Our Little Miss is almost 17 months now. She can take lots of steps (I think 8 steps is the most we’ve seen so far) independently but seems to be choosing not to walk at this point. I remember with my Big Lad that he still wasn’t walking at 18 months and I remember crying on a not-so-sympathetic Health Visitor’s shoulder, seriously wondering whether he would EVER walk. I’m quietly confident this time round that she will in fact learn to walk. I’m just sitting tight and letting her do it in her own sweet time.
So, it’s not her development that is getting me stressed out. It is her health. I know she didn’t have the best of starts to life (see post here) and to this day I still feel guilt about that, but Doctors are saying that her consistently poor health has nothing to do with her neonatal drug dependance. She is just constantly poorly. When I say ‘it’s been one thing after another’, I genuinely mean it’s been one thing after another. She had a very bad case of Bronchilitis at 8 weeks old and since then she seems to have been constantly poorly. It could be a virus one week, a chest infection two weeks later, hand, foot and mouth two weeks after that, infected eczema the week after – you get the gist. The Paediatrician puts her recurring chest issues down to the Bronchilitis and says it could be a long time for the coughing and wheezing to resolve. As for the rest, there really isn’t any sort of explanation at the moment. I don’t mind admitting though that it is starting to get me down.
Little Miss is a blessing. Both my beautiful children are. In every which way, they are a blessing. Little Miss has had a rough time of it though. She brings us so much joy and she is such a happy-go-lucky little girl with a (usually) placid nature and she always offers a smile. The fact that she is usually so happy ordinarily, makes it hard when she is poorly and withdrawn, quiet and lethargic. She usually has so much energy and character.
I am so grateful that she is healthy. During my pregnancy my husband and I had to face the grim reality that she may not have been born healthy. I know what that fear felt like and when she was born squawking and wriggling about like any other healthy newborn, it felt like all our prayers had been answered. I know that there are so many gravely ill children around the world and I am in no way comparing a few viral infections to families facing those sort of challenges. I know we are lucky; we are so incredibly blessed. But seeing her under the weather constantly is difficult. Seeing her frown more than that ‘light-up-the-world’ smile, hurts. The constant laundry marathon of vomited on sheets and blankets is tiring. The disturbed sleep night after night is exhausting. The ‘she’s too poorly to go to nursery but I need to work, what am I going to do?’ panic is stressful. The fact that one of her first words was ‘Doctor’ was a little bit sad.
When she’s poorly there is nothing I want more than to curl up with her on the sofa and have a duvet day, and you’d think that, working for myself, I would have every opportunity to do so. And I do, occasionally. But, if I don’t work, and the business doesn’t make money, we don’t get paid. So there is more to it than being my own boss and taking time off when I need it.
Last week was a particularly bad week. Little Miss vomited (projectile too, to add insult to injury) in her cot every single night for five nights in a row. During the days there was no sickness but she was in and out, being her usual cheery self one minute and the next be clingy, lethargic and unsettled. Her eating stopped, which is usually the most obvious and first sign that she’s under the weather. It was really hard because she seemed poorly, and not herself, but there was no obvious sign of something being wrong. There was no spots or rashes, temperatures, pulling on her ears or persistent coughing, just her generally presenting as not being right.
On the Friday morning when we got her up and changed her, her nappy was dry. We put it down to her not taking as much milk and water as usual and the vomiting. We thought she may have been dehydrated. We encouraged her to drink plenty water and took her to nursery. When we went to collect her, her Key Worker did the whole collaring us at the door thing before we entered the room with the worried face. My heart sunk. She reassured us that it was probably nothing but Little Miss had slept for two hours in the middle of the morning (we were usually lucky to squeeze a half an hour nap in the middle of the day) and had been dry in the three nappy changes they had done. I was instantly worried; I knew that dry nappies wasn’t a good sign.
We considered taking her to the Doctors straight away but she had perked right up and was singing ‘Wheels on the Bus’ at the top of her voice from the back of the car all the way home, dancing away to the music and seeming on top form. We decided that if we hadn’t had a wet nappy before bed time that we would take her to the Emergency Doctors. We let her stay up a bit later (meanwhile we encouraged her to drink lots of water at every opportunity) and by the time we came to change her, she had finally done a wee. I was relived. It didn’t stop me googling all the bloody symptoms all night long though, getting myself more and more worked up. I agreed with my hubby that if she was no better the following morning we would take her to see a Doctor.
She had a bit of an unsettled night and despite having two lots of milk, once before bed and once upon waking in the morning, when it came to changing her, her nappy was dry. That was when I started to really worry. We let her sit around in her nappy whilst we quickly got ready and she suddenly started screaming, it was a really high pitched scream; she looked in pain. She started pulling at her nappy as if she was sore. We just quickly got her into a sleep suit and took her straight to our specialist Paediatrics A&E hospital.
