Beauty in Sick Days: A Letter to My Son

Picture of Tilly



Dear Son,

In the three short years of your life, every winter has proven to be a hardship. This winter is no exception. It came down on you like a hammer. Unlike most kids, you have a wicked cough that lasts for the coldest of our Seattle months.

As a baby, it was heartbreaking and scary to watch you struggle keeping your food down, struggling to sleep and take a solid breath.  As a parent, watching your baby suffer… It all seems so unfair. You can’t make them better or any less miserable. You can’t explain to them it will pass. All you can do is hold them.

Now, as a toddler, you know you are sick. You tell me it makes you sad. You now get that means binging on Daniel Tiger and Curious George on our iPad with mom at your side, per your request. It means no preschool or gymnastics classes, and pajamas are the accepted all day attire.

For us, your mom and dad, it means a roller coaster of emotions. It’s watching you with a helpless, heartbreaking feeling wishing you felt better. Wishing there way a way to avoid this. Feeling guilt and blaming ourselves: is this our fault? The first house we lived in when he was born had black mold and rats. As soon as we found out, we were able to move. Was it a year too late? We feel exhausted for you and with you. I work to keep Dad healthy by being the primary care taker and sleeping with you all night to care for you. Holding your hand and chest though every single painful cough. It means work stops for me and the added stress of what that means for my business. It means the house is a mess and the regular healthy meals eaten at our dinner table stop. One selfish and enjoyable thing for me every time you get sick is the chance to snuggle you. You love being held when you are sick and will rarely let me put you down. I love every minute of it. As your parents, our world stops until you are better.

This time was different.

The cough came as usual, but this fever came on suddenly and was unlike any you have had before. You didn’t want to eat. Your eyes rolled back into your head. Your body was limp and hot. So hot. You begged me to hold you and keep you warm. I was sweating with your little body pressed against me.

It was time to put you in more capable hands than my own. I decided to skip the closest urgent care facilities, and headed straight to the Children’s Hospital. I really trust them. I could see your little head rolling from side to side as the car took turns, your eyes closed. Then I heard you cough so hard that you couldn’t stop. You emptied the contents of your stomach with a force I have never seen. You looked at me with such panic that I lost it. You begged me to hold you as I sobbed and tried my best to focus on the road ahead of me. You sat there wet in your vomit, scared and nobody there to hold your hand. It crushed my soul. I could barely see through my tears.

I knew I was supposed to be the strong one, but I wasn’t. 

I held you wrapped in a blanket in my arms, both of us pitiful and crying as we walked from the car in pouring rain to the clinic entrance.

The next day reassured us that you were going to be okay. Chest x-rays showed a virus in your lungs that we would simply have to wait out. We learned that most kids can withstand a temperature of 106 as long as fluids are going down. I gazed at you as I held you in my arms and thought how beautiful you are, child of mine.  How real our blessings are. I am able to be here in this moment holding you and caring for you. Other parents have no choice but to work.  I get to be here exhausted with you watching Aladdin for the third time in a row. Both of us in desperate need of showers, but together, we’re experiencing and feeling this life. Together.

Illness, broken bones, twisted tendons all have one huge benefit. They force us to slow down and really be present in the beautiful, broken moments.

The photographer in me set up my tripod and photographed you over eight hours of our day together.

I love you, Bug. Get well soon.

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