A New Parent's Exhausting Journey Through a Baby's First Cold
Back in the Day
I thought I knew fatigue.
I thought, owning to the industrious sort of person I am, usually with multiple jobs taking multiple classes with multiple social events planned on any given day, I thought I knew fatigue.
I thought running 10k+ then working a 10 hour shift then going into work again for an undigestible work sandwich less than 8 hours later was fatigue.
I thought traversing Ontario from the East to the West and hitting up as many Christmas parties as I could in one night to say that "I saw everyone during the Holiday Season" was fatigue.
I thought fatigue and I had the sort of relationship where we'd text every day; we knew how one another took our coffees and what we each other liked on our hotdogs; we could recite John Hughes movies line-for-line together and would fight to go first on karaoke night because we often chose the same songs.
Fatigue was a stranger.
Nothing could have prepared me for the fatigue of caring for an infant with his first head cold. When your baby doesn't sleep, you don't sleep; when your baby does sleep, you also don't sleep, because this is the only time you have in the day to actually accomplish something without being swept up in the endless cycle of sleep-feeding-burping-diaper change-feeding-burping-diaper change-sleep. This cycle becomes your mantra: it is what you know, and it is what your baby knows. When something disrupts this routine, like for example, a cough which keeps your baby waking every half hour and causes him to vomit up a handful of feeds, everything you've ever known about your child is reduced to ashes, and you're forced to begin again.
Getting Through It
You become reliant on the baby thermometer with the cheeky frog smile (see above) to reassure yourself it's only a cold... every two hours. You seriously consider sustaining a diet of naval oranges and whole cloves of garlic, hoping the bulk of the vitamins will transfer to your fallen little one. You read, painstakingly, that there's nothing you can give a newborn with a cough, save plenty of fluids (breastmilk or formula), so you become a living pacifier, ushering antibodies into your little one with the gusto of an early 20th century circus announcer ("Step right up, Step right Up"). You start rocking two humidifiers in a small space that your cat sets his mind to befriend and DESTROY, alternately, depending on his mood and the time of day... which also keeps you and the baby up. You can't remember the last time you bathed, but you're not looking forward to taking that two-day bun down and assessing the damages. You look at your pillows strewn all over an unmade bed and Enigma plays in the back of your brain, attempting to appeal to your better nature (what better nature? I have no nature. I'm beyond animal). You begin listening to a lot of heavy rock music from the early 90's, fantasizing simpler times.
Your baby is miserable, you are miserable; it is a symbiotic relationship. The only way to get though it, is through plenty of patience with a calm disposition, a cheeky frog thermometer to let you know if you have to take a trip to the doctor or not, and a person you can go to to say, "here, take this child, I need a four hour nap, uninterrupted, with my cat," which I eventually got on my fiancee's day off.
Then I started coughing.