We are extremely lucky to have a fabulous Hospital with a specialist Children’s A&E unit with specialist Nurses and Doctors who are so natural, warm and welcoming with children. We waited ten minutes max before we were triaged by two Nurses, one of whom we had met a couple of times before. She was so lovely and a familiar face was reassuring. They did her observations and because she had been vomiting as part of this episode of poor health, we were told we wouldn’t be able to wait in the usual waiting area with other patients due to the outbreak of the Norovirus and infection control. We were placed in our own side room which actually worked out for the best as we had our own cot, our own TV and our own space.
Little Miss was seen by a Doctor within half an hour, he advised that he thought she was presenting as having a virus but that he was concerned about the dry nappies. He was approachable and open and excellent in the way he established rapport with both us and Little Miss. He requested the infamous urine sample. Their policy is to request a ‘clean sample’ which meant catching her urine in a plastic cup – i.e. a mission impossible. Anyone got Tom Cruise on speed dial? No? No bother, I’ve got this. It sounds easy enough, doesn’t it?! Nah-Ah. I remember when she was admitted as an 8 week old baby we had to do that and I remember thinking ‘Oh my God, this is impossible!’ but little did I know that that was actual a piece of cake compared to repeating the task but this time with a very energetic, mobile, stubbornly independent baby-come-toddler. It didn’t help that Little Miss was over tired from missing her nap. We tried to encourage her to drink loads but try as we did, there was no sign of this urine.
I rocked her to sleep and she had a short nap in the cot. I stupidly thought she may wee in her sleep. I definitely wasn’t right. The Doctor kept coming by the room asking if we had managed to get the sample yet, so did the nurses. There wasn’t a fifteen minute period that went by where we didn’t see one of them checking in on us. When Little Miss woke up she was really grumpy and unsettled. It was obvious that something was making her extremely uncomfortable. She wanted a cuddle, then she didn’t want a cuddle, she wanted to watch Cbeebies on the TV, then she wanted it off, she wanted her drink but then she didn’t want her drink – nothing was of any comfort to her.
This went on for a good few hours before she started screaming in pain and as I comforted her, my hubby spied that long awaited trickle and caught it in the cup (almost perfectly but there were a few unwelcome splashes here and there on my leggings and the like). I could see her relief as soon as it was over. She instantly perked up, her whole face just brightened. She smiled and giggled again and was far more settled. The Doctor took the sample away and almost immediately returned to us and said they had found cells in her sample that were indicative of a urine infection but that it would need to be sent to the lab and it takes 3 days for the cultures to grow (or something like that, all the medical scientific stuff goes right over my head. If it aint fixed by a bit of Calpol and a squirt of olbas oil, I don’t have a clue!). The Doctor discussed the situation with us; he said that we could wait until the test results were back before starting antibiotic treatment to avoid the possibility of her taking treatment unnecessarily but he also said that if it does turn out to be a kidney infection or similar, waiting three days could cause damage to her kidneys. We took the decision to have her start the antibiotics straight away. The Doctor was so lovely, reassuring me that I wasn’t being a pedantic mother making a bad decision. He placed the decision firmly in our hands, having given us all the information we needed and said he would support us either way. It didn’t take long for us to decide; risking the health of her kidneys would never be an option for us.
While we waited for the prescription and discharge notes to be completed, Little Miss seemed to get a second wind and started enjoying the attention she was getting on the ward. My Husband discovered the play room and although she wasn’t allowed in there due to infection control, he found a toy pushchair and a little ride-on car and brought it in to our room for her to play on. That was it! She was off! Riding around the corridors like she owned the place, a big grin from ear to ear and definitely, definitely not looking poorly! Isn’t it incredible how children can go from one extreme to another within minutes?!
She got given a sticker, lots of high fives, waves and attention so I definitely don’t think the experience was traumatic for her! That is the benefit of having such a specialist children’s unit at our hospital. With my eldest I remember sitting in the same A&E as adults with various injuries or dispositions of varying degrees of seriousness and waiting for five, six hours sometimes in a waiting area not equipped to entertain children in any way whatsoever. It never put me at ease, that place. It felt traumatic just to sit in the waiting area. It certainly was never a place I relished taking my child to. Not that I want to ever have a need to take either of them to hospital, but, if it has to happen, we are so lucky that we have such a specialist unit on our doorstep for them.
I know the NHS gets bad press but I cannot fault the care we have received, both on Saturday, and over the years. We really are so lucky to know that, should one of our children gets hurt or ill or injured, we have a place to take them, staffed with a team that we have faith in and trust. That is something not to take for granted. Ever.
Saturday was a reminder of how blessed we are. I’m sure, in that hospital, there were children gravely ill. We were one of the lucky ones that eventually got to go home. Yes, it’s stressful when they get poorly. Tell me one element of parenting that isn’t! So, I may be stressed to the point of finding one too many grey hairs than I would care to admit at the ripe old age of 37, but I am so, so, so blessed.