Sick / by Christina Rosalie

Nothing prepared me for this: the fragility and fiery protectiveness I'd feel when confronted with caring for my sick child. Bean awoke last night about an hour after going to sleep---crying inconsolably, hysterically, till mucus ran in two small rivers from his nose. He cried hard and frantically, throwing his body about in my arms as I tried to offer a breast, or hold his hands under running water, or show him the cat---my usual ploys to calm him when he's upset. But for a long while nothing consoled him—a long enough while enough for DH to call pediatrician and then make a trip to the store for children's Tylenol.

Finally I put John Gorka on and danced with him, slowly, in the semi-dark of the living room lit only from the streetlights outside the window. Finally his breathing grew regular. He sucked in the last puckered sobs. His head dropped to my chest.

Then we sat together, his body pressed tightly to mine---wrapped in blankets in the rocking chair, and I rocked him until his body grew limp with sleep. And then I kept rocking, never wanting to let go.

Later in the night he woke again: crying, sobbing, wailing. Again I put the music on and danced with him till his cries turned to whimpers, and then I curled with him in the big white armchair in the living room, burrowed under a down comforter, listening to the music until he finally slept. I carried him to bed and he slept nestled up against the heat of our bodies, his small feet pressed into my belly.

He slept then until morning, and woke happy, with a running nose, wanting to be carried all day.

Nothing prepared me for this: the quivering feeling of guilt, when I look into his sweet sick face. What could I have done wrong? What small neglect?

By mid morning I realized I was sick too, and we napped for hours, our cheeks next to each other---his hair damp with sweat. And later, he was content to ride about in the sling on my hip---something he almost never does because he wants to be moving about, exploring, active, pulling up on things.

I'm not sure how to begin to comprehend the immenseness of this feeling: this love, this guilt, this exhaustion. And yet a part of me realizes it isn't about comprehending at all. It's simply about being there in the dark, dancing with my son up against my heart.