I had my first child when I turned 30. I am the youngest in my family and had very little exposure to babies before having my own. Throughout my 20’s, I had been told I wouldn’t make a good Mom and that I shouldn’t have kids. The declaration made me want to have kids even more. I was wild and independent in my youth, but I was ready to settle down and start a family. I read all the books, watched all the videos, and interviewed pediatricians before my son’s arrival to be sure I would have all the knowledge I would need when my bundle of joy arrived. I wouldn’t need help. All my child would need was his Mom and Dad, and we would be able to provide everything he needed. However, the universe gave me a lesson I would never forget.
Hand Foot and Mouth Disease
If you’ve had a child in the last decade, you have probably heard about Hand Foot and Mouth Disease. If you’re a new parent or expecting, you will know of it soon enough. Think of the chickenpox of our youth; it’s a matter of “when” not “if” your child gets it. When my firstborn got it, I had no idea what it was. It first appeared as an extremely high fever. His skin was so hot to the touch. I figured it was something ibuprofen could cure, so I administered that and waited. I knew what I was doing. I didn’t need to call the doctor every time my child had a fever. The fever went down a little but never fully went away. When we finally took him in to see his doctor a day later, I felt so horrible for trying to cure him myself at home. His discomfort could have been corrected a day earlier had I just picked up the phone and asked for help. I was so worried about calling for help and being met with common knowledge that any “good” Mom would know. I had read the books and researched so much about having a baby; I really thought I could do it all on my own.
The doctor discovered sores on the roof of his mouth. He said he might develop more and that they would heal within a week or two. Our son was in daycare, and the doctor said he most likely got it there as it was often contracted through poop germs. They suggested a “magical mouthwash” and sent us on our way with instructions on how to manage the uncomfortable mouth sores and fever. Our son quickly developed large fluid-filled blisters on his face and feet. They were so massive and in abundance. I hated having blisters myself. A night out could easily become unbearable when the wrong type of shoe birthed an annoying blister. I would get relief from popping the blister (gross, I know), so I figured I could do the same for my baby. I popped all the ginormous blisters and felt like a proud Mama. Until the next day, when I woke up with the beginnings of little blisters on my own hands.
I Don’t Know It All
I went to the clinic inside the building where I worked. The doctor asked if she could invite in the other doctors to look at my sores because they “had never seen an adult with HFMD before”. So one by one, the doctors and nurses came in and observed the childhood illness on my grown-up hands and mouth. At the time, I thought the only way for it to be transferred was through poop, so I kept declaring that I washed my hands all the time. It was then that I learned that one of the surest ways to contract the virus was through the fluid inside the blisters. I was a proud Mama no longer. I had again assumed I knew what was best before contacting a doctor or nurse and got myself a childhood disease. It was a very visible lesson that I did, indeed, NOT know all there is to know about having a child.
Ask For Help
Our Hand Foot and Mouth Disease adventure taught me more than what childhood diseases are out there; I learned that asking for help is imperative when having a child. I wanted so desperately to prove that I could be a “Good Mother” and that I didn’t need to run for help every time I wasn’t quite sure what was going on with my baby. Yes, motherly instincts are a thing. And as your child grows, you will be able to figure out situations better. There are 24-hour nurse lines for a reason. Parents will never know everything, and every child is different. It takes a village, and we shouldn’t feel shame when we need the help of the village. I accept that I am not a bad mother because I needed help. I’m learning how to be the best Mom I can be every day, asking for help every step of the way.