Sickness and Guilt

24 Jul

Alex woke up Monday morning covered in strep rash.  I’ve become very familiar with this rash, so I immediately phoned the doctor and made him an appointment.  I’d rather look like a crazy mommy and find that there’s nothing wrong with him, than not have it checked out and have it develop into a high fever and misery for us all.

It’s strep.  Again.  This makes the fifth time this year.

The doctor suggested that someone is a carrier and repeatedly reinfecting him.  Since Steven hadn’t been tested at all, she wanted him to go to after-hours care that evening for a test.  Just to be safe, we both got tested.  (I was tested back in January or February, which means I’m not the carrier, but I got checked out again just in case I’d picked it up since then.)  We both tested negative.  Next up: the grandparents.  I realized that Alex’s bouts with strep tended to follow visits to or from my parents.  So they were both kind enough to get tested.  They’re negative, too.  We’re back to square one.

I mentioned this on Facebook.  I kind of wish I hadn’t.  I think people are trying to be helpful, but when I’m being grilled about whether or not I’ve disinfected my entire house and all the toys or being reminded that they make shopping-cart covers for infants, I feel like I’m being accused of not properly protecting my boy.  I carry enough mama guilt as it is; I don’t need any more heaped on top of me.  I confess: I forgot to change his toothbrush after the last bout.  I changed it every other time, but this time, I forgot.  Guilt guilt guilt.  

We went to the health food store, as we’re out of baby probiotics.  Alex tends to get a yeast infection whenever he’s on antibiotics.  The lady at the store was super sweet and just wanted to be helpful, so I didn’t get mad at her.  But when she gasped that I need to get him off of antibiotics because they’ll just mess him up, I felt another little piece of guilt being placed on my head.  (For the record, I’m a big believer in antibiotics for bacterial infections like strep.  I do not believe in trusting “natural,” unscientifically-proven, non-FDA-approved supplements to get rid of an infection that can cause kidney or heart damage or even death.  I’m okay with crunchy; I’m not okay with foolish.)  But it felt like another person suggesting that I’m not doing the right thing for my child.

I’m almost 40.  In general, becoming a mom so much later in life has been awesome when it comes to parenting decisions.  For the most part, I’m confident.  I have zero interest in the so-called Mommy Wars.  You raise your kid your way, and I’ll raise my kid mine. I don’t care what you do.  And I genuinely don’t care if you don’t like the way I do things.  I do what’s best for me and my family.

But when my child is sick so frequently, all the doubt I don’t usually wrestle with comes creeping in.  I know that he eats a healthy, well-balanced diet.  He sleeps regularly and well.  We have a schedule and a routine that makes our days run smoothly.  He’s an easy, generally-well-behaved baby who is growing and learning.  But knowing that still can’t erase the worry I feel that I’m doing something wrong because he’s sick so much.  This undefined feeling of guilt piles on and threatens to smother me with its ugly accusations.

Still, there are bright moments in the midst of the trial.  For the most part, Alex feels fine.  Because we caught it early this time, he’s only had a low-grade fever and a little crankiness.  I laughed when his doctor told him to feel better.  He was rolling on the floor, tickling me through the slats of the bench in the exam room, laughing hysterically because I laughed each time he did it.  He felt just fine.

Doogie lost a whisker in the living room.  Alex and I found it.  I tickled him with it, and he fell over with laughter.  He took the whisker from me and tried to tickle back.  He ran to his daddy and “tickled” him with the whisker, which in reality was more like punching him in the shoulder while holding the whisker.  But Steven, who isn’t even remotely ticklish, laughed for Alex, who was delighted with this new activity.   He might be sick, but he’s full of joy and life.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, gets him down.

I guess I’m doing something right, after all.

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4 Responses to “Sickness and Guilt”

  1. Judy B. July 24, 2013 at 1:45 PM #

    The only thing you’re doing wrong, my friend, is listening to other people and letting them make you feel guilty. Otherwise, wow, you’re a wonderful, wonderful mother!

  2. Emerson July 24, 2013 at 1:55 PM #

    He’s such a doll. The guilt thing is just normal for a mother. Thick skin, thick skin. I can say that over and over but it still hurts. I just read this: The preliminary results of a small study that was recently presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Washington, DC., Group A Streptococcus on Toothbrushes, concludes that their data do not support the practice of throwing out toothbrushes from group A Streptococcus infected children. None of the toothbrushes they tested of children with strep throat actually grew the strep bacteria, which is good news for parents who are tired of buying new toothbrushes before they typically would – every 3 to 4 months or when the bristles appear worn.

    The above was from May 3, 2013.

  3. Becka July 24, 2013 at 2:13 PM #

    He looks like a delightful little boy. Our third child (only boy) was sick frequently until he was about 2 1/2. Since then he seemed to turn a corner and has been very healthy. Hopefully this will be the case with your little one as well.

  4. Emily Goforth August 6, 2013 at 8:32 AM #

    Have you tested for Lymes Disease? Many times Lymes will imitate strep throat. Several years ago, my entire family spent the entire summer battling strep throat. We ended up asking a friend to test us, and my entire family had several different types of lymes disease. Please do not be offended by my asking, it always saddens me to hear that your family is not feeling well.

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