I've always been a very emotional person. I tend to remember how I felt about an event or a milestone more than I can recall who was there or the details. I lead with emotion. I always have. And I learned that from my mom. I had a moment this week when it occurred to me that I was operating as her. I was channeling all the things I had learned from her and I wasn't doing it intentionally. It just happened. It was all right there. Everything I needed to know during a very scary moment. And I remembered feeling how Plum felt and I knew how to comfort her. It was a moment I had been trained for without knowing it. When I learned it, I was a sick little girl and my mama was comforting me. Caring for me. Teaching me.
Ms. Plum has been a very very sick little lady this week. Sicker than I have ever dealt with. Her fevers were spiking every two hours regardless of the alternating Tylenol and Motrin every three hours. And once they started climbing, they shot right up. Scary fast. I learned the first night that I couldn't fall asleep for more than an hour at a time. Because Strep is a bastard and doesn't care about anyone's need for rest. And it turns out that Plum is like her mama, any fever over 101 was going to lead to puking and that meant the Motrin wouldn't stay down. So every hour I needed to check her. We got through that first night only having to change the bedding and our clothing twice. Not too shabby. I felt in tune with her. I could feel how she felt. I remembered it.
But then on night two I made a mistake. It was 4 am and I had forgotten to set the alarm so that I could wake and give Plum a dose of Motrin at 3:00. By 4:00, she was on fire. Her skin almost burning mine. I was scared. She lay there moaning. When I picked her up she was limp and for a second I wanted to panic. But then it all fell in line. I knew that bringing her fever down was something I could do. I needed to know what I was dealing with and so I took her temp. 104.5. The panic tried to come again. I knew I couldn't give her the Motrin without her vomiting it up and for a second I wished for my mom. And just like that, she was there. I saw her from my own little eyes. And I knew what to do. I stripped off Plum's clothes and quickly soaked some towels in cool water (while running a cool bath should the towels not work). Her body limp, her eyes half closed. I could tell she was not happy with what I was doing but she was too weak to protest. She cried so so softly. I began giving her tiny drops of Motrin, one at a time, every few minutes. And I started singing her favorite song. When I began to sing to her, her eyes locked with mine and her lip curled up on the left side in her best attempt at a smile. As if to say "Oh hi, Mama. I love that song". It was enough to bring tears to my eyes. Because eye contact meant she was aware and I became less afraid. And also because I remembered my mom singing to me when I was very sick. I don't remember many details but I knew I was extremely sick. It's very blurry and most of my memories of it are just seeing my mom at my bedside. She'd sing Chiquitita. I can still hear it. But mostly I remember the feeling of her singing it to me. How it made me less afraid. How I knew that that I would be ok when she sang to me. And I hoped that it did the same for my Plum.
It took about forty minutes to drop a teaspoon of Motrin drop by drop. But the towels were working and I pressed her to my skin and soaked us both in the cool water. When I brought her to my skin, her soft cries turned into hums. And in that moment I knew that she did feel safe. She hummed until she fell asleep. I could feel her fever coming down. And for the first time in an hour, I exhaled. I removed the wet towels and wrapped us in a cool thin sheet. I kept her to my skin until morning so that I could feel if her fever should begin climbing before 7:30. I watched her breathe and sleep. I realized that my mom no doubt watched me sleep that night so many years ago. That 30 years later I lay there understanding her fear and worry and love for her baby. The ache she must have felt for me. The same ache I was now feeling for Plum. And somewhere between 6:00am and 6:30, I got a few more minutes of sleep myself.
You can find tips for bringing down a high fever and when to page your child's doctor here.