Last night I had a total of two hours sleep, and I slept on the floor in J's room, listening to him cough and wheeze his way through the night. Our first official illness is upon us. Yesterday afternoon while we were playing on the floor I noticed that little guy felt warm. I took his temperature and it was 37.8 degrees, so I stripped him down to his nappy and gave him some Panadol. I kept my eye on his temperature and watched it slowly head down then back up again. When he refused to eat his dinner and turned down his bedtime bottle I was a little worried but put him to bed as I normally would. Between 10-11pm I went in to him four times as he woke with a coughing fit and decided since I wasn't going to get any sleep I'd be better off closer to him. I might have imagined it but he seemed pleased that I was there and settled back down fairly easily.
Around midnight his temperature hit 39 degrees and I took his pyjamas off and gave him more Panadol. He was coughing and wheezing a lot and his breathing was really fast and shallow at times. I started to worry that he was going to get really sick, really quickly and I felt a little out of my depth. I did a first aid course just last week and we talked about fevers, so I had some idea of what I was doing. I kept checking his temperature and wiping his little forehead with a cold face cloth. I contemplated sending a text message out to friends in the hope that someone would be up at that time of night, I needed reassurance that I was doing the right thing, but in the end decided I didn't want to wake anyone. I don't know if they have anything similar here but I know back in Australia there are 24-hour hotlines you can call and get a nurse's advice. If that fails there's also the option of grandparents and aunties who've been there, done that, but stuck in Hong Kong I just had to go it alone.
Once his temperature got back down to around 37, at about 2am, I went back to sleep with one hand up through the bars in the cot and five little fingers wrapped around one of mine. We were awake again at 3, 5 and 6.30am and each time the poor little guy had a coughing fit and struggled to settle back down. At 6.30 we got up for the day and he was very cuddly, which was nice but unusual. Normally he's leaping out of my arms as we come down the stairs, ready to start the day. I gave him breakfast and went back to bed, and my husband took him to our saintly GP. She diagnosed a viral chest infection and gave us a host of drugs to treat the symptoms, including an antihistamine to help him sleep. Given that he didn't sleep for longer than an hour at a time last night, it was the first thing I gave him after his lunch, and he's now peacefully napping upstairs.
Apart from reflux and a really mild head cold, J hasn't been sick at all. We've been really lucky to have made it nine months without him catching anything serious. We didn't take him out a lot when he was a newborn because it was winter, but we haven't avoided other kids or done anything deliberate to make sure he didn't get sick. As I lay there on the floor last night it hit me that this is what it means to be a parent, and I wondered how many times over the next 20 years I'd be lying awake like that listening to my son breathing beside me. I know there'll be times when it's pain and illness that keeps us up, and further down the track parties and broken curfews will be the cause of sleeplessness. I was worried at times last night, and I hate seeing J unhappy and uncomfortable but at the same time I felt confident that this was a problem I could fix. Instead of the normal things that worry me like feeding and sleeping, a fever has a very definite cure, and I knew what to do. I also knew that if I couldn't help my son, the doctor's clinic opened at 8. It was nice to have the answers for a change.