As a second-timer, I should have really have known what the suspicious looking red spots on The Baby’s back were. Truth be told, when I first noticed them on Monday evening, I did have a hunch that it was the pox. But several things made me doubt myself. Firstly, they were only on her back. Secondly, I thought chicken pox usually struck in the spring. And thirdly, as far as I was aware, we’d had no contact with other pox-ridden children whatsoever.
A swift trip to the doctor’s later, and my suspicions were confirmed. The Baby had chicken pox.
I wasn’t too concerned at first. I spent The Boy’s early childhood absolutely dreading him getting chicken pox, scared that he’d suffer unbearably, and/or that we’d go stir crazy confined to the house. But when he succumbed at three and a half, it was nowhere near as bad as I’d anticipated. Yes, he was itchy, but the real discomfort only lasted for a day or so. He had a mild dose, managed to keep eating and sleeping despite the spots, and was old enough to understand the importance of not scratching. In fact, I think I did rather too good a job of describing how they’d bleed and go septic if scratched, because he ended up so neurotic that he wouldn’t even look at his spots, let alone touch them.
So when The Baby broke out in spots, I was expecting a similar experience – a day of mild discomfort, and a week stuck at home, but no major trauma. After all, everyone says that babies usually get it mildly, don’t they?
Well, I’d like it to be known that everyone is wrong. My poor little girl, just nine months old, has spent the week in absolute agony. Fortunately she only got two or three spots on her face:
But that belies what was underneath:
This was taken before it got really bad. By Thursday, her back alone must have had 200 spots on it, and she even had spots in her bits and her mouth. Between Monday and Friday, she ate nothing but a few mouthfuls of yoghurt and fruit puree, and sleep? Forget it. As a back sleeper, she was too uncomfortable to lie on her back, but isn’t used to settling on her front; we had two consecutive nights where she wailed all night long, finally crashing out in my arms at 5.45am.
We tried all sorts of lotions and potions, kept her dosed with Calpol at six-hourly intervals, and even got the doctor to authorise giving her Piriton, even though it’s not recommended for under-ones, but nothing helped. For four days running, I don’t think I saw her smile once. And nothing is worse than seeing your baby in pain, and not being able to do anything about it, or even explain that it won’t last forever.
It’s not just The Baby who has suffered; so, too, has The Boy. For the first time since she was born, I’ve experienced what it’s like to be torn between your children, and not be able to divide yourself fairly. The Baby has been unputdownable all week, and The Boy has pined for me terribly. He understood why I had to give all my attention to his little sister, but he really didn’t like it, and followed me round the house wanly, telling me he loved me every three minutes. Guilty doesn’t begin to cover it.
Of course, all this has coincided with a mega-busy work week, where I was trying to source case studies for a real life shoot (never an easy task), interview them and write up the copy in record time. In the brief intervals where The Baby nodded off, I had to race to my laptop the second her eyelids dropped, and work frantically until she woke howling. On Wednesday, all I managed to eat between waking up and 4pm were two Bourbon biscuits; I simply didn’t have the time, or the free hands, to make lunch. I even resorted to buying ready-made mashed potato from the Co-op for The Boy to have with his fish fingers, figured it would be completely impossible to make mash one-handed.
Thankfully, the worst is now over. Today, 99 per cent of The Baby’s spots have scabbed over, meaning that we should be able to leave quarantine tomorrow, provided the last couple of blisters dry out overnight. She’s eating more or less normally again, has had proper naps today (although who knows what the night will bring; I’ve a nasty feeling she’s become quite accustomed to being in my bed) and, best of all, her smile is back. But it has been a horrendous week for everyone.
I’ll admit that now we’re heading back to normality, it’s nice to know that our family is (in theory) finished with chicken pox. We’ll never have to go through this again, and we’ll never have to worry about Christmas/birthdays/holidays being ruined by an untimely outbreak. But while it might be a generally harmless illness, it’s absolutely miserable for everyone involved, and I have no idea why anyone would want to deliberately infect their child, even if it does get it over with.
I still have no idea where The Baby picked up her pox, and the nature of the beast means that it’s highly likely that she infected several unwitting victims before we even knew she was incubating it. And having seen how much my poor poppet has suffered, I feel awful that we might have inflicted the same suffering on someone else. So if, in 10 days’ time, your child breaks out in spots, you’ll know who to blame – and I will be only too happy to pass on our leftover Piriton, PoxClin and calamine lotion.