It’s al­ways scarier at night

South Shore Breaker - - Games - HEATHER LAURA CLARKE THE MOM SCENE heather­lau­r­aclarke@gmail.com

This is what I try to re­mind my­self when my anx­i­ety is spi­ralling out of con­trol in the mid­dle of the night be­cause one of the kids is re­ally sick.

Throw­ing up is aw­ful, but not wor­ry­ing — I know it’ll usu­ally pass within a few hours. Snif­fles don’t bother me, and nei­ther do mild coughs. Nice, nor­mal lit­tle coughs and the odd sneeze? To­tally fine.

It’s when the cough­ing gets bad that I feel my­self start to tense up. The tight­ness starts in my chest and gets worse each time I hear them start to hack across the hall. Then they’re silent. Can they breathe? Wait, an­other cough. Worse this time. How much longer, I start to panic, un­til they’re cough­ing so hard, they can’t breathe?

Both of our kids have a his­tory of scary res­pi­ra­tory junk — the wheezy coughs, the croupy coughs. They have each been taken to the ER to get the oxy­gen masks and the heavy-duty steroids and the puffers with cham­bers. I never know when to take them in, and when to wait and pray it just passes.

They cough un­til their lit­tle faces are turn­ing pur­ple and their eyes are widen­ing and they seem to be gasp­ing for air. Are they cry­ing be­tween coughs be­cause they’re sick and sleepy or be­cause they’re scared and can’t breathe? Are they limp and dazed be­cause they’ve just wo­ken up or be­cause they’re not get­ting enough oxy­gen? Am I pan­ick­ing be­cause it’s a real med­i­cal emer­gency or be­cause it’s al­ways scarier at night?

“Why is it al­ways scarier at night?” I can ask my­self ob­jec­tively dur­ing the day.

Well, it’s quiet at night, so ev­ery lit­tle sound — the coughs, the whim­pers, the rat­tling breaths you might not re­ally no­tice dur­ing the day — seems a mil­lion times louder.

It’s dark at night, and flick­ing on bright lights — hunt­ing for medicine, set­ting up hu­mid­i­fiers, peer­ing down a throat — feels un­nat­u­ral, like some­thing is def­i­nitely out of the or­di­nary.

It’s lonely at night, es­pe­cially if your spouse works overnight shifts. The walk-ins are closed. Call­ing 811 is no help, as they al­ways just ad­vise you to rush to the ER any­way. The rest of the world is asleep, in­clud­ing your other child down the hall, and it’s just you and your child, all alone.

Some­times I end up in the bath­room with them. I run the shower as hot as it will go and sit with them on the edge of the tub, and hope the steam helps be­cause I can never fig­ure out if it’s a croupy cough or not.

Some­times I carry them to the front door and get them to breathe in the cold night air — again, only help­ful if it’s croup. They cry and cough, wrapped up in a warm blan­ket in my arms and I wish the stars would hurry up and fade into day­light be­cause I won’t be as pan­icked then.

Some­times I just stand in their door­way, rigid with fear, and lis­ten to ev­ery cough and wheeze, try­ing to de­cide if it’s as bad as the last time, try­ing to re­as­sure my­self that they can still breathe.

In the morn­ing, I can call the doc­tor. In the morn­ing, I can get a friend’s opin­ion. In the morn­ing, I can take them to a walk-in. In the morn­ing, I can make a ra­tio­nal de­ci­sion to take them in for steroids.

But it’s al­ways scarier at night.

123RF

Ev­ery parent can prob­a­bly re­late to hav­ing to com­fort their sick child at night.

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