Babies are weapons of mass destruction. And I’m writing this from a war zone.
The ground is littered with the fallout from three days of a sustained biological onslaught. Congealed tissues turn up in unusual and distressing places, random bottles of Calpol are stashed around the house for use by the resistance; testimony to night manoeuvres by brave soldiers who dared venture on lone missions into the wolf’s lair.
We trudge to roll call each morning, clothes caked with the green, yellow, and brown stains of the previous night’s action, seeking a clean coffee mug, surveying with solemn hearts the desolate no-mans lands we once called home.
Wistfully we recall that it was here in the kitchen we saw Baby B’s first smile, or the time he ate his first piece of banana, laughing at Peppa Pig. We do not speak of these happier times, carefree golden days before the storm clouds broke. What good are memories of this Eden now when all we have to look forward to is another sleepless night of coughing and wretching?
Who was patient zero? Someone out there knows. Were they at last weekend’s birthday party? Did they think the danger had passed or were they too tempted by free alcohol and sausage rolls to care? Or maybe it was that toddler on the bus. Or a chance encounter at Tumble Tots? But instead of answers we have only tiny sneezles.
Snot-encrusted clothes lie in piles in the bathroom, the washing machine groans under the tide of filth; some cuddly toys may never regain their original softness, their glass eyes shot through with a thousand yard stare. I don’t think about the things they’ve seen in the darkness. I heard the wailing and coughing and left them to their fate. Judge me when you have walked a long night in these slippers.
Food has become a function rather than a pleasure for all of us. We pick at whatever morsels we can muster the strength to defrost, or make more toast. Maybe boil an egg? No, that way lies folly.
Unwanted bowls of mashed up Weetabix and banana, hardened into little pillars of granite that will stand for a thousand years, sit alongside half eaten salmon balls, and festering bottles of rejected milk; hurled from the frontline with yells of infant fury these curdled lactose grenades now await defusing by the kitchen sink, itself a stagnant lake of despair where gyres of animal pasta shapes bob eerily among the soap suds.
I check the log book. We have not left the house in three days. The streets are deserted. A dog howls at the moon as it devours the sun (only partially, and behind a load of clouds).
Is anyone out there left untouched by the contagion? Oh well, I expect I’ll find out when I drag myself into the office on Monday.
You should know that I’ve had four hours sleep in the last 48 so I might be slightly losing my mind.
But I don’t think I’ve ever been so ill so frequently as I have since we had a baby!
Working at the snot factory
Being ill yourself is bad enough. But at least in the old days we were able to take pity on each other, curl up into a ball on the sofa, or stay in bed, and watch a box set. Come on. Admit it. Sometimes, if you’re not horribly ill, with a fever that makes you think there are cats dressed as doctors trying to steal your liver, being ill can sometimes be a guilty pleasure.
Once you have a baby all that changes. Oh how I long for a day under a blanket sipping honey and lemon and saying, “Well if you’re making soup I’ll try to eat some, and yes just a small slice of apple tart.”
Baby B has actually been a pretty healthy chap. But since he started mixing with more children his poor immune system seems to have been under constant attack. This year he’s had a couple of colds and a really nasty tummy bug. And because he leaves a trail of germs everywhere no matter how careful we are to wipe and spray and scrub one of the little bastards makes it through to infect us. One of those 1% of germs that even bleach can’t claim to kill. The germs that will one day evolve into superbugs and eat us all up.
I’ve realised you just have to get through it. Like all the trials of parenthood it will pass. But there are a few things to be aware of when your baby is poorly. And a few survival tips to help you make it to the end of hostilities.
Tips on caring for a poorly baby or toddler:
– Keep a close eye on your baby’s temperature. If their body temperature gets over 37 degrees celsius you should get medical advice. We bought an electronic thermometer that you just point at the baby’s torso and it flashes a red warning when you need to worry. It’s tempting to wrap up a poorly baby in more layers than usual but if they are shivery it may mean they have a fever rather than being cold – check with a doctor.
– If they’re being sick or have a runny bum make sure they’re getting plenty of water even if they won’t eat. A healthy baby is going to be ok not eating for a day but dehydration can kill. If your baby won’t drink you might need to resort to using a syringe to get fluid into them, although thankfully we haven’t had to do that yet.
– Look out for weird unexpected rashes. It might be nothing but if you see one get it checked out by a health professional.
– Don’t be scared about giving them Calpol. I admit I was a bit unsure at first but it seems to work in terms of helping Baby B settle when he’s poorly. If I’ve got a crappy head cold I don’t think twice about taking some painkillers and I’d rather he was comfortable. Tip: if they won’t take it neat mix it in a yoghurt or their milk at tea time.
– Babies’ noses aren’t very big and they basically get blocked up easily, plus they can’t blow them. So you will be wiping up a lot of snot. This can make your baby’s nose sore around the nostrils and top lip, so keeping that area clean and putting on some balm is a must.
– Helping them to breathe through a cold is tough but we found a nice decongestant called SnuffleBabe that you can rub on their chest and (not sure why this works) their feet. We also added a few drops of eucalyptus oil to his bath before bed. You could also try – if your cot does this – propping up one end of your baby’s bed so the mucus won’t gather at the back of their throat. Yuck!
– Lots of snuggles. When we feel rubbish all we need is love. So cancel all jobs and appointments, sit on the sofa and give your baby a cuddle. Catch up TV is your friend. And if they want to watch something let them gorge on it. It isn’t going to do them any harm to go goggle eyed. But if they are up to it looking at some favourite books is a nice way to pass the time between nose wiping and nappy changes.
– Look after yourself and each other. Caring for a baby is tough. Caring for a poorly baby is a slog. Caring for a poorly baby when you aren’t well either is hell. So do shifts, make tea and coffee and toast, have naps when you can, and accept that you just have to ride it out. Like those first months of sleepless nights, the common or garden bug will run its course.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor so if you’re ever worried about your child’s health talk to your GP or take them to hospital if you think it’s an emergency. You’ve paid your taxes, you might not always bother about your own health but it’s never worth taking a risk with your child.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to go and wipe up some more snot.
Lots of good advice on caring for poorly babies here:
I’m linking up with #SundayStars 🙂