The baby monitor was jacked up as high as possible. I could hear my little girl breathe as she slept during her first night with a cold. But the sounds weren't comforting me at all, even though my baby was just 20 feet away in our small apartment. I was unreasonably terrified that her stuffed-up nose would keep her from breathing in her sleep, so I camped out on the floor next to her crib. She slept just fine, but I didn't sleep a wink that night. I was an exhausted mess the next day, which made dealing with her fever and crankiness more challenging than necessary.
I told my new-mom friends what I'd done, and most fessed up to holding ridiculous all-night vigils the first time their babies were ill as well. It was a relief to discover that this mommy madness was common. But my stress and fatigue made it really hard to focus on anything else -- work, paying the bills, personal hygiene -- until my baby was healthy again. The good news for all you beginners out there is that with each cold and case of sniffles your little one gets (and she will get them; most healthy children have between six and nine viral infections each year), your anxiety will decrease.
I've been a mom now for four-plus years. I have three sets of small nostrils in my care. These days, a stuffy nose means I rub some mentholatum on the baby's chest and put him to bed. There are still days when one, two, or three of the kids aren't well -- and I'm a wreck. But I've learned what to do to help them feel better and help myself feel energized. I collected the best "my baby's sick!" stay-sane tips that have worked in my house and in the homes of parents I know and respect. Hang in there.
Christina Boyle is a Babytalk contributing editor and freelance writer. While she was writing this, both of her girls had a fever, and her son was doing his best to catch his sisters' germs by chewing on their most beloved toys.