Being Ill, Vertically

by Natali Drake
Originally Published: 

I have a chest infection. In fact, I may well have Pneumonia, TB, Bronchitis, Whooping Cough, Bubonic Plague… Being a self-employed mother of two, going to the doctors is currently number 57 on my to do list so I am currently self medicating and waiting it out.

After a rather enthusiastic bout of coughing last night, I lay in bed thinking back to my luxury years, (i.e. pre-children), where being ill was a bit of a treat. I would wake up with a slight sniffle on a Monday morning (and in most cases a hangover), put on my Oscar-nomination croaky voice and explain to my then-boss that although I was raring to get to work I couldn’t risk passing on the dreaded bug to my work colleagues. I would insist that it was in everyone’s best interest if I stayed at home and recovered, to which he would agree and I would silently celebrate my day off.

Needless to say this was back in the day before everyone had work laptops and was able to ‘log in’ to work 24/7. I would then roll over and sleep (remember what that was?) until noon, make myself a bacon sandwich (for purely medicinal reasons) and stare at daytime TV until the sun set… all without getting out of my PJs. On some occasions, when my croaky voice wasn’t put on, I would even have the odd visit from my mum bringing me home-made chicken soup; or the then-boyfriend-now-husband would call from the chemist offering to buy me cough drops and Aloe Vera infused tissues. Oh, how I long for those sick days!

Unfortunately, I no longer have anyone to call in sick to, and having moved to Spain, my mum’s soup-for-the-soul would most probably get spilled and arrive too cold if she had to bring it over. When I call her to tell I’m under the weather she laughs, not cruelly but wryly. Or more in the ‘ha, welcome to the mom club, I’ve been waiting for you to join’ kinda way she has done since I gave birth. She has, after all, patiently waited 30 years to watch me suffer the injustices I put her through. I whine and moan and she parts with her latest nugget of motherhood: If us moms have the audacity to be ill, we can only do so vertically. We won’t get sympathy, we won’t get concern and we most definitely won’t get help. In fact, there is no point in scaring the family with the thought of them being mother-less for a few days, save that for when you are really at death’s door…then you can quite rightly terrify the shit out of them. But until your limbs are hanging off,or your head is on backwards, don’t worry them.

She also reminded me that since the day I held a birthday party for my two-year-old three days after giving birth to her sister, I am now sitting upon a very high Superwoman perch from which I can no longer jump down from. Hubby doesn’t seem too concerned either. This morning for instance, after keeping the house awake with my honking cough – the neighbors probably wondering why we are housing a gaggle of very pissed off geese – my husband said, ‘how about you go to bed…’ (I was hoping that was the end of the sentence, it wasn’t.) ‘…in the spare room tonight. I have a busy day tomorrow and need my sleep.’

So, I’m pushing on through. After a week of hacking, honking, and retching I have unearthed an unused packet of antibiotics that the internet has kindly informed me will suffice for a chest infection. I have also downed a few glugs directly from a bottle of some black tar-like medicine that looks like it has come directly from the bowels of the devil himself, and smells like it too. Neither of them is working but at least I am trying.

So, I’m into my second week of sounding like an old man with a bad 60-a-day habit. I secretly imagine my new husky voice makes me sound sexy, but in reality it just means I can no longer reach the high notes on the Disney songs – much to my kids’ relief. This afternoon I had a particularly violent coughing fit. I was on the phone to a client, my veg boiling over and my three-year-old on the pot shouting that she had ‘finished’.

Hanging up the phone, I stumbled to the bathroom doubled over, tears streaming down my face and unable to catch my breath. My five-year-old came running in calling my name, her face etched with concern.

‘Don’t worry,’ I gasp, holding on to the towel rail for support. ‘Mummy is fine.’

‘I know,’ she replies. ‘I just want to know when my dinner will be ready.’

And that, ladies and gentleman, is being ill, vertically.

Related post: Sick Day

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