how we become parents


It's not all about the birthing. Or the nursing or the sleeplessness or the timeless, endless juggle. Actually for me it's not about that at all. 

It's about the yards, really, the hard yards.

And if you'd told me in the beginning that holding a sick child would be a good and strong moment, I wouldn't have believed you. 

But that is where it's at.

When you hold your baby and they're burning up with a fever, I reckon that's when the real mother or father in you comes out. Not at breakfast, or storytime or bathtime, although these things are critical, it's at the bottom, right down in the dark and scary moments that we find ourselves as parents. 

It's doing the time. Carrying the torch. Holding the lantern. Particularly the first time they're really sick. You realise at that moment that you are fundamentally vulnerable. This little person is so much more important than anything else. You can feel the earth shift. Or maybe it's you. 

Little blighters. 

With Henry we found ourselves in hospital, in surgery, when he was only 6 weeks old. Inguinal hernia. I opted to hold him while they gave him the general anesthetic. For his four subsequent surgeries, I made Adam go in. There's nothing like holding a small person as they drift into unconsciousness, I could do without it again, thanks. 

Being there when they wake up, that's also a highlight. And if we're collecting parenting merit badges I'd have to list any time your child is strapped to an MRI or xray trolley, bound tight with adhesive medical tape to the table, another cannula in their arm. Oh Henry, I hope you become a wonderful cook and I can be a little less of a parent and a little more of an dinner guest.  

It'd be good to think you might get through without any of these moments. 

That's not going to happen. 

Unless you are so super careful that your smallie doesn't do anything or go anywhere you're probably going to cop a hard yard or two. 

My mother, like yours I'm sure, is full of war stories. A baby going into febrile convulsion in the car, miles from home. Glandular fever knocking a child out for three months. Children falling off the top of slippery dips. Broken bones. Dreadful burns. Spectacular injuries. 

And although they're awful, these moments really count. 

So there's more to my Good Friday story. As Adam and I were walking out the door between the doctors visit and the hospital, Tilly showed me her thumb and said, "it's really sore, Mum." I looked at it. I thought: please don't let that be an almighty splinter right under her thumbnail, the whole length of the nail. 

It was. With no end-y bit to pull it out. 

My excellent mother in law (who was a nurse for many years) reviewed the situation while Adam and I were with Ivy at the hospital. There was no way around it. She needed it taken out. So once Ivy was settled and had seen the pediatrician, Adam went back, got Tilly and took her into Accident and Emergency where she proceeded to involve the entire waiting room in her colouring in. 

While Ivy was having xrays upstairs in the children's ward, Tilly was bravely having the mother of all splinters extracted. I believe she was stoic and wonderful up until the point the doctor stuck a needle with local anesthetic under her thumbnail. Even then, according to Adam, she was pretty fantastic. And able to see the benefits of injury (chocolate). I saw her just after the extraction and she was pretty upset but valiantly holding onto her smarties. The doctor said to Adam that there was a reason this (splinter under fingernails) was used as a medieval torture device. It's bloody painful. 

I'm so proud of my stoic little person. What a champion. 

Even though there was still a big red line under the fingernail where the splinter had reached the nail bed, she checked up on her little sister, gave her a pat, and then suggested Adam take her home. Which he did.

Unfortunately you can't drink alcohol in a children's ward. Or even hot coffee or tea.

I've carried over my allowance. A nice glass of merlot. Which, frankly, makes me a better parent.




28 Comments on “how we become parents

April 27, 2011 at 12:26 am

kudos to you. i think that’s what being a parent is about too.
being there for hard stuff.
you guys sound like great parents!
who wouldn’t want smarties after an ordeal like that?!
and congrats to having such a brave child

April 27, 2011 at 12:39 am

good on tilly for being so tough!

i know what you mean about those dark moments too fi..
jai had an inguinal hernia too (at 3 weeks old) and then he had 3rd degee burns to his chest at 1.5 years.
weve come through the other side better stonger parents from those experiences but im still scared shitless for the next one.

