I have been unwell. Really, properly unwell rather than the litany of colds, migraines (although I NEVER wish to underestimate the hideous power of a migraine, I'm lucky mine only usually last a few hours after the aura has appeared) and other crappy day-to-day illnesses that plague every day life. I have an ear infection. Well, two ear infections (ears infection would be more correct, I suppose, since it it the same infection spread across two ears, but it sounds clunky and unpleasant, like Culs-de-Sac.) It's funny how easily we trivialise traditional childhood illnesses, really. Almost every child ever has had an ear infection at some point, and happily munched down the the banana medicine that was kept in the fridge. I don't remember the sore ears specifically, though. I certainly wasn't hounded by them the way some kids are (I seem to recall my sister being a frequent attender for them) but Good Lord this has knocked me for six.
It's the relentless, grinding, aching pain that has shocked me. Do they hurt kids this much? On Tuesday I cried for 6 hours straight. This is not an exaggeration. Sobbed. It was horrendous. I had been awake since 2am, the doctor had poked at it and made it more painful and reassured me I'd start to feel better in 24 hours. She said it was bad, and there was an awful lot of pressure behind my eardrum, but hopefully it wouldn't burst. She gave me a massive dose of antibiotics I will almost certainly still be taking after Kick is here. I thought back to those grizzly, miserable toddlers I would see as a nursing student in GP waiting rooms, or in A&E during night shift, with exhausted, defeated looking parents and thought 'I know exactly how they feel.' And I meant the kids, not the parents. I couldn't imagine sitting in a waiting room with Kick feeling how I felt. It breaks my heart in advance to imagine her ever being that unhappy.
On the one hand, I know this is insane. Childhood illnesses are a way to build us up to be strong, healthy and adaptable adults. As a nurse I've seen kids plumb the depths of despair one moment then, after a dose of Ibruprofen, be running round the playroom like a banshee, only to crash again precisely 20 minutes before the next dose of medicine is due. On the other, this is not my patient, this is my baby. My girl, who I wish to protect from ear infections, chickenpox (they vaccinate against it here, thank goodness) and horrible bouts of diarrhoea and vomiting. Completely unrealistic, but there you have it.
On Tuesday night, Kick stopped kicking. I'd barely felt her all day, but managed a 'count to 10' kick count on a couple of occasions, but at night there was nothing. I felt her once in 2 hours, and husband decided it was time to go to our Labour and Delivery ward. The on call doctor agreed, and fifteen minutes later we were safely in a cosy room, listening to our baby's heartbeat through the monitor with SportsCenter on TV and someone giving birth next door. We met our own doctor in corridor, even though she wasn't on call that night, who gave me a hug and lots of sympathy. She told me Kick was fine, but since I felt crap, she felt crap too. This is the point the guilt struck. And not really because my crappy illness had impacted on the baby (we both felt a WHOLE LOT better after an IV bag of fluids, which the nurse ran in record time and got us home an hour and 15 minutes after we got there) but because until that moment, I really hadn't really been thinking about the baby at all.
My own pain and misery was so overwhelming that I barely gave a thought to the baby. She wasn't moving very much, so I didn't have that constant reminder of her presence. The mild contractions I had been having every 30 minutes for 2 days had completely ceased. I felt less pregnant than I had in weeks. I was just me, and me needed a lot of attention, I didn't have any to spare for her. Thankfully husband was on top of things, and got into action. I remember wondering why on earth he was messing around with the hospital bag that sits packed in the corner of the bedroom. Then I realised he was putting all the last minute things in it from the check list on the fridge. I couldn't figure out why he thought we needed that, but eventually it occurred to me that if there was something wrong with the baby, she'd be coming out tonight and I would need the bag. It gave me a start, a reminder that my head was so focused on managing my own pain and discomfort that I'd forgotten why we were going to the hospital.
I've not felt particularly maternal towards the bump. I don't think I'll miss it, I really don't think I'll miss having Kick inside, battering my internal organs whenever I drink something/go for a shower/pick up the cat/sit down and relax/it's Wednesday. I've not felt particularly 'bonded' to her, though I know some women are madly in love as soon as the see those little pink lines. I sometimes think the miscarriage left tiny scars, near naked to the eye until the light hits them just right. Maybe this has been one of them- that distance between my heart and the wriggling lump that seems to enjoys loud music and the cat's purring.
My head adores her, has transposed a personality onto her already. We talk to her like she is feisty and fiery and somehow larger than life. Everyone does, actually. Husband, my doctor, colleagues from volunteering, even the nurse on the Labour and Delivery ward. And I wonder, did I do that? Did I create that personality for her based on the fact she kicks anything that dares to touch her? Is that just what babies do and I have invented a badass, passionate personality to go with it because I'm a wee bit like that and I secretly want her to be like me? Or do I want her to be more than me, to be less timid and less worried what people think? Do I think this will be how the world will be easiest for her, so I'm projecting it on to the outline under my skin? Maybe she'll be shy and quiet and considered and laid-back, and all babies kick and roll with such force they leave faint bruises on their mummy's bump. I don't know. But I know that being ill and letting myself get so dehydated and forgetting my hospital bag and somehow forgetting about the baby has shaken me up a little.
All day yesterday she rolled and kicked and stretched away to her hearts content, and I just let her and enjoyed it. I've mentioned a few times before on here that I have never been a huge fan of the kicks. I keep waiting for the bit when they calm down, like the book promises because she has run out of space. Kick makes her own space, at the cost of my insides. Increasingly my outsides too. I think at 38 weeks I just have to accept that the lull is not coming. And I'm really ok with it today. My girl is pushing and shoving and pulling to figure her way out, testing her muscles and trying to make herself heard amongst the voices she listens to all day long. And I still wouldn't say my heart is swelling and bursting with a mother's pride and love, but I can see how it will. And that is a pretty amazing cure for earache.