Séa­mas O’Reilly

The big­gest baby of all con­test is a close run thing when a dose of flu strikes the whole fam­ily

The Observer Magazine - - Self & Wellbeing -  @shock­proof­beats

The first warn­ing shot came when the boy started cough­ing. As wor­ry­ing as we found the mi­nor dose he’d got, it was noth­ing com­pared to his own re­ac­tion to cough­ing for the first time; face twisted in a parox­ysm of shock with each splut­ter, his pained cries re­placed by a look of such af­fronted alarm it was al­most comic. For the next three days, how­ever, he was in­con­solable; wheez­ing, not sleep­ing, and now sport­ing the tiny, red eyes of a stoner who’d spent a sum­mer bank hol­i­day s star­ing di­rectly at the sun.

By Mon­day Mon­day, just as he had al­most re­cove re­cov­ered, my wife and I both star started feel­ing that tell­tale tic tickle at the back of the throat a and a mud­dle­headed gloom about our fore­head fore­heads. Be­fore long, we ha had weary joints and a vague sense th that ev­ery light in the house had h been re-en­gi­neered r to t the flood­lit bright­ness b of o a den­tal surgery. s We

were, it was clear, be­com­ing dras­ti­cally, and dra­mat­i­cally un­well.

Nei­ther of us are good pa­tients. As part of her com­mit­ment to gen­der equal­ity, my wife was an early adopter of man flu. She’s never met a freckle she couldn’t Google into an ex­otic skin dis­ease. I’m worse still: if I so much as break out in hives, I’m ready to dic­tate in­struc­tions for my burial – a taste­ful cer­e­mony within the cen­tre cir­cle of An­field, my body made up to look like one of the Na’vi from Avatar.

Within hours, we were sick to­gether and trapped in a vi­cious, snotty cy­cle of damp tis­sues, snarled dis­agree­ments and a be­wil­der­ing cock­tail of sprays, salves, tablets and drops. We with­drew from so­ci­ety like a plague colony trad­ing by plac­ing coins in vine­gar on the edge of town, al­though ad­mit­tedly in our case this just meant do­ing our veg shop on­line.

Then, the fresh hell of Par­ent Flu dawned on us; the truth is – and even as I write, I can barely be­lieve

how un­fair it is – we didn’t get a day off from rais­ing our baby just be­cause we were ill. Cer­tainly, the boy came out of the whole thing quite badly, re­fus­ing to mind him­self even for a bit. By Wed­nes­day, we were both sep­a­rately fan­ta­sis­ing about be­ing hos­pi­talised, since it would de­cide, once and for all, which of us was sick­est with the added bonus that the other would have to do lit­er­ally all the par­ent­ing.

By Sat­ur­day we were fi­nally on the mend, but not be­fore a tetchy, sleep­less 48-hour pe­riod in which we stopped judg­ing our baby for re­fus­ing to look af­ter him­self, re­sent­ing his re­luc­tance to look af­ter us in­stead. As we emerged back into the land of the liv­ing on Sun­day, we felt as­sured we have what it takes to sur­vive a bout of ill health in fu­ture. Our son must have agreed, since he took one look at us and launched into a fresh par­cel of snotty, cough­ing sobs. We were not im­pressed. I mean, ev­ery­one gets sick; does he have to be such a baby about it? ■

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