Worried Sick

Read about being a mother of 12 as our resident 'Supermom' shares her wise parenting advice.

I guess there are mothers who take their children's illnesses in stride, but not this mom. Even the slightest illness sets up a cycle of worry and discomfort in my mind and heart. I just can't seem to find any ease, not even when my ill little one is enjoying the peaceful respite of a few hours of sleep.

In fact, it took many years for me to learn how to wait for my child to display enough symptoms to make a trip to the doctor worthwhile. For so many years, I'd rush off to the medical center at the first sign of my child's ill health. Sometimes, all there was to tell the doctor was that his cheeks were flushed, he's lost his appetite and he's crying out in his sleep. The doctor would look and tell me, "It's possible he's cooking a virus or an ear infection, say, but I just can't say with any certainty. I mean, there's no fever, and the ears and throat look fine. His chest is clear."

'Bring me this kid when he's developed some symptoms, for crying out loud.'

And the good doctor would throw up his hands as if to say, once again, 'You've blown it. Bring me this kid when he's developed some symptoms, for crying out loud.'

I'd leave the office with my whiny child, bundled up against the weather, feeling a mixture of sheepishness, vague disease, and a worried anticipation of what the future would bring in the history of my child's illness. On the ride home, I reviewed what I would do to make my child more comfortable once we were home. But most of all, I just felt worried sick.

I wondered who suffered most--my sick child, or me?

Sometimes during the many childhood illnesses my 12 children suffered and survived, I wondered who suffered most--my sick child, or me? I think, in large measure, my discomfort stemmed from the fact that there was so little I could do against whatever bug was attacking my child. I felt helpless; a failure at defending my child from the elements that threatened his wellbeing.

After many children and much experience, I learned to tell when a child had to receive medical care right away, and when it was best to wait for the illness to progress a bit, so that the doctor would have enough information on which to base his diagnosis. But, even as I wait for more doctor data, I am not calm and reasonable. I have a deep maternal ache.

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