A sleepless night

It’s 3 am and I’m at the hospital with my elder son Afonso.

It doesn’t matter how old our children are…when they are sick it’s always the same anguish, as when they were small and we spent the night by their bed checking their fever every hour…

This evening as I arrived home he told me his tummy was not right, he had the usual symptoms (!) and was feeling feverish. I fetched our thermometer – that fortunately hasn’t been in use for some time – and checked his fever, but it was a little more than 37º C. Still, as he was complaining, I gave him some paracetamol.

Unlike himself, he barely ate. He told me he had slept very poorly the previous two nights and went to bed early. I did the same, as I’ve been having some challenging weeks, with a lot of work – and stress, too.

Suddenly I was woken by the sound of my phone! Startled, I got up and picked up the phone without my glasses….seeing nothing! I thought it was my younger son Pedro, who had gone out, but it was Afonso, who apparently had been calling me from his room but with the doors closed I hadn’t heard him.

I immediately felt something was wrong. And it was. He was shaking uncontrollably and could hardly speak. I must confess I was somewhat frightened, as I couldn’t figure out why he was like that – again I checked his fever with the thermometer and again it was not too high, even if his forehead felt as if it were burning.

I could see he was upset and I was no less. He was still feeling very cold and shaking. I tried to call the 24 hour assistance of our health insurance but they were not much help, asking a lot of bureaucratic questions I couldn’t answer at that moment. Again I tried and managed to talk to a doctor who told me I should give him some medicine for his dehydration – which of course I don’t have at home – and also something else for his fever (that meanwhile I had managed to check properly with a very old thermometer and by then was at 39ºC)!

As soon as I gave him the ibuprofen he vomited, so of course it came out and didn’t bring the fever down, by then I had already called his father – who must have been sleeping, poor thing, but is always ready to share the burdens! – and we agreed that he could have a second one, as the first had certainly not had any effect. So I gave him a second pill and stayed by his side. He was now calmer and not shaking anymore, but very sick – and again went to the bathroom and vomited. Then I decided this was enough, and told him we’d be going to the hospital at once. To complicate things further, my car is being repaired ( I had a small accident when a truck “took away” my rear-view mirror), and no money for a taxi, as Pedro had asked me for money to buy his transportation card before he left for a dinner with friends. What else could happen?!

Fortunately Afonso’s car was outside so we took it to the hospital – in fact my first time driving it.

The only good thing of going to the hospital in the middle of the night is that it’s empty! Afonso was feeling very sick by now but he was immediately seen by a doctor who ordered some blood tests and ministered intravenous paracetamol as well as something for the vomiting.

While we were waiting for him to be called he was feeling very sick and as he was trying to find a somewhat comfortable position he suddenly asked me: “Mom, may I lay my head on your shoulder?”. I felt a huge wave of tenderness towards this big boy, this man, so independent and grown up, yet so vulnerable at times, and smiled and said: ” Of course, my darling, you can always lay your head on your mother’s shoulder”, and thus we stayed, waiting for him to be called to the treatment room.

Now I’m sitting in the waiting room waiting for him to finish his treatment. I’m now confident that he’ll get better and soon we’ll go home to sleep. Meanwhile Pedro arrived home and called to find out what was going on.

Tomorrow, or rather, later today, my son will stay at home and sleep – he has something important going on at University but we’ll take a declaration from the hospital stating he was undergoing treatment here during the night. As for myself, I’ll sleep for a couple of hours and then go to work. I have tons of things to do and then, it won’t be the first time I go to work after a sleepless night because one of my children was ill.

After all, sleepless nights with sick children are part of motherhood, and it’ doesn’t matter if they are 2 or 20 – you will always feel the need to protect and take care of them, and you will always do anything to make them get better. That is just part of the definition of the word “mother” – along with many other things, of course.

As I finish writing this he’s still inside, but I expect he’ll be coming out soon. I look forward to tucking him in and finally watch him in fall into a deep, serene slumber.

As for me, I think, thank God it’s Friday. I’ll make up for the lost sleep tomorrow. As someone once said, being a woman, a mother, a professional…is simply exhausting. But I just don’t know how to be anything else – or anything less.