I have just had possibly the most surreal few days of my life. The Princess had chicken pox last week, and in her usual style, she refused to give in to illness. She carried on like nothing was wrong, despite the thermometer telling us otherwise, not resting, not napping, not taking it at all easy. Then the coughing started. I say ‘coughing’, I mean barking, like a dog with a throat full of sandpaper. And then she began to lose her voice (some peace at last!). Yet she carried on as normally as she could, except with the restrictions of not being able to socialise anywhere, and the weather not allowing us to play outside, it all began to get a little fraught. And then she looked ill, and I mean really ill, not just chicken pox blisters and heavy eyes, but a pale face, swollen glands and falling asleep in the back of the car on a ten minute journey. Really ill.
Except now it was the day of Pea’s christening, everyone would be at the church and back to our house, and The Princess didn’t want to miss out on one second of time with the family. She insisted on coming to the church with us all, and I didn’t want to force her to stay at home, missing out on it all, so she came along. She missed all the at-home celebrations as she was exhausted and went to sleep the minute we got home and slept until 4pm.
When I went to her, she was hot, she was lethargic, she was upset, her eyes were glazed and dull, she vomited, she cried, she got hotter, she vomited again and then she said, “Mummy, I want to go to the hospital”.
So we did, after a very useless phone-call to the out of hours service, whose response was to wait at least an hour until a nurse could call us back. Um, no. We headed to A&E.
The Princess had pneumonia secondary to chicken pox. She required oxygen, IV fluids and a huge dose of antibiotics. Her heart rate was frighteningly fast, her temperature high and respiratory rate ridiculous. My not-even-yet-three-year-old was working so hard to just keep breathing, and I was lying in a hospital bed with her on my tummy, looking at her masked face, her bandaged hand and her spotty, sweaty white little body, while words like ‘pneumonia’, ‘sats’, ‘chest x-ray’, cannula’ – words I hear most days at work – raced around in my head, and suddenly they weren’t just words I hear at work, they were words that were affecting my baby girl. Surreal doesn’t really cover it. It still doesn’t feel like it really happened.
The thing that whizzed around my head the longest and made the most sense, however, was The Princess’s request to go to hospital. She knew how she felt that afternoon, she knew something was very wrong. She does not make a fuss about illness, ever. EVER. When she was about 16 or 17 months, she picked up a sickness bug. This bug didn’t stop her playing, or chatting, or even eating. Sitting her to the table one lunch time, she said “No sick!”, which really meant “Loads of projectile sick!” and promptly vommed on the table. After having her mouth wiped and a drink of water, she picked up and ate a tomato off her plate, before The Boyfriend or I had had chance to wipe any surfaces. Seriously, illness does not bother this girl. But on Sunday it did, and she knew it.
I’m a firm believer in trusting our own instincts, and have based most of my parenting on said instincts. I do like to have confirmation that what I’m doing is alright though, and have been drawn to gentle / attachment / natural (I’m pretty sure they’re one in the same really) parenting articles, books and groups. There is much emphasis within these mindsets on trusting our children, which until now I have been hesitant about, if only because a not-quite-three-year-old doesn’t understand risk or danger or have a real sense of what is appropriate (chocolate buttons for every meal while watching Peppa sodding Pig on loop, anyone?). But they know themselves, even if they do not fully understand this world in which we live, and now I know that trusting our children, understanding that they know how they feel and have their own valid thoughts, really is important. Learning to trust my own instincts has been a long and difficult journey, although I have always been led by instinct, actually following that feeling and really trusting it has not been a natural process. After a short sharp shock on Sunday, I feel that learning to trust my children will be a much shorter and simpler journey.
After three days and three nights in the hospital, The Princess is now at home, ruling the roost, refusing her medication, and desperately trying not to let this pneumonia slow her down. She walked into the dining room earlier and asked The Boyfriend why there were cards all over the table.
Did I mention Sunday was my birthday?