In Sickness and In Health

Both sick but the kiddo needed to be nursed

The month of January has brought a plethora of illness to the Navelgazing household. If it involved puking, diarrhea, conjunctivitis or copious amounts of mucous, we’ve had it. One after the other the three of us fell like flies and never had more than a few days of feeling well before being struck again.

To say that I’m ready to be done with this cycle is an understatement.

One of the things I’ve observed throughout these bouts of illness is how mothering seems to work (or at least my version of mothering). I can’t speak for fathering or any other version of parenthood so forgive me if I’m coming across as exclusionary of others.

When my little one is sick, it is me that he wants the most. I’m the provider of milk which serves as both food and medicine. He’s fine with his daddy some of the time, but Baby E must have his dose of mama or all is not right with his world. So I spend a lot of time cuddling, nursing, and soothing this small person through his misery.

That is as it should be, right?

What ultimately happens is that I will be coughed on, sneezed on, snotted on, puked on, pooped on, etc., etc., etc. I will then get the sickness du jour.

I realize that this has a purpose. In order for me to pass antibodies to the illness through my milk to Baby E, I must be exposed to said illness.

So now, I’m sick too and still primarily responsible for this small person, who might be still sick, on the mend or totally well by this point.

Either way, my body is not totally my own whether sick or well.

The daddy of this house does not have this problem. It isn’t that he doesn’t care or doesn’t help out. It’s more that he’s now the second-in-command of this parenting ship. He goes off to work most days of the week, which leaves Baby E and me alone a lot. When he’s sick, he can mostly count on me to keep the little one away so he can recuperate. When I’m sick, I still have to nurse Baby E whether I feel up to it or not.

I’m not writing this post to complain. I’m well aware that my situation is ameliorated by the fact that I am partnered and do not currently suffer from chronic illness or disability. I just felt the need to record my observation that even on my worst day I’m inextricably intertwined with my child.

And that is just the way it is.

Posted on February 1, 2011, in Breastfeeding, Daddy-ness, General mommyness, Life with a toddler and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. My children are older and no longer nurse – but yes, they run to me when they are hurt. Just my voice, my arms, the way I feel and smell is so deeply restorative to them – more so than medicine, fixing the broken object, getting them food – anything.

    Your reality seems to be one I’ve seen in the lives of many if not most mothers. When these women are in heteroparternships and their male partner works out of the home, these same women have also internalized the message they aren’t doing real “work”. They feel guilty about a messy house, they don’t require their partner to do nightparenting and don’t think they should, they verbalize (aloud) sentiments of gratitude for their male partner while demeaning their own burden, responsibilities, and contributions. It really breaks my heart.

    My partner has always said my job was harder and he’s afforded me much respect for my work (which does not mean he doesn’t have plenty of blindspots, being raised male while I was raised female). I’ve worked for pay and worked in the home. When I worked for pay it was a “career”, a well-paying and highly-regarded job. Both types of work have challenges, but motherhood is multifaceted, 24/7, policed by EVERYONE else, under-acknowledged, receives no financial compensation, retirement fund, social security, etc., and is often under-supported.

    So my long-winded point is, I do not experience this post as a “complaint”. I experience this as a reality and one that, if other mothers read, is probably deeply appreciated. I hope non-mothers read and also reflect and ruminate. Maybe when they see a snot-nosed kiddo melting down in a shop they’ll smile and empathetic and loving smile at mama (or papa) and open the door. The world needs more kindness and more help given to those who need it.

    For now, I hope you are feeling better soon. Your son is fortunate to have you… maybe you can experience respite if not healing in his arms as well.

  2. This post hit home for me since I just went through several weeks of having a teething, itchy with eczema and sick with a cold baby permanently attached to my bosom. Oh yes, mother is a multi-faceted job title. It’s like being the founder of a company. you and that baby are forever and inextricably linked. It can be draining and feel like an eternity especially when no one else can tag you and step into the ring so you can get a break. It’s good to get these feelings, which are normal, off our chest…especially when the baby is still latched on.

  3. I can completely relate. Baby Z is actually weened (had to prepare for the new guy) but when she was sick, i let her suck again just for comfort. She got me really sick and her dad was completely fine. I won’t lie, I had a lil attitude, but that’s ok. I got over it.

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