Alicia Strnad Hoalcraft, Published March 31 2014
Parenting Perspectives: Illness makes mom question choices
We woke up to the sounds of the alarm beeping and realized that, for the first time in her life, our baby had slept through the night. We were ecstatic.
She’d hit 7 months old the day before, and we hoped maybe that was the magical age when our difficult daughter would quit waking a half-dozen times a night.
I kissed my husband and sleeping baby good-bye and headed off to work, refreshed after the first decent night’s sleep I’d had in months.
I’d only been at work for a little more than an hour when my husband sent me a message.
“Do you think Callie is sick?” he asked. “She only woke up now because I forced her awake. She’s been asleep for like 12 hours.”
It quickly became apparent that, yes, she was sick. For the rest of my shift, we traded notes back and forth on her condition –fever at 99.1, then down to 97.9, then up to 101.4 – how much she was eating and how she was acting.
When it was finally time for my lunch break, I rushed home and grabbed my baby, checking her temperature, wiping her runny nose, cuddling her and trying to get her to eat, hoping some kind of mom magic in me would instantly make her feel better so I could go back to work worry-free.
It didn’t work. My lunch hour ended all too soon, and I got in the car and headed back to work, reluctantly separating myself from my baby, trying to console myself with the knowledge that at least she was home with her father, who loves her just as much as I do and would do everything he could to help her feel better.
I spent the rest of the day trying to focus on work but still messaging my husband often, asking how Callie was and getting regular updates. As our baby got sicker, my husband let me know. Stuck at work, I got more and more worried about her, eventually asking him to call the hospital’s nurse line. (To their credit, they’re great at talking down stressed-out and worried new parents – a fact we’d already taken advantage of several times.)
When, at long last, my 10-hour shift was finally over, I rushed home again, picking up and cuddling my baby.
I spent the night sleeping on the couch, curled up next to where my baby was rocking peacefully in her swing. I woke up every 15 minutes or so to check on her, wipe her nose again and feel her forehead to make sure her fever hadn’t spiked since the last time I checked.
I spent all night dreading my alarm going off the next morning, wishing I had a job where I could just call in sick and catch up on work later, wishing we had the money that I could just stay home and be with my baby when she needed me.
But the alarm went off and I got up and got ready before once again kissing my husband and sleeping baby good-bye and heading off to work.
She was still sick that day, and the day after that. I again spent the work day wishing I could be home with her and waiting for my lunch break and then the end of my shift so I could go home to be with her for a few hours before I once again had to be at my desk.
By the time I had to go to work the next week, Callie was feeling better (though she’d generously passed her cold on to me) and I was able to go to work without worrying about her fever while I was gone. But part of me still wished I could stay home with her and never be forced to leave her again, wished I didn’t have to make the choice between going to work to provide for my daughter and being physically there for her when she needed me.
But this is what I need to do now to take care of my child the best I can, and the most I can wish for is that someday, she’ll understand why Mom wasn’t there when she was sick and needed me, and realize I was doing what was best for her.
Alicia Strnad Hoalcraft is a page designer at The Forum. She lives in Moorhead with her husband and their daughter, Calliope. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her daughter can be found on Twitter on www.twitter.com/lilmisscalliope.