• Aisha Iqbal

Help, my baby is unwell!

Every first with your first baby is either absolutely delightful (my baby sat upright for three seconds by himself! My baby almost probably purposely swatted that toy!) or terribly worrying - first colds, first nursery/daycare dropoffs, and our most recent, first ear infection.

While Z has had a snotty nose and on-and-off cough literally from the first full day he had at nursery, this last month was the first time he was so unwell I could hardly recognise my little baby.

It is heartbreaking to see your child in pain, especially when they are so small they can't tell you what is happening, and it is also very trying because when babies are unwell they tend to cling to you ALL THE TIME.

I called the doctor after a terribly rough night where Z got up several times, crying inconsolably and also tugging at his ear (a telltale sign of possible earaches). When I took him in, the GP confirmed he had a "mild ear infection", nothing to worry about. (The British healthcare system is mostly fantastic and all the doctors and midwives are generally very calm and matter-of-fact, which has mostly helped me stress out less but in some situations can be exasperating).

We were advised to try and avoid antibiotics and use paracetamol and ibuprufen for pain relief.

Z continued to get worse every day and for 2-3 days was so miserable his feet barely touched the ground. It was horrible to see him like that and I was very, very worried because this was the first time it had happened. So, just in case you find yourself in the same boat, here are a few things to expect and maybe help:

1. Don't think twice about calling the doctor

Due to COVID-19, the first course of action is always calling up your clinic, who then arrange for a call back from the GP and if needed, you can then take your baby in. Don't think twice about going in for a physical check up because it is very hard to explain how your baby is "just not himself" over the phone. I took Z in to see the doctor twice during the week long stint.

2. Call 111

So what happens if you're traveling and your baby is unwell? You call 111! I found this out when we were in London when Z was sick. I find the service at 111 absolutely exceptional (more so than the usual clinic and GP calls). They are so calm, so thorough and always lead to practical solutions. After talking to a healthcare worker on the phone, they made an appointment for us to take Z in to an urgent care clinic not too far from our airbnb in London.

The doctor at the urgent care centre had nothing to add to what our GP had told us earlier but it was definitely reassuring to get a physical examination from a professional rather than fret that the ear infection was worse and I was the worst mother in the world for not giving him antibiotics.

3. Expect a few days when your baby is not himself

This means they are not eating much (for two days Z had nothing but some toast and rice crispies), refusing all their usual favourite foods, drinking less milk, crying a LOT, are very lethargic and tired, not wanting to walk or even play for most of the day.

We had some days in which Z would perk up after a meltdown and the subsequent paracetamol dosage and smile and play, but there were at least two days in which he just stayed either in our laps or the pushchair and we spent a lot of time cuddling, crying (mostly Z) and staring at cartoons on the telly.

This, I've been told by other parents, is quite normal and will pass (And it did!). As long as you're in touch with your doctor, don't stress out about this.

4. It is okay to feel tired and burnt out

This was one week when I felt that being a mother can be quite burdensome. Most days, even the fussy ones, I enjoy being a mom but these few days were very tiring, mentally and physically. I definitely missed my own mother and wanted to lie down with my head in her lap! (Ah mothers, what an amazing creation). It is absolutely natural and understandable if you lose your patience (hopefully not in front of your baby) and shed a few tears at the clingy days and sleepless nights, and reminisce about the days when your biggest worry was what to order in on take-away night.

5. These days will pass and your baby will be himself again!

It is human nature, I think, to be all consumed by the immediacy of your experiences. During this week I felt I could barely remember what it was like to have a healthy, cheeky toddler. Z would go to sleep crying, wake up crying, we had to skip at least two bath times and just me offering some porridge would set him off. "He's not eating anything!" I would exclaim a hundred times each day, thinking how this was a personal reflection on my skills as a mother.

Which, obviously, it isn't.

So please, know you're not alone in these tough few days and just try to stand on your toes and look further into the distance - these days will pass and your child will be back to their happy mischievous selves in no time.

These stints only make you and your little one stronger (physically and emotionally) and rejoice more fervently in your daily healthy lives (at least for a while and then we get used to it and forget what a blessing good health is!).

Lots of love to you mamas and papas - you're doing fab.

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