What's the big deal about an ear infection?

This week was a bit of a challenge for me. My nine-month old daughter picked up a bug from her play date at childcare. Our midwife and other parents have warned me about this of course, but there’s nothing like experiencing it all for the first time. I don’t know why I thought she’d never get sick. I tried really hard though. She’s up-to-date with all her immunisations, she’s had the flu shot, and she’s been having a healthy amount of probiotics in her well-balanced diet.

She’s had a runny nose from childcare before. She handled it really well and although the nights were a bit rough because of the congestion, she was active, playful, and had a good appetite for most of it. I kept her from childcare for a couple of weeks just to make sure. The very next time she was in childcare, she got sick again, but this time was worrying and a bit more exhausting (I took a COVID test for some peace of mind). Imagine, over a week of sleepless nights, many hours of holding her, rocking her, and comforting her, while speaking to doctors and navigating the solo parent juggle of work, study, and caring. Needless to say, I also soon picked up the cold from my daughter.

I cannot complain though as I had such tremendous support from my parents and my sister. Although I was carrying the heavy weight of caring and providing, I always had so much love and strength to give to my daughter as she was riding out her ear infection because in so many ways, I was being lovingly looked after too. My dad was a great source of calm and steadfastness. My mum was there physically to help me with her granddaughter, changing nappies, wiping away snot, holding her hand as I administered the antibiotics. My sister cooked meals for me, helped tidy and clean-up, and spent lots of time making my daughter smile and laugh. My friends cared for me too, sending lots of encouragement and helpful advice. My PhD supervisor was incredibly caring too, offering compassionate advice and sharing her own experiences of balancing motherhood and her work in academia. 

It seems really trivial, caring for a baby with an ear infection, but seeing your child in pain is usually an unpleasant experience. I know there’ll be lots more sick days we’ll have to ride out together in her lifetime, but this introduction to caring for a sick child has made me realise that I have an entire community looking after us. I am so grateful. I’ve also witnessed how marvellously she is getting stronger each time she gets sick. And isn’t that one of the silver linings of any difficult period? The hard times teach us something, and we become stronger and wiser. I’m so proud that as young as she is, my daughter is able to go through tough times by acknowledging and expressing her pain, but still not a day goes by that she doesn’t smile, laugh, or giggle. I’m also proud of myself that I’ve nurtured this loving bond with my child and that I’m able to do so at the same time as working, studying, and enjoying life with friends and family. Whenever I’m asked how I’m able to manage as a solo parent, my response is to simply say, ‘I may be doing things solo, but I’m not alone.’

'Tis healthy to be sick sometimes.Henry David Thoreau


Tagged in What messes with your head, phd, Student life, parent-student