all my children were little, it seemed like we went from one cold to another, with week-long breaks in between. The nights were grueling, with more than one child up coughing, and croup a frequent visitor for Peter, up until he reached 6 years old.
I learned that many different cold viruses lead to croup for susceptible children, that some cold viruses lead to suspicious rashes in the younger set, and some lead to harmless fever. Some viruses are more likely to bring on sinus infections and bronchitis and ear infections, though 90% of these end up viral, against which antibiotics are worthless.
I finally learned to stay away from doctor's offices unless fevers had gone on too long (more than 3 days), or unless there were breathing difficulties, or the child became listless and acted seriously sick. Visiting the doctor in the winter just invites more viruses to your home; the more children you have with you, the more likely this is.
I'm experienced enough now to say that 80% of doctor's visits for colds and related infections are unnecessary, especially if you breastfeed. I wish someone had told me this in the beginning, because I actually brought my first baby to the doctor at 7 months old, just because he had his first cold virus, and some baby book said to take a baby to the doctor if it's a first cold.
What? Who writes these things?
The doctor treated me like an idiot because my baby had only minor cold symptoms, and I had no other complaints. This is the same pediatrician who later on answered my question about how long to feed baby rice cereal with this snarky remark: "I don't care if you feed him Frosted Flakes for breakfast."
Okay, so my baby was 12 months by then, but still.
Last night for the second night, Beth suffered a low-grade fever, and she had discharge from her eyes all day. "Just shoot me if this is pinkeye, God. I never want to deal with that again."
New last night was an hour of restless itching everywhere on her body, during which I panicked, wondering what kind of strange cold virus brings on itching. "Could it be meningitis, God?" She went to the world-famous ophthalmologist last Monday, who sees patients from many different countries. I wondered if a foreign family unwittingly deposited strange germs in the waiting room.
It's amazing what exhaustion can do to a mother. Today there's no itching, no fever, she's active, and the eye discharge was obviously just part of a nightmare cold virus that brings profuse leaking--nose and eyes.
Tips for Mom's sanity during the winter:
~ I can't prove this, but love works. Drop everything and hold the sick ones. Pray over them and kiss their foreheads. Read them stories, tissue box in hand, and watch movies with them. They will always remember that Mommy was the best, most attentive Mommy when they were sick. These memories will cover over a multitude of your mothering sins.
~ Yes, the house will get very, very cluttered during sick weeks. After being up half the night, you will be tempted to say up another half-night to set the house to rights. Don't. They will need you again when the post-nasal drip brings on a terrible coughing spell, so sleep when you can.
~ Make easy dinners, even if you just had spaghetti two nights ago. If you order take-out, you'll just bring home more cold viruses.
~ Before cold and flu season hits, stock up on supplies. Buy multiple tissue boxes laced with lotion, and multiple generic bottles of ibuprofen and acetaminophen, but don't medicate a mild fever during the day. It's a natural part of immune system function. At your weekly library visits, check out movies that will keep them lying down for a couple hours, and buy liquids they will drink, even if you normally wouldn't choose them.
~ If your husband helps, great, but don't fight with him if he doesn't do the dishes himself, even though you haven't slept in four nights. Consider this: if your husband stays up late to help, and then gets sick himself, he will miss work and drive you more crazy than your sick kids. Just sayin'.
~ They're a cruel parenting joke, these cold viruses. You worry yourself to a tizzy and watch your sick child's labored breathing through the night, only to wake up to a chipper, happy, snot-faced child who doesn't understand why Mommy is cranky and tired. Colds are always worse at night, so never decide in the middle of the night if a doctor's visit is warranted, unless you have a young infant and you suspect RSV or other form of bronchiolitis.
~ As soon as your child feels well again, you'll be sick as a dog with a horribly messy house and no relief in sight. Life will seem incredibly grueling and you might just cry, because you were so worn down when you caught the cold, that a sinus infection comes quickly, leaving you begging for mercy.
This too shall pass. Before you know it, your youngest will be almost five and you'll feel like crying because there are no babies left. No soft cheeks to caress and kiss. No bare, sweet bottoms to laugh at as they toddle down the hall, giggling and running away from you at bathtime. No sweet-smelling babies to lie against your elevated chest in the middle of the scary, exhausted nights.
These snot-nosed days are the best years of your life.
Let it all go, Momma. The house, that perfectionist bent, that pride over your multi-tasking skills. If you're in cold and flu season and your house looks great, you're choosing the wrong thing.
From a Momma who's been there