Tuesday, April 29, 2014

In Absentia Pt 2: Sickness

Before our babysitter Lindsey had to leave us,we had gotten into a good rhythm with Toddlesworth. He knew what was up, and he liked Lindsey. In fact, the first time he reported what he dreamed, it was Lindsey and Adam (Adam is a five year old was often in Lindsey's care.) kicking a soccer ball and riding on a skateboard. I must have been thrilled with his answer, because to this day whenever I wake him up and ask him what he dreamt about, he will say "Lindsey and Adam, kick'n' a soccer ball!"

Toddles, I assume like most babies, very much prefers to be with both of us. I remember a specific event back before he could talk when I brought him up to the desk where Clark was working. He wordlessly reached towards his dad, then when I handed him over, he reached back towards me. I grabbed him, and he reached back towards his dad. He was close enough at that point to put a hand on his dad's shoulder, and pull him closer, and he just looked back and forth at each of us with a HUGE grin on his little baby face. We always teased each other about who was his favorite of the moment, but this made it clear to both of us that his very very favorite was both of us. Therefore, Toddles was very happy to stay with us throughout the day when Lindsey left.

Things weren't that easy on us however, so we were looking for new childcare when this new situation was sprung on us. I was glad we had not yet decided on a daycare center, as the first couple weeks we didn't have a second car and I would have had no way to get him to it. So we had to be flexible, and the first couple weeks we switched off-Lord C took him one week, and my mother watched him during the day. The next week, I kept him with me, and a very generous friend drove at least 40 minutes round trip to pick him up in the morning and drop him off in the evening. The first several weeks where Toddles was switching back and forth and spending most of every day away from either parent or any place he knew led to there being more than a bit of regression. Toilet training took a big slide backwards and he became a bit clingier than previously.

However, the past two weeks have been the roughest. Three weeks ago Toddlesworth spent the week with Lord C. They also took along a friend, Chelsea, who would help take care of Toddles during the day, so that he could be closer to Lord C. during the day. (Same city rather than a city an hour away where my mother lives.) Things went well for them there; Chelsea said that Toddles was well behaved and even tried to help her take care of her own little one. We wanted to try having her watch Toddles during the week so that he could stay in his 'playroom,' be in familiar territory, and have me nearby if I was needed.

However, when Lord C and Toddles came back Toddlesworth had a bit of a sniffle. This was unsurprising, he often gets sick after visiting his Bamaw's house, as there are a multitude of cousins. Usually he will be sniffy for a few days and get over it, but this time he had a low grade fever that kept him awake and fussy much of the night. This made the few days Lord C and I had together, and our only attempts at a day off, extremely stressful! His sniffy nose got worse and turned green on Saturday, and by Sunday evening, when Lord C left, his left eye started creating copious amounts of yellow-green gunk. I worried about pink eye, and about how things were going to go with having him here, and if he would be remotely watchable, or too sick to be around others. This was supposed to be my first 'easy' week, since I had a loaner vehicle and childcare planned. It turned out to be anything but.

