Monday, 18 July 2011

Visit from the Bronchiolitis Fairy

Ali had a visit from her old friend the Bronchiolitis Fairy recently. The Bronchiolitis Fairy is the mean old cow of the fairy world - much nastier than the Tooth Fairy with her pliers; much more motivated than that lazy recluse Big Foot.

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.
Ali was such a tiny thing that the nurses had to make a nest of towels for her in the hospital bed. She was so pale that she camouflaged with the white sheets. She looked more like a perfect, porceline doll than a baby. Her little rib cage sucked in and out like a miniature bellows on overdrive.

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 prayed that my girl would grow strong, that she'd spend a vigorous girlhood chasing rabbits and talking a load of nonsense with dodos. I promised to always hover by her side, to keep her safe and warm. I suspect most parents of ill children make similar silent promises.

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. 
It was while Ali sat on my knee at the GP's crying out 'poor mama!' that I was struck by the thought that maybe I need to relax and let go of my children a little more. The doctor listened to Ali's breathing through a stethoscope, frowned and leaned back. 'Can you stop patting her on the back and saying 'It's okay baby' into her cheek?'' she said. 'It's all I can hear'.

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.


  1. I am sorry she has been hit by the nasty bug. Surprising it is still around in July :(
    Hope she is back to full steam soon. I know how protective instincts come into play when your baby needs you. I had same when my little one was born and was a bit premature needing scbu. Being in hospital with your baby is so draining. You need to recover too!

  2. Ah thank you for your kind words :) She actually grew ill earlier in the summer and has recovered now, but it's been on my mind to write about ever since. Sorry to hear you've been through a similar thing - thank goodness for the lovely people on the pediatric ward!

  3. Pobrecita. Baby and Mama.


    Is that a skeleton of an Imperial Storm Trooper BTW?

  4. Thanks lady, hope you are well.

    I think it might be a storm trooper actually, or a former estate's one of the more unusual things to be found at the Welcome Collection near Euston, which is a surprisingly interesting museum for little kiddies.

  5. Such a lovely post,made me teary eyed.Hope she's on the mend.Big hugs.

  6. Beautiful writing. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

    My favorite rhyme when I have a sick baby: Sana sana, colita de rana. Si no te sanas hoy, sanaras manana!

  7. AlexanderResidence18 July 2011 at 19:19

    A really beautiful piece of writing. I hope you will give it her to look back at when she finally does fly the nest?
    I think sometimes I can still feel my mum's hands and words when there's no one else on hand to soothe my fevered brow :)

  8. What a lovely comment Penny - I hope to show her all this nonsense, someday when she has stopped throwing ketchup at my head.

    Clearly you and I were both blessed with wonderful mamas :)

  9. Thank you for stopping by! And thank you for your well-wishes and the lullaby - perhaps that's the cure I've been looking for - I will sing it to her next time she says 'POOR MAMA!'

  10. How beautifully written! I don't think we as mothers ever really let go though do we? I hope she is feeling much better soon...(I have to go and search for some tissues now to sort my eyes and my mascara out damn you!!). Emma :)

  11. Sorry! My tear ducts have been broken (that is on auto-flow) since I had kids...I don't even try to wear mascara anymore :)

  12. sniff sniff, wipe tears. I bet sitting by hosp beds is the same the world over xx

  13. Thanks for stopping by Anna! - I reckon it is, although the cereal on offer might be better in NZ and elsewhere ;)

  14. It's awful when their ill, I just want to take it away from them and have it myself. Beautiful, touching post, going to get tissues now, my eyes just suddenly started streaming!! Nat

  15. We don't like the Bronchiolitis Fairy around here. I hope Ali is feeling much better now, it is heart breaking to see them sick.

  16. Much better now, thank you Tat!

  17. Aw thanks Nat - I agree: if only we could take all their ills on our shoulders things would be so much easier!

  18. Had to LOL pretty hard at your pictures and captions in this one, while at the same time sniffing a bit and wishing I could have brought you some real food at the hospital...

  19. Ah, well I am always happy to see more of you, and more of food fact I feel a little cough coming on and all I have in the cupboard is piffling weetabix...

  20. Mr4 used to be friends with the Bronchiolitis Fairy too, despite my warnings that she was unsuitable. He had his first stay in hospital with her when he was about four months old, and then several further attacks up to the age of two. Since then (cross fingers) nothing. I think he's finally given her the heave ho. Hopefully Ali will do the same.

  21. Thanks for stopping by Allison! Why is the Bronchiolitis Fairy so compelling to the under-fives? Sigh. Glad Mr4 has finally told her to shove off.