The Mum Edit: Germ Season

The Mum Edit: Germ Season

Writer, interviewer and editor Helen Whitaker knows the real struggles of being a parent – in fact, she’s written a whole book about it. This month, it’s Germ Season, and she’s bracing herself for the dreaded lurgy

We have entered cold season. Or as we think of it in our house, the season of coughs that exist primarily at night. In my experience, my son is perfectly well during the day – running around the house and racking up more Fitbit-satisfying steps in the two hours before nursery than I’ll do all day long – but come bedtime, The Cough starts. And goes on. All. Night. Long.

The cold itself usually runs its course in a few perennially runny-nosed days, even if he behaves as though I’m trying to chloroform him whenever I approach with a tissue.  He refuses to rest even when it’s at full throttle (how can a child of mine see no appeal in a fluffy blanket, Netflix and the sofa when he’s poorly? Would…chloroform help with that?) but the night-time cough always lingers for a good couple of weeks afterwards, before gradually blurring into the beginning of the next bug. Meanwhile, I’ll miraculously swerve the first cold, despite the sneezes in my face and my shoulder being used in lieu of that tissue, before being struck down by the next. And the next. Judging by previous form, my immune system will get more and more depleted (and I'll get more haggard) as we get deeper into winter because there’s no downtime to recover when you have kids – besides the Holy Grail: a day off work sick when your child is well and can go to nursery. The cost of childcare never feels like such a bargain as when you can collapse at home for eight hours while they’re well looked after by someone else.

Post-childbirth, a lot of women talk about their newfound respect for their bodies and how only now do they realise what it’s capable of. It's all very #empowering. Except when you’re not one of those people. I suspected beforehand that I wouldn’t be the person who yoga breathed their way through birth, but in the words of my husband, “I had steeled myself for seeing you in pain. I just wasn't expecting you to completely fall to pieces.” (Let’s just say, there was no ‘look what this strong warrior woman just did’ FB caption alongside our birth announcement. And in response to those reports about social media fuelling women’s fear of childbirth, I’d just like to say that ACTUAL CHILDBIRTH has fuelled MY personal fear of childbirth.)

So instead of feeling strong, it made me realise how close I (we, women, humans in general) are to total physical collapse at all times. Seriously, we’re all hanging on by a thread here people. This outlook has only been compounded by my germ-ridden toddler, a walking petri dish who has infected me with more gastro bugs in under three years of existence than I caught in the three decades prior to having him. September 2016 – containing ‘the worst week of our lives TM’ – we were so ill, so constantly, that I’ve had nausea on the anniversary of it both years since. When the vomming was at its peak, during a period when my son was also teething, not sleeping and generally making my addled mind wonder if my life forever was just being screamed at by a tiny tyrant, I almost longed for my frightening labour, if only because that took place in a hospital with trained medical staff on hand to help me.

I digress…The Cough.

The Cough gradually peters out before my husband and I go to bed, before making a comeback at 4am before dying down again.

But I lie there, awake, listening to an even louder cacophony of coughing start up.

Because my husband has caught it too.

You can follow Helen on Instagram and Twitter at @itshelenwhitaker and @helbobwhitaker respectively. Helen’s debut novel, The School Run, about the comic lengths parents will go to for a school place, is out in August 2019. 

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