Despite my best efforts Small was, at times, unwell. No matter how I tried to avoid it, he came into contact with germs and bugs. I soon realised there was nothing I could do about it and there was nothing wrong with it. I hadn’t done anything bad and ultimately it was necessary to build his immune system.
In the early days, at the first sign of illness I found myself at the doctor’s surgery being reassured that there was nothing cataclysmically wrong. Slowly I learnt what needed attention and what didn’t but it was always better to be sure.
When Small reached the age of 2 months I discovered the parents’ number one friend, Calpol (Tylenol in the US), a liquid form of paracetamol (acetaminophen in the US). Other brands and own brands are available but, in the UK at least, Calpol has become a term used to describe liquid paracetamol generally, like Hoover for vacuum cleaner. Mention Calpol to any UK parent and they will smile.
Calpol was wonderful. If Small had any kind of illness Calpol seemed to help: fevers, reduced; headaches, banished; aches and pains, gone; teething pain, eradicated. The added benefit was that Small often fell asleep after a dose of Calpol. That didn’t mean I could use it as a sleeping aid. Not only would that have been potentially dangerous, it would not have worked. There was nothing sleep inducing in Calpol, it was just that once Small’s pain and discomfort had been relieved, he could relax and catch up on the sleep it had been keeping at bay.
My first contact with Calpol was after Small’s first set of immunisations. In the UK Smalls are immunised against all sorts of nasties that nowadays seem like small matters but in the past have been major killers (and still are in undeveloped countries). They only seem like small matters because they are such rare occurrences thanks to the immunisations. When Small 1 was born there was considerable news coverage about, now discredited, research linking the MMR vaccine for Measles, Mumps and Rubella to bowel disease and autism. Many parents refused the vaccine and as a result, there have been later outbreaks of the diseases with some fatalities.
The immunisation worked by giving Small a micro dose of the disease, which his immune system could cope with. His immune system then learnt how to deal with the disease so if it was attacked again it could fend it off. The immediate upshot was that Small felt unwell and became slightly feverish and Calpol was recommended to tackle the symptoms.
The immunisations themselves were harrowing for both of us. As house husband, the task of taking Small to the doctors landed on my shoulders. First immunisations take place at 2 months and at that stage Small had not suffered any injury. There were no bumps, bruises or cuts of any kind to mar Small’s perfect form. That was all to come later, once he could move about. Other than wind or being hungry or too hot or cold, Small had never experienced any real trauma. That was about to change and I had to witness it and, worse, take a part in it.
Immunisations come in the form of an injection. Personally I hate injections; I have a real phobia and can become faint at the mere thought. It is totally irrational, the pain is nothing much, but my body reacts and I have to lie down to take them. I don’t even like watching someone else having them. So, I was not the best choice as the person required to proffer Small’s naked chubby thigh to the hypodermic wielding nurse.
To distract both Small and myself from the needle puncturing the perfection of his flesh I talked to him and kept eye contact. As the needle breached his skin his brow puckered. As the plunger was pressed and the micro toxins seeped into his bloodstream his eyes narrowed, fixing me with an accusing stare. There was pain and I was holding him. More accusing than the stare were the tears welling in the corners of his eyes. In counterpoint, when the needle was extracted the first drop of blood to escape Small’s inside welled up from the tiny hole left by the incursion into his flesh.
It was a horrible, traumatic experience for both Small and me but thankfully it was over.
“Just hold the other leg now please,” said the nurse, reaching for a second hypodermic.
Small knew what was coming this time and at the first scratch to his flesh he started to scream and my heart screamed along with him. After the evil deed I cuddled him close and his tears had subsided even before we reached the door, which wasn’t long; we were both in escape mode. But the deed was done. I dosed him with Calpol and he slept like a baby: not very well and with lots of loud interruptions necessitating cuddles and rocking.
There were more immunisations at 3 months, 4 months and 12 months. Each of these involved double screaming because he knew what was coming the moment his chubby thighs were exposed. But better a few minutes of pain and screaming than the potential of days of suffering from any of the diseases immunised against and their potential long term effects.
Not so much a parenting guide full of advice, more the reality of parenting kids and being a house husband and father, written by a stay at home dad to three children.
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