Too good to be true.
Wouldn’t want to jinx anything.
I have to whisper it.
Last week, I bragged that B2, my four year old son, had been well, healthy, strong as an ox, not even a sniffle, for ten whole weeks.
For most four year olds, ten weeks without a cold, while it might be unusual, certainly wouldn’t be cause for celebration.
Not in this house. No, I more than let down my guard. I bragged. I bragged to my Mum, I bragged to the lawyer, I bragged to my friends and my family. I even sent an email to our pediatrician punching my fists in the air in victory.
The last ten weeks were the first ten weeks of B2’s life without illness. The first ten weeks in four and half years that he hasn’t needed a nebuliser, antibiotics, steroids, numerous doctor and hospital visits. I mean, the kid hasn’t even needed a tissue!
After a month of being well I was cautiously optimistic. It looked like our move overseas did land us in greener grass. At six weeks, I was thinking about planning ahead, and at eight weeks I was ready to shout it out to the world, but, I held off for another two weeks. I didn’t want to celebrate prematurely. There's enough prematurity in his life. I didn’t want to jinx his good health.
Like a pregnancy after a miscarriage, I needed to be sure everything was OK before I started crowing. At ten weeks of stunning good health, of trips to the beach, of going to kindy each day, of swimming lessons and gymnastics, and playdates with friends, I was getting cocky.
Parenting a kid with a lousy immune system sucks. When you see a kid with snail trails hanging down to their upper lips, or coughing a spray of filth, we parents of “fragile” kids run away. When a toddler comes up to us in a waiting room with goopy eyes or a sniffle, we pick up our kids and face them the other way. We keep alcohol based hand wash in our handbags, and wipes in our car. We *never* let our kids play with communal toys at the dentist, or the library. And waiting rooms, well, B2’s not even allowed to touch the door handle or the plastic chair frames, let alone the books or legos that have just spent time in the cess pit mouth of some germ infested infant.
Other parents look at me strangely. When their kids offer mine a slightly drooled on toy, I say a polite “No thank you”. If I say, “My son has a poor immune system”, I know they’re thinking one of three things. It’s either “You know that kids who aren’t exposed to germs don’t build up healthy immune systems”, or “Just because her kid gets a few colds, she says he has a poor immune system”, or maybe “Ewwww, that kid has AIDS or something”.
The truth is that my son doesn’t have any recognized immune disorder. He doesn’t have a Primary Immune Disease, or HIV or anything. His labwork does show that his immune system is functioning below normal, but not by all that much. Living with him dances another tango. Since he first came home from hospital, some five months after my waters first broke, every four weeks, he’d get sick. Not just a cold, but a cold, followed by breath-leeching asthma, a pneumonia, or sinus infection, or double ear infection, or some combination of infections. One round of antibiotics rarely cures him, and by the time the antibiotics do start working, the tentacles of another infection have slithered in. That’s not really true, as we do often get about five days at the end of a course of antibiotics before the next virus sneaks in and turns nasty. But I’m in the mood for a slight exaggeration.
I try to do the right things. Nobody smokes. We eat well, mostly organically grown produce and whole foods. I bought a super-duper expensive vacuum cleaner with enough filters to stop anthrax in its tracks. We wash our hands, and we do have a big dog in the house. I even use my own homemade household cleaners without chlorine and other evil chemicals. It doesn’t seem to make much difference, although if you’d spoken to me one week ago, I would have sworn that all of my hard work was finally paying off.
But no, on Saturday, he had a sniffle, and by Sunday night we were in an ambulance, with him struggling to breathe, as a simple cold took hold of his airways and started shutting them down.
So, now, instead of planning a vacation, I’m worrying about how I’m going to get insurance for a trip. Instead of thinking about going back to work, I’m resigned that no sane employer would hire me. Instead of doing some reading for my classes, I’m Googling “Immune boosters”. Instead of inviting friends over for dinner, I’m calling a friend with another little boy with a crappy immune system. Instead of going to bed early at home after four nights of barely any sleep on a fold-up bed in a ward of fevered grommits, I’m sitting here, writing up this whinging and whining piece.
I’m never letting my guard down again. Never. Not ever. Nope.