I never used to be ill.
I was one of those people for whom making it through a school year without taking a day off was both a source of pride, and a regular occurrence.
Then I had a baby.
I don’t know what has happened to me. Me, who was never ill; me, of the iron constitution. Suddenly, I am perpetually unwell. It’s like the lifeblood is being slowly drained from me through my breastmilk.
I have become known in our house as “Poor Mummy,” the name my own mother-in her sixties and yet apparently far more invincible than I-persistently uses to refer to me in front of Piglet.
“Don’t climb on your Poor Mummy’s head. She’s got a cold.”
“Granny will read you a story tonight. Poor Mummy needs to recuperate from FEEDING YOU ALL THE TIME.”
“YOU’RE WEARING YOUR POOR MUMMY OUT! It’s about time you stopped breastfeeding like a tiny baby. Here, have a biscuit.”
It is of course laudable that my mother, like a warrior protecting her young (even if the “young” concerned is actually in her mid-thirties), quickly jumps to my defence if I am being battered over the head by a toddler while he laughs hysterically and picks up a toy car, mobile phone, TV remote or other useful projectile and aims it at my face, but I don’t want to be Poor Mummy. I want to be Invincible Mummy; Mummy of Great Strength and Power, Mummy in Rude Health.
Except that I’m not. I am yet again pathetically ill with a ridiculous toddler ailment. This time it is hand, foot and mouth disease.
Apparently this is different to the one that afflicted farmyards up and down the country a few years back and led to vast swathes of the countryside being cordoned off while the carcasses of sheep and cows burned in huge great funeral pyres all over the television.*
Although if the local population find out that I inadvertently attended a toddler group yesterday whilst symptomatic (I DIDN’T REALISE UNTIL HALFWAY THROUGH I SWEAR, and then I saw the spots popping up all over my hands, and was like I am dying, I might have some terrible hand disease and my hands might go all gnarly and fall off, and oh my God what is happening to me, and WHAT’S WITH THIS SORE THROAT I CAN’T SPEAK, and argh, argh, argh. And by that time it was too late to turn back, and I had already been socialising with small children for thirty minutes and HAD TOUCHED A PUZZLE TOY AND EVERYTHING) then they may well decide that I need to be put down, as I am INFECTIOUS. And to cap it all off, I spent over two minutes of that toddler group on my phone, googling symptoms, and now they probably all think I am a terrible mother who sits around having conversations on Whatsapp with her airhead friends about Kim Kardashian’s latest beef with Taylor Swift or whatever, while her child runs riot and goes around hitting other children for attention because his Poor Mummy won’t give him any, because PHONE.
Eventually, on the insistence of my mother, I went to the doctor, my mother being convinced that I had some terrible chronic condition like anaemia, M.E or some Other Mysterious Illness that also last week caused me to throw up once on holiday after eating a slightly too-large dose of cream tea. Reluctant to waste any more of the National Health Service’s precious time and resources, I resisted for as long as I could, before conceding that it might be a good idea to check that I wasn’t going to accidentally kill off all the local old and vulnerables with my virulent pestilence. Obviously the safest way to ensure this was by sitting in the GP surgery’s waiting room for forty minutes flicking through a magazine on English Country Interiors, trying not to cough or sneeze on all the local old and vulnerables as they sat around me waiting for their appointments. Luckily, the doctor assured me that no one was likely to be harmed by catching hand, foot and mouth disease, and although I may be a walking biohazard, I am at least one that doesn’t pose an immediate danger to the elderly, pregnant or newborn.
And so I returned home, relieved that I didn’t have anything too serious, ready to spend the next week at least having my mother whisk Piglet away from every kiss, cough or attempt to eat my breakfast. Poor Mummy better not give you what she’s got.
*This probably happened in the Real Life Countryside too, but I wouldn’t know as I didn’t venture out there. You never know what you might catch.
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