Guilt. Simply put, a strong emotion we feel when we have done something wrong; perceived or actual.
It can be an all-consuming and a powerful negative emotion that has the propensity to gnaw and shame.
As a parent, it’s become a plague that can’t be contained and has no cure. It’s dangerous unchecked, and one can only hope to recover when it strikes.
A week ago, our household entered what I called “Horror Week.” It started with Henry, my two-and-a-half-year-old, complaining of a sore mouth at bedtime. I did a quick check and dismissed his claims to tomfoolery. By two a.m., he had woken with a raging fever close to forty degrees and vomited.
Enter mother’s guilt. Should I have checked his temperature before bed? Should I have given him medication? Maybe I shouldn’t have pressed him to eat his dinner. Could I have prevented this?
After some medication, Henry’s temperature had reduced to thirty-seven degrees, and he had returned to his cheerful and chatty self. As I cuddled him in my arms, his eyes began to roll back, he became unresponsive and his tiny body started convulsing. Then his face turned blue.
I’ve discovered that in a crisis, I am NOT the cool, calm and collected person. Having done first aid courses means squat if when faced with an emergency, you freeze. Not only did I freeze, I was hysterical and couldn’t stop crying.
In that fraction of time, I honestly felt overwhelmed with negative feelings, and all I could think was “What if my baby dies?”, “He’s dying!”, “Please don’t die!”
Gary, my husband, had to calm me down repeatedly while calling the ambulance.
It was only when Henry’s seizure stopped and his colour returned, that I was able to clear my thoughts and calm down. I know that his blue face will be burned forever in my memory.
The ambulance never made it to our house that night. They had deemed our emergency low on their priorities and after waiting thirty minutes, we opted to cancel and take Henry to the GP.
Henry caught both adenovirus and influenza A infection and continues to suffer with bronchiolitis. He battled with uncontrollable fevers and chills for six days. Mandy, my six-year-old, caught a respiratory syncytial virus infection, submitting to fevers and vomiting. I ended up with Henry’s adenovirus infection that resulted in a sinus infection. Gary was the last man standing.
I became the thermometer monitor, wielding it like a sword and sticking it into the ears of unwilling victims, should they be nearby.
I’ve witnessed two febrile convulsions with Mandy and now with Henry. It doesn’t matter that febrile convulsions are common or rarely have long-lasting effects. My fragile state cannot bear witness to another episode.
Guilt is a funny thing, especially mother’s guilt. It’s relentless and paralysing. It makes you feel like a failure as a parent. I hope that one day there is a cure for it.
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