I Don’t Feel Well

I felt it coming on Friday – that tickle in my throat that I knew would get big if I didn’t nip it in the bud, fast. And though I started my usual cold-averting tricks, spending 1.5 hours outside under the lights Friday evening at Hamza’s soccer game as I screamed and cheered him on didn’t help my throat any.

By the end of the night, the throat was hurting. Hurting bad. Salt-water gargles, Airborne, medicine, hot tea with ginger and honey, turmeric in milk – I dug into my arsenal. But it got worse and worse and worse.

Then fever started, with chills ransacking my body. I chattered under the blankets furiously while the rest of the house slept, willing myself to warm up and calm down, until my husband heard me, got me a blanket and two Motrin, which gave me enough strength to get up in the morning and get the kids off to school.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been as sick as this. The kids go through their yearly gamut of colds, stomach ailments, strep throat (my nemesis!) and the occasional flu. But I am the caregiver – the one who usually doesn’t get sick, though I am wiping noses, cleaning vomit spills and getting coughed and breathed on by my kiddos.

And though on one hand it certainly bites to be sick, to physically feel awful and racked with body aches and pains, I am reminded time and again of how blessed I am. I don’t mean blessed in having a husband and sister-in-law around me who are taking care of business while I dial back and recover (though that is a blessing, too). But because I can say when I feel unwell. I can make my ailments known plainly and clearly so that my loved ones around me aren’t making (educated) guesses as to what is the best treatment.

I’ve nursed my kids through as much illness as the next mom. And as they’ve grown older, they’ve become better at letting me know verbally and through their behaviors what is wrong with them. Like most moms, I can (fairly well) figure out when it’s bad and when they’re making it out to be worse than it really is and when it’s probably nothing.

Even with Lil D, who has been virtually nonverbal his entire life, I have become a pretty good expert in figuring out his symptoms and ailments by being attune to his body cues. Sure, he is able to tell me some things (like when he wants to eat, or go to the pool or get some beads for twirling) through his actions and the use of his iPad (assisted communication device). But as to how he is feeling? When he may be hurting or unwell or sad and upset? Well that is left to me and his Baba to puzzle through.

Here’s what I’d LOVE to hear:

“Mom, I’m sick.”

“Mom, my stomach hurts.”

“Mom, my throat is sore. My head hurts. I just don’t feel well. My nose is stuffy. I feel foggy.”

I’ve heard variations of those statements from Amal and Hamza many times. Never from Lil D. Do you know what a blessing it is to be able to verbalize when you’re sick? For your children to be able to tell you when they hurt, when they are in pain, when they feel icky or yucky or gross or like they’re going to hurl? For your kid to say, “Mom, I think I’m going to puke,” hopefully just in time for you to get a bag under his mouth or get him to the toilet?

That, my friends, is one of God’s greatest blessings.

For your kid to say, “I don’t want to eat that. It hurts my throat.” Or, “I just don’t feel like eating. I don’t feel well.” I hope you appreciate those statements and the knowledge it brings to you – to be able to know what is wrong (for the most part) and be able to put things in motion to help your child feel better.

My mom-tuition is pretty strong with Lil D and his autism. I’ve made it my life’s work to pierce through his nonverbal cues, to take into consideration his whole body experience, what is happening in his world, what he might’ve done in school that day and be able to apply that to figuring out if he is coming down with something. I look at if others are sick in the house. Is there something going through his school?  Is his appetite down? Is he pushing food away (and not because he doesn’t like what I made for dinner)? Does he have circles developing under his eyes? Is he lethargic?

And the big one – if he falls asleep during the day – a sure sign that he is coming down with something.

But with all that, I wonder how many times I missed something. How many times has his body dealt with an illness without me knowing? As I nursed my God-awful sore throat this weekend, I wondered how many times Lil D’s throat was sore and I didn’t know. Things like stuffy or runny noses, fever, vomiting – those symptoms are pretty obvious.

But headaches, sore throats – sure there are nonverbal cues for those. But those symptoms can also be missed when one cannot express how one feels. How many times was his throat sore, and I just never knew? And if I had, I could’ve given him medicine or something soothing to eat or drink.

How many times was his stomach upset, and I made the mistake of pushing him to eat thinking that he was being stubborn instead of really feeling sick in his stomach? And how many times have we all paid the price later when he vomited during the night and I came to discover it in the morning when I went into his room and smelled the stench – saw the dried vomit on his pillow and in his hair.

Because he doesn’t get up and come to us at night if he’s sick. He vomits and goes back to sleep.

I thought about that in the wee hours of the night, when I was shivering uncontrollably, my body hurting, fever rising. I called out to my husband – please get me a blanket. I am so cold. And so he did, and brought me medicine and cool water.

Oh Lil D. What I wish for you. I’ m so grateful you can say ticka me you want to be tickled, or hep me when you want help pulling up your pants. I’m so thankful I figured out that when you say akka, akka in the car when I pick you up from school, it’s an approximation for your word, cooka, or cookie.

But I wish you had words to tell me when you’re sick. Mom-tuition isn’t foolproof.

About Dilshad Ali

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