Sick Kid, Tired Moms


I don’t think there’s an appropriate word in the English language to describe the bone-weary exhaustion that results from having a sick child.

Charlotte has been sick since Saturday, when she crawled into bed next to me complaining of a tummy ache and put herself down for a nap. She awoke an hour later with a temperature over 101, and spent the rest of the afternoon/evening curled up on the couch like a zombie.

That probably sounds normal for a sick kid, but it’s not normal for my sick kid. FOMO reigns over my child, and I have never seen a fever knock her down the way this one did. I stayed in her bed on Saturday night and felt her temperature climb steadily despite the variety of grape-flavored medicinal goop we were forcing on her at regular intervals. She cried, moaned, whimpered and shook as she slept. I did not sleep.

In the morning, the pediatric nurse line sent us to the emergency room. They didn’t want us going to urgent care because they were concerned that she was complaining of chest and abdominal pain, and they felt the ER would be better equipped. We spent 3 hours in the crowded ER where it was determined that her vitals were stable, she was dosed with more Tylenol, given a strep test (negative), and released after she demonstrated that she could eat half of a graham cracker. Because half of a graham cracker is apparently the measure of health in American medicine.

I’m not in a position to question doctors with years of medical training, but I expected that they’d at least give her some fluids since she’d barely had 2 sips of water in 24 hours. Instead, they were satisfied that we were able to force about 2 ounces of water/gatorade into her while we were there because she understood that she couldn’t go home otherwise. Now that we’re back home, the best I can manage is about a half inch of an off-brand Otter-pop equivalent every couple of hours. She’s been eating the same grape one for two days if that tells you anything.

My point is not to detail my daughter’s mystery virus, but rather to provide some insight into the myriad of things we worry about when our kids are sick. We sacrifice sleep to monitor everything from their pulse to their temperature, and to administer meds regularly. We torture ourselves over whether this is just a virus that needs to run its course, or whether it’s something more serious. Do we go to the ER and risk being looked at like a crazy, over-reacting parent by doctors and nurses who are spread too thin as it is? What is our intuition telling us? We’re so tired, can we even trust our intuition anymore?

It is entirely possible that this level of exhaustion lead the old woman in the hospital waiting room to ask whether my wife and I are Charlotte’s grandparents. Isn’t that just what you need to hear when you’re sleep deprived and anxiety-riddled with your child burning hot and sleeping limply in your arms?

She was a bit more alert this morning and her temperature was only 100.4 after meds, so I had hoped she was turning a corner. Then, she threw up all over my feet. (A new symptom! Yay!) Now, she’s been asleep for over 3 hours, and it’s the most peaceful and restful sleep she’s had in days. I keep hoping that she’ll have turned a corner for real when she wakes up, but given the puke incident earlier, I’m not willing to make any bets.