Terrified yelps accompanied the sobbing that startled my husband and I from our sleep. It was day two of fever for our son; he awoke with a new-to-us symptom, a croup cough that scared him and he struggled to breath. Once calmed, we were able to utilize the inhalers given to us on one of our many previous doctors visits in the past month.
It’s only the beginning of cold and flu season and already my family has been a permanent fixture at the doctor’s office. Collectively, we’ve had four rounds of pink eye, upper respiratory infections for all and a lingering cold that has been around since the first frost.
All this after I foolhardily proclaimed that this would be the year I kept our family healthy throughout the winter. I had the best intentions and ideas. Making homemade stock, using essential oils, stock piling hand sanitizer and obsessively hand washing—you name it, I’d been doing it. Yet, we keep getting sick.
As I lay next to my two year old, now restlessly sleeping, I listened for any continued sounds of distress and berated myself for being a failure. I do so many precautionary things to try and boost our immune system, but I must not be doing enough I thought. Between school, church nursery and air travel, we are exposed to the elements as many other families are. But as a Mom, I felt an especially heavy sense of burden. I lay awake raking my brain and telling myself I wasn’t a good mother.
It was somewhere between another bought of coughing induced tears around 3AM that my son helplessly clung to me and my instincts took over. I soothingly sang to him a lullaby that we’ve sung since birth and felt him relax and find peaceful sleep. In that moment, comforted in my arms, I felt both overwhelming relief and a deep sense of connection and love.
So deep is my love as a mother that it physically hurts to see him in pain. This love is also, for now, the source of comfort that can make the pain lessen. I’m still in awe of this love and so in awe of the connection between mother and child. That is why I hate to think that my shortcomings could have anything to do with his continued bouts of sickness.
In so many ways I may have felt my efforts squelched by our continued malady. But in the middle-of-the-night haze of blind love, I was also able to see that my true effort, and that of any loving mother’s, is so pure that there is no such thing as failure. There are so many opportunities to be hard on oneself as a mother. There are so many times, more than I’d care to admit, that I blame instead of build myself up. But despite the messiness of this night, I found forgiveness for myself as I held my sleeping child.
I realized that there is no such thing as failure when you are doing all that you can with all the love that you possess. There is no such thing as failure when your instincts blind you from the litany of gross things that little humans do when they are sick and you rush in to care anyway. There is no such thing as failure when you pray over their heads at night that there will be a better day tomorrow. Sometimes the forgiveness you can give yourself, as a Mom, is most life changing.
Tomorrow morning we head to the doctor- again. Hopefully, we will be on the mend soon. Perhaps there is no magical effort or cure to keep my family safe from cold and flu season – it’s just something to be weathered. To this season, I’ll continue to fight the good fight. But my heart will tell a new story, the beautiful story behind the germs, that of a mother who is not a failure, but love sick for her family.