9 Stages of the Sick Mother

I’m currently working through what (I hope) are the final days of a nasty case of bronchitis. I spent five of the last seven days with a seal-like cough, a dull headache, and a fever hovering right around 102, Tylenol be damned. Save a case of the flu and a brief but memorable visit from the Norovirus last year, this was the sickest I’d been in a very long time—probably the sickest* I’ve been since becoming a mother.

Now that I’m on the other side of this germfest, I’ve had a chance to reflect on what it’s like to be a mother and a patient at the same time. Illness is a whole other thing when you’re someone’s primary caregiver**, a bread-winner, and the main source of the energy that makes your household “go”, if you will. Gone are the days of simply realizing you’re sick and going to bed. It’s a process. A dance. And here—based on my experience—are the steps…

1. Exposure
Hmmm he feels warm. Yeah…that’s a fever. Whoa, that snot is really green. You need a tissue? Just wipe your nose on my sleeve; I don’t care. Yes, I will definitely snuggle with you, my sweet baby. Oh…I didn’t expect him to cough directly into my mouth. Haha, motherhood, AMIRITE?

2. Denial
Still holding strong over here! I’ve been washing my hands constantly, so I’m fine…a little tired. Yeah this cough? Just allergies, I’m pretty sure. Is it cold in here? Like…freezing?

3. Procrastination
Maybe it’ll count as rest if I just lie down while I finish up that blog post and send out those invoices. Ok, as soon as I fold this load of clothes, I’ll take a nap. Oh and after I pack the kid’s lunch for tomorrow.


4. Surrender
I need all the NyQuil and the Z-packs. Can you inject codeine into the antibiotics? If you can stack Motrin and Tylenol with toddlers, you can totally do that with adults right? I need my bed. I love my bed.

5. Acceptance

6. Guilt
I miss my family. Maybe I can make it downstairs to eat dinner….yeah, no. My poor baby. I haven’t seen him in hours…in days, really. Is he sad? I bet his fingernails are so dirty. What kind of a mother lets her child go to school without knowing the state of his fingernails!?!?

7. Advocacy
Yes, I’m still sick. Please leave the room so I can sleep. I see that your arms are stuck inside of your shirt, but you have AN ENTIRE OTHER PARENT*** who can help you with that situation. How come when Daddy is sick, you leave him alone? No, I can’t come watch you play Minecraft. Get out. I’m locking the door.

8. Euphoria
98.6! Coherent thoughts! Deep breaths without a hacking cough! Come here, out-of-control inbox, laundry backlog, and my sweet, filthy child. I will look upon you with my bright, clear eyes and tend to you with my loving, non-feverish hands.

9. Nostalgia
Remember my bed? Remember how I just stayed in it for, like, four days and slept like a boss? That was great. Pretty, pretty great.

*Yes, even worse than that case of mastitis. I was NOT in good shape, my friends.
**I was very lucky to never get this sick when my son lacked any shred of self-sufficiency or self-preservation. Apparently germs are no match for a mother’s fear of being out of commission.
***This is not a dig at my husband. He is a very willing and capable parent. It’s just that our son has decided that I’m the only one who can do anything ever.

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