Tamar Stanford
April 27, 2011 at 12:41 am

so true, watching my little Lad go under was a struggle, but it always had to be me as my Hubby is a self confessed chicken!!!!

April 27, 2011 at 12:43 am

OMG well done! Our little guy had an inguinal hernia, times two, at 9months old. Watching him slip into drugged unconciousness, well I balled my eyes out. Watching him regain consciousness after the op, yup, I balled my eyes out. And after all was said and done I treasured him a million times more.

April 27, 2011 at 1:36 am

Claire, too, had an inguinal hernia and required surgery at 8 weeks…. I suppose it’s not all that unheard of, but when it’s your little babe going under…..whew!

I hear you about the rough patches making you a stronger parent~ I remember holding her all night once when she was throwing up repeatedly and getting it in her hair, on her clothes, everywhere….. bath at 2AM followed by complete wardrobe change for us both and I was thinking “wow, nothing makes you really feel like a parent like this, like this right here” You go into a different mode and sure enough, that vulnerability peeks through making itself known and you push through it as best you can….

And I’ve only got the one. Can’t imagine what it must be like to have your heart times three walking around outside of your body~


Here’s to you and to parenting through the hard spots and coming out shining. And here’s to healing lungs and fingernails, too~

April 27, 2011 at 2:04 am

Well done to you and your family for coping so well. It sounds like all three of your little ones have had a bit of a tough time. No matter how big or how small the problem is, it will always be a worry when your baby is concerned. I think you’re all really brave and deserve big rewards, whether it’s Merlot or Smarties! x

April 27, 2011 at 3:37 am

lovely post. My friend’s 4-year-old son was just bit by a dog in the face. It was a too close call, just missing his eye, but he will be fine and is healing well. Afterwards, my friend and I were talking about how during these times of illness and injury you learn to love your kids more than ever and learn about their strength. And you, as a mom or dad, delve into a deeper level of parenthood. I think you speak to this same feeling….

April 27, 2011 at 5:59 am

Thanks for this post. It reminds me of two o’clock this morning when I was lying next to my burning up toddler. It’s only been 17 months but we’ve had enough experience now to know that, despite your bone-shattering weariness, despite the desperate internal begging for sleep, you still have to keep vigil, to comfort, to Be There. And lord above is it hard work (particularly a few nights in a row) but you wouldn’t have it any other way. Glad to see your littlies are in recovery. Hope the merlot was good.

April 27, 2011 at 9:01 am

Ok, now I’m crying in a cafe. You have my thoughts and my love. Talk soon.

April 27, 2011 at 10:04 am

Oh my goodness, it is so true.
I’ll never forget , 20 years ago when my eldest was a wee baby and had measles.He was so hot and limp in my arms, I remember sitting on the floor holding him and weeping because I was so very frightened. I think that may be the most frightened I’ve ever been, except perhaps the time when he got a concussion and lost his memory for 12 hours, or was it when both my daughters had pneumonia?
Those experiences made me a better parent and helped me realize what is most important.

I’m so glad you are all okay now. Thanks for another lovely post.

April 27, 2011 at 2:13 pm

I thought the post was titled ‘how we became parents’ which freaked me out a little. Those are details and images that I’m not that keen to hear about.

April 27, 2011 at 3:36 pm

I think you really deserve that glass (or three) of merlot after your Easter.

We’ve been pretty lucky so far – nothing major to worry about. Except for an incident when our then 15 month old nearly choked on some grissini in Tuscany, and then developed a chest infection which descended so quickly, that she was fine when we ordered our dinner, and had just about lost her voice by the time she’d finished her penne! I think the grissini had scratched the inside of her throat, allowing an infection to get in. Well that’s my theory anyway!

And I had a dream last night that my 2yo slipped under the bath water and preceded to silently drown while I tried to get him out, but my arms just wouldn’t reach him. I’ve been giving him extra squishy cuddles all day!

Take care, of you as well as your babies!

