3 a.m. is his hot hand pawing my face, mumbling “Mommy, come here,” though he is already in my arms, asleep.
4 a.m. is my stomach turning, and my heart pounding in my chest when I realize—yes, fever.
4-6 a.m. is up every 20 minutes, my hands reaching to his temples to gauge how the fever has ebbed and flowed.
6 a.m. is his body stumbling out of bed, not quite steady on his feet.
7:15 a.m. is me begging his big brother to walk to school with our neighbor and her daughter, whom he is friends with but is embarrassed to be seen with in public (ewwww….girls!).
8:10 a.m. is standing on the rain-soaked welcome mat in my socks as my older son shuffles off to school, the baby crying for me from inside the house.
9:15 a.m. is scrolling through pictures of school buses, garbage trucks, and dump trucks on Google Images while the baby sits on my lap and I feel his warm head under my chin.
9:40 a.m. is holding him while he throws up mucus, tinged purple with elderberry and vitamin C.
10 a.m. is him asking happily for breakfast, and the relief I feel in my bones when I watch him eat and drink.
10:30 a.m. is sitting on the couch watching Thomas, a towel between us in case he vomits again, my laptop opened to the essay about God I am trying to write.
10:45 a.m. is his eyes fluttering shut after the second episode and me carrying his heavy, drooping body to bed.
11:15 a.m. is gobbling down eggs and avocado before I am called in to lie beside him.
11:30-12:30 p.m. is the fevered nap, the light jerky sleep, his hand on my chest, his body waking if I move a muscle.
12:30 p.m. is his disoriented cries as he wakes up, throws up a little more mucus, and asks for a story.
12:45 p.m. is me walking with him in the baby carrier, swaying and singing a made-up nonsense song that is probably meaningless and definitely off-key, but which sounds beautiful to me.
1 p.m. is his body cooling off in my arms, and realizing that this, this is the point of it all. All the endless days—sick, well, easy, hard. Only I can do this for him.
2 p.m. is waking up, not realizing I had fallen asleep, remembering the unwashed dishes in the sink, the toys and drinks left out, the unvacuumed floor, the unanswered email, and the unfinished essay.
2:30 p.m. is the police siren outside as he wakes up and nurses, but his cooling body telling me he will be better, he will be fine.
3 p.m. is an attempt at a game, which makes him more sleepy and irritated, so he collapses in my lap and we watch videos of The California Raisins on my phone. (The California Raisins? Yes, that. Long story.)
3:30-4:30 p.m. is tofu—he ate tofu—be still my beating heart he’s eating again!
4:30-5:30 p.m. is Daddy and big brother home, their loud laughs, talk of the day, scrounging to get homework done, all the hustle and bustle, while the baby and I sit quietly in the den, and I inhale the grassy scent of his hair, its baby-softness on my lips.
5:30-7 p.m. is laying out tomorrow’s clothes, preparing lunches, putting away dishes, getting the baby into a new diaper (did I do that since the morning?), and holding his hand while his body heats up again.
8 p.m. is Tylenol to bring down the fever so he can sleep, carrying him to the bedroom, and nursing him (so easily) to sleep.
8:30 p.m. is my older son crawling in beside us and recounting his day: the walk to school that wasn’t that bad, the whale diagram that he loved drawing, the wondering why his basketball coach had him sit out of the game for a few minutes, the musing about what’s in store for tomorrow.
9:00-9:30 p.m. is me trying three times to get out of bed, but the baby will not have it—he sits up, dumbfounded, looking for me as soon as I get up.
9:31 p.m. is realizing I have been calling him “the baby” for this whole post, though he is two years old. And so what, of course he is, especially when sick, and I remember all those newborn nights when we literally couldn’t put him down, and we took turns holding him while we ate, bathed, brushed our teeth.
9:45 p.m. is finally being able to sneak away for a quick snack, toothbrushing, and to prepare myself for another feverish, snotty, sleepless night, the kind of night I used to dread, but have grown into as a mother.
9:55 p.m. is eating cinnamon toast (the first time I have eaten sitting down today), and wondering what has changed these past few months to make me feel less terrified of the unpredictable chaos of motherhood. How on earth have I learned—sometimes—to embrace it?
10:15 p.m. is crawling in bed beside him, his body cooled off by the Tylenol, the heat of the fever sweating into his hair, his small arm lifting, then falling heavily across my body as I nestle in beside him.