By Skye Ziemke
I am trying to recall what I once spent my days thinking about pre-children. Before thoughts of bottles, diapers, and naps took over I must have focused on other things. I can almost guarantee that my thoughts didn’t usually involve the health of others except maybe the occasional “I cannot believe it’s humanly possible to perform your job functions given your obvious gastro-intestinal distress! So glad you decided to tough out that stomach bug, Germ-Guy!”
At some point this changes, doesn’t it? The carefree thoughts of our non-parenting selves disappear when the neurotic parent brain takes over.
Before becoming a mom I did not wonder if my TV was secured to the wall as it should be, if my all natural cleaner was truly all natural or if I needed window guards for the weird half windows in my basement. Much of my thoughts now involve all manner of child health, illness and symptoms.
Last night when my youngest complained of “really bad stomach pain” I immediately panicked. My thought: appendicitis.
I sent a text to my friend – I will just call her Jenny because, well, because her name is Jenny (I am not good with creative pseudonyms) – and asked for her input.
Jenny’s slightly less distressing thought: abdominal hernia.
This text-diagnosing continued for forty-five minutes. It is great to have a friend who senses panic and responds like a doctor in a triage unit. Meanwhile, my son drifted off to sleep and at some point my husband kissed him goodnight, walked past me (sitting on my son’s floor in a texting/web searching frenzy) and headed downstairs.
It was a simple stomach ache, and my son was fine by morning. Thinking about it today I wanted to understand the difference between the reaction of my husband and my own. It is clear that I suffer from a “childhood” illness myself: Parenting-itis. It seems the main symptom of this debilitating illness is the detrimental effect it has on my ability to trust my instincts. Do you perhaps suffer from this ailment as well? This is one childhood illness no book ever mentions. At the first sign of sickness in my offspring Parenting-itis sets in, and I begin the frantic search through books and websites to determine what is going on. Usually I will forget to check the resource that matters most: my child. My husband does not suffer from Parenting-itis so last night he talked with our son, snuggled a bit, noted that the pain had eased, saw that sleep was imminent, and then followed his instincts to our couch and our remote control.
There are many items we can have on hand to help ease our little ones through the sniffles and the viruses. If you have not seen the BabyComfyNose carried by One Step Ahead you should check it out and – after you stop laughing and showing the picture to everyone near you – consider getting one because it seriously works! However, there will certainly be moments when a cough isn’t just a cough, a fever has spiked too high, or when we just know something isn’t right and doctors are needed. Recognizing the moment when professional care is needed is not likely to require too much more than simply focusing on our children, and trusting our instincts.
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for Parenting-itis (not a big shock really, since I made it up) but I think I know a few steps we can take towards prevention; love on our babies even more than normal, spend more time with them, learn what is and is not their “norm”, cuddle often, and spend time trusting ourselves as parents.
It may be a made-up illness but at least the preventative measures will provide for a pain and bruise-free experience – completely unlike the flu shot I had to get last month!