The one where it turns out I'm not so brave, after all...

>> Monday, 5 November 2012

I try to be a relaxed parent when it comes to matters of health for my sons, really I do.  Nobody wants to be that mother who flinches every time her child sniffs, or wraps them up in cotton wool every time they set foot outside the front door in case they encounter a normal childhood illness.  I believe whole-heartedly in letting your child's body develop without undue interference from antibiotics unless they're absolutely necessary*.

But once the Fear has had you in it's grasp, it never really lets go.

I still remember it all; the gut-wrenching dread that stalks your every waking moment when you have a seriously ill baby.  The feeling of helplessness as your 6 day-old child is prodded and poked, pricked and injected.  The constant watch to make sure that his Moro Reflex** doesn't knock the canula out, resulting in yet more harrowing attempts to insert a new one into his tiny arm.  The crushing, awful powerlessness of not being able to pick up my crying baby because doing so might interfere with the effect the lights are having on his bilirubin levels.

I remember the guilt; did I cause this?  Was it because I wasn't very good at breastfeeding?  Would he not have developed jaundice if I had had more milk?  Was the way the Scalded Skin Syndrome took such a fearsome hold a result of his lowered immune system because of the jaundice?  Did he catch the SSS when that none-too-clean looking orderly gave him a bath in the hospital when he was less than a day old and I could barely move from the bed due to the emergency c-section?  Should I have followed my instincts and grabbed him from her arms, ordered her away from the bed and refused to let go of him until, exhausted from lack of sleep on the too-noisy ward, we left 24 hours later?

Nearly seven years on those questions and many others from that time still haunt me.  Most of them I can discount in daylight hours when I am feeling relatively sensible. But one that won't go away and which I repeatedly ask myself (just like, I am sure, many expat parents living far from their comfort zone), is this:

How would I cope if an accident or a serious illness happened to my children here, now, in Moscow?

The answer is, I truly don't know.  Certainly there would be support structures I could call on; a Husband who speaks excellent Russian and who knows the right people to go to, or if he were travelling, friends who speak far better Russian than I do and who I know would go through hell and high water on my children's behalf.  Recent experiences within our social circle of excellent levels of care in both Russian and expat hospitals comfort me to some extent.  But say what you will about the UK NHS; it is still light years ahead of what the average Russian can expect to encounter in their nearest hospital.  And who knows, in an emergency,where you will end up?  It might well be the all mod-cons expat hospital in the centre of town.  But on the other hand, it might not.

So on evenings like tonight, when one son has a nasty cough and the other is complaining of stomach pain, I am rather more attentive than perhaps I might be if we were still living in London.  Logically I know that Boy #1's stomach pain is not possible appendicitis, but instead the result of too many sit-ups at his Taekwondo class this evening (stomach muscles are not our family's strong point; if I manage 10 I'm a mess and according to him, they did 200...), and that Boy #2 is not developing pneumonia but has just picked up one of the many colds doing the rounds at school at the moment.  Logically, I know both those things.

But logic doesn't stop me wanting to move my duvet to the floor of their bedroom tonight.

Turns out that the Fear - it never leaves you.

*although long term readers will know that I am fierce in my support of treating eczema proactively to prevent it developing into a long term issue or something more serious.

**also called the Startle Reflex


manycoloured-days 5 November 2012 at 18:44  

I hear you..... an everday concern

planb 5 November 2012 at 20:19  

When L was about a week old, I rang my mother in tears because I realised I couldn't keep her (L, not my mum) safe. However hard I tried, bad things would (and will) happen to her.

And my mum said, "and it doesn't go away".

Apparently she doesn't worry so much about us having a bath on our own these days, but the rest of it doesn't change, I'm told. And I'm 35...

She said it was called being a mother.

So yes, I hear you too...

MsCaroline 5 November 2012 at 22:04  

You're right - it never leaves you. And about the appendicitis - my mind goes places like that, too. When Son#1 was about 9, he came and showed me a large lump behind his knee - about the size of a golf ball. You can only imagine my state of mind between the time I saw it and the time his pediatrician diagnosed it as a 'Baker's Cyst' -common in boys his age and completely benign.
Even though I know the healthcare system in Seoul is modern and efficient, I know what you're talking about - it's another aspect of expat living that doesn't immediately come to mind when you first contemplate life overseas. Hope all's soon well with Boy#1. I imagine it was a long night for you...

Melissa 5 November 2012 at 22:52  

Being a parent = learning to live with daily fear with a smile on your face. Hope the boys are better soon.

Iota 6 November 2012 at 10:12  

Having read the title of this post, I was all ready to comment with "but you jumped into an ice-covered lake stark naked, OF COURSE you're brave". Then I read the post, and I can't write that comment (though I suppose I just have in a cheating sort of a way).

Powerlessness. That's what it is. We think we have control, and then our child gets ill, and we realise it's an illusion.

Mrs. Munchkin 6 November 2012 at 12:32  

I realized this very thought last week as I was walking with both Munchkins to the EMC, in the rain, after taking the metro in morning work traffic. It was a nightmare to say the least. We left at 8:45 in the morning for a 10:30 appt. we returned home about 1:30. Thankfully, neither child sick. Munchkin One needed to see the ENT. We go back on Wednesday for a check up. I am dreading it already and this is NOT an emergency or accident.

I don't know what I would do either. But I do know I have an amazing support group of people, as you do, to call on. And maybe, just maybe, that is enough. I pray neither one of us finds out. Xoxo

lyn lee 7 November 2012 at 09:21  

That's a normal attitude of a parent to fear whatever happens to our child. But in your case that you've experience it;s alright to be cautious of his health and all. You just want to protect him from all the illness and pain. That's how parents irrevocably and endlessly love their children.
seo bath

Mayfair Mum 7 November 2012 at 13:24  

Nice to find your blog while catching up with a few favourites. Love your post. I think all mums have the fear - my own mother also keeps telling me you never lose it. I read The Room by Emma Donoghue and feeling traumatised by one particular chapter, still had to go and kiss the sleeping blonde head in the room next door, just to make sure, while knowing perfectly well he's fine. That Mother Nature bitch sure knew what she was doing when she mixed up those hormones for us didn't she? LOL

Mary 7 November 2012 at 21:57  

As a mother I think you learn to live with the worry rather than ever able to accept it.

Knackered Mother 7 November 2012 at 23:51  

What a post...think the worry is always there.

thea mia 9 November 2012 at 17:34  

I'm glad you shared that to us. Well, For me, Being a parent is hard. I'm not that yet but I realized it and I felt it because of my parents. But I'm still happy, because God gives the best for us.

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