Ali first met the Bronchiolitis Fairy, a year and a half ago when she was six weeks old. She caught a winter bug, coughed her little heart out and stopped feeding. An hour's visit to A&E turned into a week in the pediatric ward.
|Bronchiolitis Fairy sited near Euston station.|
For days she dreamed, coughed, dreamed, and coughed in her towel nest, like some delicate flightless little sparrow. Her tiny arms remained flung over her head in a halo, fists clenched tightly.
I hovered over her as if in a fever dream, unable to sleep, and in increasingly smelly socks (I hadn't come to the hospital prepared for a week's stay).*
I subsisted on Weetabix in styrofoam cups and a copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland that I found around the ward. Between bowls of soggy cereal and to the drumbeat of rain against the hospital window, I read about a healthy, precocious little girl exploring the wonder of the world and the beauty of her own mind.
|'Ceiling wax? Bah.'|
I didn't sleep for a week. I lost track of time. I think I lost a few of my marbles too, which may still be under the cot in that bleach-scented room. But one sunny morning we were finally able to make our way home, and this song was playing in the car.
A week of bronculitis is nothing - many parents contend with far worse. Some unlucky ones with unspeakable suffering. I know that we are lucky. I know that we've had it easy.
The Bronchiolitis Fairy has been less nasty on subsequent visits. On her recent visit, poor Ali had to endure some very insulting poking from the doctor and a few puffs of an inhaler. Calpol reserves have been depleted. But that's the worst of it this time round.
I don't know where she picked this up, but Ali now wails 'poor mama!' when she is feeling particularly miserable. Of course this causes her poor mama's heart to crack in two every time.
|Buttheaditis, a chronic inherited condition.|
Poor Ali. When she gets tired and ill, she just gets more stubborn. She works harder when she most needs to take it easy. She gets mad at anyone who tries to help her.
Poor Ali: in this way she is just like her mama.
After the GP's, she yelled 'POOR MAMA' at her blocks all afternoon when they wouldn't stack up just so. But she refused to stop playing. Finally, finally, she flopped over and allowed me to cuddle her.
Someday, she will grow up and fly the nest. Even in adulthood there will be times when her stubbornness cannot overpower what ails her. For those times, I hope she is able to rest, to put down her defenses, to ask for help.
Perhaps in these moments she will feel the ghost of a hand patting her gently on the back, and hear a voice whispering in her ear that everything is going to be okay.
I will get better at letting go with my hands and my eyes as she gets older. But I will always keep her safe and warm in my heart.
*That is until our lovely friend P delivered a bag. Siblings weren't allowed in the ward so Papa and Ana had to stay home and keep a waffle and nutella vigil all week. Brave souls, they seemed in extremely high spirits at the end of it.