As a child I suffered from frequent headaches. At times, if they were really bad, I would be sent home from primary school. I remember the way my mum would put me to bed and stroke my hair until the pain eased. There was no substitute for my mother’s hands. She would sit on my bed and stroke my brow until I was almost asleep, the pain receding almost instantly. No painkiller had her special touch.
Over the break my three-year-old daughter experienced her first bout of gastro. She began vomiting at 5 o’ clock in the evening and she vomited continuously until 7 o’ clock the next morning. For several days afterwards she vomited periodically. As I sat with my daughter throughout the entire night, I thought back to the times when I was sick with my own mother. Her gentle touch and soothing hands reassured me that my sickness would pass and that she wouldn’t let me suffer alone.
I am surprised that it took almost four years into parenting for my family to experience our first outbreak of gastro. Until this experience I had never spent an entire night up with a sick child, attending to their needs with the washing machine on a continuous cycle.
My daughter vomited throughout the entire night at 3-minute intervals. She was awfully sick. As I watched the clock to take note of how frequently she was vomiting it reminded me of timing my labour contractions not long ago. 3 minutes seemed awfully close, in both instances!
We snuggled up on the couch together and I passed her the bucket every few minutes. I held back her hair as she vomited, then wiped her mouth with a wet cloth and then she burrowed into my chest. We repeated this process until morning. After each vomiting episode she looked at me with sad, imploring eyes, desperate for the vomiting to stop.
I have never felt more a mother than I did during that night. I sat with her just like my mum did many times, stroking her hair and trying to ease her pain. All I wished for in those hours was to take the discomfort away from my precious girl. It’s awful to see your child sick and not be able to do much to help them. But I remembered that small things do actually help.
Throughout the ordeal she never complained. She was the most polite patient; thanking me each time I passed her the bucket.
I have to confess that there was a part of me that enjoyed this experience. Of course, I didn’t enjoy seeing her in such discomfort, but what I did enjoy was our closeness. It was just she and I, and the sound of the washing machine humming in the dead of the night. In those hours she needed me more than ever before and it took me back about 25 years when I needed my mum growing up.
Sick kids need their mums…..no doubt about it.