April 27, 2011 at 8:12 pm

What a well written post. Respect to you for being able to put words like that together after such a worrying and stressful time. Fortunately there havent been too many scary moments for me yet with my 3 year old and 10 month old, the worse being when a clucky lady who I’d known for just a short time was holding child number one at 6 months old, was knocked flying off her feet by a pack of large dogs at the dog park. Both went flying in the air (separately) and my heart leapt up out of my mouth and felt like it was suspended up in the air with them. The time felt like it stopped and I’m ashamed to say I was so beside myself making sure my baby was ok when they fell to the floor that I barely checked the lady was ok. I didnt sleep all night and had to keep going in and checking….I needed a large glass of merlot to recover as well!

April 27, 2011 at 8:18 pm

That was a beautiful post fiona. Being a parent has made me feel the most vulnerable I have ever felt in my life and at other times the strongest. On that note, I am going to go and give my 2 a big squeezy cuddle! xx

April 27, 2011 at 8:27 pm

I am truly ‘in the moment’ when I am with my kids when they are really sick. The world completely stops and time evaporates. Thankfully I have not had this too often and I am so grateful for that. Unfortunately I’m am probably at my most grateful after recovery from serious illness. Your post is very moving. Thanks

April 27, 2011 at 9:31 pm

Yikes indeed! hey who knew hernias were so common in babies? I didn’t!

April 27, 2011 at 9:32 pm

goodness me, I hope the little fella is all right.

April 27, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Far out! on the grissini and the dreadful dream! I had to outlaw cheese anytime close to bedtime to combat dreams like that!

April 27, 2011 at 9:36 pm

oh. my. goodness. I think I would have fainted on the spot seeing my six month old accidentally thrown like that. And they WONDER why people without children look ten years younger.

April 27, 2011 at 10:08 pm


I think they should definitely allow merlot in the children’s ward.

You are amazing.

Kim Grambeau
April 27, 2011 at 10:25 pm

Oh dear. *snif* Thank you for such a thoughtful and uncannily timed post.

We had an accident good friday also which saw us with our 22 month old in the burns unit of the childrens hospital. 1200km, and no option but to leave our 4 year old for the first time overnight, makes for one very tired and sad, but hugely greateful and thankful Mumma.

I hope your littlies are on the mend and sleeping soundly at home while you enjoy a Merlot or two.

April 28, 2011 at 10:38 am

I don’t think I could do the waking up / sleeping with an anaesthetic…. I had an operation when O was 3 months old, and unfortunately I was waiting by myself in the pre-theatre freezing room when the kids started coming out of surgery and out of anaesthetic right next to me. I was holding up ok until that point and then the sound of them crying and not sure what was going on etc just drove me over the edge and I lost it entirely… When the anaethetist turned up a few minutes later I was a blubbering mess and just kept repeating, “Are they ok? What is happening to them? Please make them stop crying.”…..

Lorna Reevell
April 28, 2011 at 3:58 pm

An amazing post. You’ve put into words ‘that’ feeling I get when I have to care for my poorly wee ones. For me it starts with that slightly sickening flip of the stomach, and then progresses into the dawn of realisation that it is going to be a loooong night! With my eldest’s condition trips to the hospital are not uncommon, and although I suffer with the same thing, it always amazes me how I disregard what I am going through in an instant if I have to focus on my girls. You truly have a way with words, thank you for sharing them. Lorna x

April 29, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Oh, that’s some hard yards for you alright. Pneumonia’s bad, no doubt there, bit that story – eek! Made me feel a litttle sick just reading it. Glad everyone’s okay now.

May 4, 2011 at 11:35 pm

I just found your blog and this story really resonated. Our eldest is plagued by recurring, severe croup. You’re right, nothing makes you feel more vulnerable than a sick little one.

May 5, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Oh yes yes yes…. such true real words!

I hope you are all recovering….

Christie-Childhood 101
May 9, 2011 at 10:33 pm

Oh I have tears. What an Easter, you poor mama xx

May 15, 2011 at 9:06 pm

I’ve never been good with some typical mommy things, but I am always the one they come to with bumps and tummy aches, as opposed to Daddy. So thank you for making me feel better about my shortcomings.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *