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When Em still had a loose cough and a stuffy nose one week after our barbecue, I stayed calm. We had been through this before back when she was still an infant. So I set up her humidifier on a small folding table at the foot of her crib. I used what I referred to as her "booger bulb" and her Boogie Wipes only when her nose appeared to bother her. I waited for it to pass.
But one week after that, her cough only seemed to be getting worse. And I had a cough, too, this one tight and coiled at the center of my chest, accompanied by sinus congestion and post-nasal drip and sneezing and aching joints.
To put it simply, I felt like shit.
It didn't help that Em had recently developed the adorable/gross habit of open mouth kissing me. I'm sure we were basically just passing disease back and forth between each other.
In the past, when sick, I would slack off from work and take long naps throughout the day and lounge about melodramatically. I no longer have that luxury. I can't sit around and wait for someone else to take care of me. I can't slack off because I'm supposed to be taking care of Em.
Miraculously, this is only the second time I've been sick since Em was born. The first was this past spring, when Em was still an infant. My uncle died and I began experiencing weakness and vertigo and headaches. I was afraid I would drop Emily, and my husband was forced to work from home and pick up the slack. But now I'm just normal sick. Snot and sneezes and phlegmy cough sick. And all I can do is suck it up and be the mom that Em expects me to be.
But isn't that the way of motherhood? Before you become a mom, it's perfectly okay for you to be, to some degree, selfish. But then you pop a baby out of your vagina and, suddenly, you realize you can't be selfish anymore. Because you're living for someone else.
You keep going because she needs you.
So you give your child all the shrimp in your shrimp chow mein because you know she loves it.
And you play with her on her play mat instead of working on that awesome new project you're so damn excited about. The project can wait.
And you read her "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" a billion times in a row, even though you can feel your brain atrophying and you don't even have a voice anymore because you've been coughing for two weeks straight. You mainline Vitamin C Drops while dancing and singing with her at music class.
You make yourself keep going, even though you feel sure you could sleep off this cold if only you had the time.
You keep going because she needs you.
The other night, I had my husband take Em out for dinner with his parents, just so I could have a break. It was a glorious reprieve and, at the end of the night, he brought me home some chicken noodle soup and an entire bag of garlic bread.
Which made me hate him and his persistent, ever-enduring healthiness just a little bit less.
But today I'm back to the hustle. Em's cough has receded, but mine is still going strong. And so I roll out of bed, blow my nose for what feels like an eternity, lift Em out of her crib and change her because poop managed to travel all the way up the back of her nighttime, extra-strength diaper. And then I carry her downstairs, strap her into her high chair and warm up some milk and, before pulling her yogurt from the fridge, have a coughing fit that is so long and so extreme and so extended that Em looks at me with alarm. And then I hock up the snot and blow my nose some more, toss my tissue and place Em's bib around her neck.