I was right to worry. He went to sleep at 6:30 Sunday night, a large departure from his usual 9-9:30. There were numerous screaming semi-awakenings, but he did not actually wake up until I woke him up about 7:50 Monday morning.  He woke up with both his eyes gunked up, and I texted Chelsea, who had already arrived (sorry) that she probably did not want her newborn around whatever this ended up being. I got Toddles ready and headed straight to his pediatrician. It turns out yellow gunky eye babies get seen pretty quickly, which is good, because Toddles was eager to head into the exam room area, as he had noticed the lollipops. He did not cooperate with measuring his weight, and was more than a bit fussy, but we got out of there without too much damage. Then we had to hit up Walmart and buy groceries. I honestly think I have blocked out the next couple of days, like with a newborn. I remember the level of sleep deprivation was similar, as he was difficult to get to sleep, then he would cry basically all night, burn up with sweat, pee the bed (This was particularly upsetting because he has been night-toilet trained for at least 6 months. We still have waterproof pads, but it is still an altogether unpleasant experience) then, he would wake up just early enough that I could not get a nap in. (I was getting up at 4:30 every day to start delivering breakfast/putting breakfast out at the hotel)  Add to all this giving an angry baby who hates medicine terrible tasting medicine and eye drops twice a day. He would repeatedly spit out his dosage while I held him down and tried to scrape it back in. The rest of the day was spent handling a sick, angry, increasingly sticky and gross baby, while getting as much work done as possible. The first day it was explained to him that the medicine was going to make him feel better. "Oh, ok." he says, then mimicked giving medicine to a superhero pen. The second day he decided it wasn't worth it, and begged "Mommy, don't make me feel better!"  While I was giving him his dosage. (I found this both terribly adorable, and very sad. I really don't like the idea of physical punishment or restraint, and I think, ideally, it should never be used. I also believe in body autonomy, and I want him to grow up having control over his own body. Having to hold a baby down and force him to swallow something is the worst-I feel terrible but I know I have to do it, and on top of that I'm perpetually worried I'm accidentally going to make him aspirate the liquid and kill him.) In fact, I shall henceforth refer to this week as Gross Week.

The week after Gross Week was Hell Week. Toddles felt slightly better throughout Gross Week, and was deemed un-contagious by Thursday. However, I had come down with what Toddles had, and Chelsea's baby came down with something a bit less terrible, but bad enough to need Chelsea to stay home. That left a very sick, sleep deprived me watching a still slightly sick baby that, although he was feeling better, it seemed he only felt good enough to be able to act out.  Throughout that week, he was the most argumentative, frustrating, and loudest he has ever been. He developed bad habits, like refusing to use the toilet, hitting himself repeatedly on the face when he didn't like what he was told, and scratching/clawing at me when I told him no. On Wednesday, we hit a low point. Something happened that gave him a tummy ache. There was a midnight hour of screaming "OOOOWWWW!! OOOW! My tummy! my tummy hurts. My tummy is too hot! My tummy, ow owowowowow." I knew he wasn't in deathly danger, because in his twistings he got his arm caught in a hole in the blanket and screamed louder. If arm pain>tummy pain, then tummy pain is not emergent. Sound reasoning, yes? I tried to force him to swallow gripe water and tylenol, but he acted like he was dying and I feared I had drowned him. Throughout the hour, I frantically texted Lord C. such gems as "What the hell are you supposed to do about a baby tummy ache?" "I can't take him anywhere and I can't call an ambulance for a tummy ache" "I want to DIE right now!" and "I can't fucking do this right now. I need to fucking sleep." But of course I *could* do it, because I had to. All my texts went understandably unanswered, as Lord C was in the midst of a very busy week himself. I knew I might as well have been screaming into, or texting, a void, but it did make a difference that the texts would eventually reach someone who could completely commiserate with me. I don't think I have ever been so miserable, and had no form of relief. I had a brief glimpse into the life of a single parent. I have so much respect for single parents who are able to keep it together, and I'm so glad I have a partner, and anxiously await his return.

(As a side note, I have never been sick before where my energy was zapped and I felt tired all the time. This is likely because I'm not sick often and I've never been sick before where I couldn't at least take a nap and rest up, not to mention I am the kind of person who needs 8-9 hours of sleep and for the past month+ I've been functioning on half that. I was definitely not at my best during Hell Week.)

It has been a battle to get Toddles out of these new bad habits, and we are trying our best to get him a new schedule that we can stick to. He is getting so much better at being handed off to Chelsea. He went from begging me not to leave him "Mommy, don't leave me! Take me with you!" and throwing himself on the floor, to bringing Chelsea a book to read and giving me a kiss goodbye. He has made improvements, but he is still much more clingy that he was before, and still unwilling to volunteer to use the toilet. (We have had a few semi-forced successes, but we have lost about six months of progress.) It is unsettling how much damage a few weeks of upset schedule and illness can do. At the very least, we have to believe that it is nothing permanent, and that this new era will be a learning experience for all of us.

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