The first few years of a child’s life are always the critical ones. The learning curves are so steep for both parent and child. Now that our boys are a bit older, the one complaint I hear from ‘new’ parents is how their child is always sick after going to a soft play area or a day or two after going to nursery, and the memories come flooding back. So is it bug heaven or immune building?
Our eldest child went into full time day care at 9 months of age. I remember having to delay his start date as he was so ill after his first day or two of settling and not thinking much of it. On my first day back at work, I had to call in and let my very understanding boss know that I would be working from home that day as I had a sick child. This cycle lasted for quite a while and I recall sitting in a GP’s office on visit number 10 for our fourth or fifth ear infection thinking back to roughly when it all started. I naively said to the GP ‘this all started when I stopped breast feeding’ and his arrogant response was ‘well…what did you expect?’. My immediate reaction was one of pure guilt that I had done this to our child. After a few more thought processes and a fair few more bouts of illness, I realised that the GP was being a complete idiot (sorry!) and that it was the natural process of building an immune system. There was a completely newer family of bugs that our child was coming into contact with and therefore didn’t have any immunity against them. It was called the nursery.
Over the next few years, 24 burst ear drums later and a number of other ailments, the one thing that kept us positive was that all these bugs were actually good as they were helping to build healthier children. I am not saying that I specifically arranged bug play dates (that is what the nursery was for!) nor did I insist that the boys continued to mouthe the shopping trolley handle, but the sleepless nights and constant linen washing etc were going to be worth it. Now that both boys are at school, we still get colds and bugs, but not at the rate that the boys had them when they were at nursery and I still cling on to the hope that this is because their immune system is that little bit stronger.
My personal learning curve was that our children were too little to fight for themselves and that nobody else was going to fight their corner. I went to see a doctor(not our own as she was away so we were given a stand in appointment) and asking for a referral to the ear, nose and throat specialist as our youngest son was showing similar ear problems as his older brother. I was promptly shown the door on making this request as he hadn’t endured the 6 episodes of chronic pain associated with ear infections in 1 year that the guidelines for referral were. We were going on a long haul flight in 3 weeks and I didn’t think it fair that he should have any problems whilst flying. So a week and a half later, I called and asked for our own GP who was back, to call me. I didn’t want to see anybody else except her. She was amazing! I told her my sorry story whilst shaking with anger and frustration at the treatment we had received. It turns out that we had seen a newly qualified doctor who was no longer with the practice. She listened to our story, knowing our eldest son’s history, and said ‘Of course I will refer you! Don’t worry, stop shaking, we’ll sort it out’. To cut a long story short, when the ENT took one look at his ears, he said that it must be very painful and gave a loads of things to do when flying which really helped.
It’s easy now to look back and go ‘pfew! Thank goodness that time is over’ and had I been in a different job where working from home wasn’t an option I am not sure we would have kept the optimism.
I would love to hear your views on this.