Being ill with a toddler is a very different experience to any other time. In the time I like to call BC (before child), being ill was equally horrendous of course but I could take myself away and suffer alone, perhaps with the TV or radio on, in and out of consciousness with the background noise of This Morning. BC, my only worry was when should I go back to work? When I do go back, should I apply my make-up more sparingly to make sure I still look a bit crap? I want to go back feeling a bit better but not too well as I want to look stoic so colleagues can say,
“Are you sure you should be back?”
This guarantees no one accusing me of faking it or being namby-pamby.
Its still likely people will try and make out they’ve had the same illness as me, but they just took a cold and flu tablet, and powered on through. I would be having conversations in my head such as, ‘But you didn’t have the same thing Steven, did you? I was reeeally ill and you just have a bit of a cold. If you’d had what I had you wouldn’t have been able to lift your hand to your mouth to take that cold and flu tablet so why don’t you just…. I thought I was going to die Steven! You have never felt pain like it – DON’T MAKE OUT THAT I CALL IN SICK ON A WHIM!’
In the world of AC (after child), I now not only battle the illness and the worry of returning to work but I also battle my guilt for not being able to play with my child (perhaps this is heightened for me due to my working-mother status), and battle my guilt over really wanting my child to just leave me alone. An important technique I’ve begun to master is being in bed but appearing not to be, often with the aid of a pile of clothes, in the hope people will go away.
I have just had the flu. I’m not saying flu here like some people say when they have a bad cold; I’m talking full-blown fever, achy body and a pounding, light-fearing headache. The kind of flu that if someone had put a couple of £50 notes on the floor, just out of reach, and said all I had to do was pick them up and they would be mine, I wouldn’t have moved an inch. I was in and out of consciousness but there were moments where reality was somewhat scarier than my mental fever dreams.
A couple of days passed with me only being capable of sipping water and occasional turning from one side to another. I stirred in my heap of sweaty mess, opened one eye to see a toddler, completely naked, head tilted, grinning, eyes fixed, staring at me like I was prey, armed with a spoon.
“Hello Mummy. Are you hungry?” Her voice was filled with threat.
I smiled weakly saying, “I’m ok thank you lovely.”
Like a flash I had a toddler sitting on my chest pulling down at the duvet I had attempted to cover my head with. I was too feeble. I couldn’t take her – she brushed my hands away with ease and managed to get to my face. Not my face! I let out a cry – it was too weak for anyone to hear.
“Mummy’s hungry,” she said with determination.
The toddler started to grab at my face and lifted the spoon up with intent. I had no idea what was on that spoon but I knew I didn’t want it in my mouth. I kept my mouth firmly shut and attempt to make noises resembling,
“No thank you.”
The toddler squished the spoon into my lips and then realizing she wasn’t having any success decided on another tack. Whilst trying to ram the spoon into my mouth with her right hand she took her left hand and pinched my nose. I was quite amazed that she knew this tactic. I had never done this to her so how did she learn it? She must be rolling with a rough crowd at nursery. I was forced to open my mouth and let out a yelp with all the energy I could muster just before the toddler rammed the spoon into my mouth. It was slightly wet, sticky and bitter – god knows where it had been.
I saw a bright light that hurt my eyes. I wondered whether this was it? Was I being murdered by my own child? Through the bright haze, a shadow emerged and what appeared to be a bearded angel.
“Be gentle with Mummy,” I heard him cry and lifted away the toddler.
“Mummy’s hungry,” the toddler exclaimed.
“Well that’s very kind of you but I don’t think Mummy is hungry because she’s not feeling very well” I heard him say as he walked away with the expert torturer.
I rolled over thinking that I wasn’t exactly sure if she was trying to be kind but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. The room darkened and I wondered when she’d strike again? And what utensil might she come with next? This would never have happened BC.
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