Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Reality Sniffles

Abby's nose is running. It must be fall.

After three glorious, kleenex-free months of health and wellness, the germs have once again taken residence in our home. So the tissue box has resumed its position on the end table, the Infant Tylenol has made its way to the front of the medicine box, and my ears are tuned in, once again, to the subtle sounds of her lungs, sensitive to any hint of wheezing or rattling or spasmodic coughing that would indicate it's time to pull the nebulizer out of its summer hibernation.

I'll confess to having nurtured a naive hope that this season would be different. It's not like we were totally sequestered from other kids this summer: they played happily with other germ-ridden tots at the rec center's Play School, at church, and at the park. I'd even given up my strict policy of squirting their hands with sanitizer every time they got back in the car from some sort of group play, and they hardly sneezed all summer--and certainly didn't come down with anything even modestly resembling a cold.

In fact, when I took Ben into the doctor for his four-year-old check-up, the first thing the doctor mentioned was how great it was that I hadn't had to bring Abby in to be seen in months. Having been regulars in her sick rooms throughout the winter and spring--Abby's asthma causing her lungs to constrict and inflame with every illness, no matter how minor--we were all thrilled to (not) share months of medicine-free living. She was healthy. She was breathing clearly. She was seemingly immune.

So naturally, having survived what seemed like dozens of illnesses through the course of Ben's first year in school, I had allowed myself to indulge in sun-induced fantasies that her little body had already developed all the antibodies necessary to fight off whatever crossed her path this year. Alas. Some virus has managed to infiltrate her well-excercised immune system.

Today she walked around saying, "Mah nohs ih ruh-nnih, Mama," before wiping it fervently herself when offered a tissue.

So far, her lungs are taking this one in stride. She woke up coughing from her nap today, but it resolved once she spent a few minutes upright and talking. Her breathing is a bit more labored when she runs around, but I'm not hearing the signature wheezing of previous episodes. We'll see what happens as the cold runs its course.

In the meantime, I'm letting go of my ridiculously unrealistic expecations that she might sail through the school year unscathed, trading those pipe dreams for the more modest hope that her "reactive airways" will be at least a little less reactive than before, that the nebulizer won't have to live on our kitchen counter for eight months. Maybe we'll even reach a point when Abby doesn't automatically lift her shirt for the doctor to check the severity of the retractions below her ribs when she walks into the room.

Nevertheless, I've restocked my car's supply of hand sanitizer. It's an exercise in chasing windmills, perhaps, but what else is a mother to do in the face of a germ-infested world. Squirt their hands, wipe their noses, and listen close for any sign of distress. Love, love, crazy love.

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