Thursday, 6 October 2011

Diagnosis: Mother

You know those awful women driver jokes? Well, I am one. Or was, until a new friend came into my life - the parking sensor. Ok, so the conversation is limited, but that loyal little alarm has magically reduced the frequency at which I veer into parked cars. It has also prevented my bill-paying husband from carrying out his threat to incinerate my car keys, saved my children from soaking up some inappropriate ‘mummy’ language and lessened the chances of the car repair centre, creating a private parking space with my name on it, funded by my last dozen visits.

Which is why I wish, that a similar piece of technology existed that could be attached to my daughter’s head. Perhaps then, a warning beep-beep-beep-beeeeeeep, would have shocked my 18 month old ball of energy, into avoiding a face-first collision with the corner of my son’s bed.

However, due to lack of funds and engineering skills, when my little girl careered into the solid wooden frame, instead of a useful beep, I simply heard a thud and spontaneous screaming. I say heard, because I was failing to pay attention to my toddler and three year old, as they danced about my son’s, supposedly child-proofed, bedroom. I’d like to explain that I was busy selecting entertaining yet educational bedtime stories, or unfolding two sets of freshly washed pyjamas or arranging teddies in height order in the cot, but I can’t, because in fact, I was scrolling through Facebook on my phone, in case something important had happened to anybody I once met.

I spin around, sweep up my crying daughter and desperately search her face for injury. I panic that she’s hurt her right eye, but she opens it wide enough that I can see its unharmed. She has a tiny red mark on her cheek, but other than that, she’s unscathed. Phew! Then I sweep a strand of hair off her face and Oh Dear God! A huge, golf ball sized lump, with a purple line down the centre, has popped out of her perfect little forehead.

Should I panic? After all, this was not the first time my daughter had received a significant blow to the head. There was the incident when, as a newborn baby, she had been lying angelically on her playmat, next to her older brother and out of nowhere, Toy Story's Buzz Lightyear had whacked her over the head. She had let out a piercing scream and instantly fallen asleep. Possessing no legitimate medical qualifications, I frantically searched Google for ‘head injuries’, while scientifically assessing the impact of the weapon, by hitting myself over the head with it.

Meanwhile my daughter had woken up refreshed, I had a headache and Buzz Lightyear began his three week stint in solitary confinement.

But back to the present…

Now, the reality is, that if you’ve got a ratio of one adult per child in your house and one child has a strange looking lump on their head, you’re probably going to take a trip to A&E, just to be on the safe side. But when you’re alone with two children, whom you’ve been waiting to put to bed, since 5am that morning and you’re only 30 minutes away from achieving that dream, the last thing you fancy doing is spreading panic to the grandparents, by asking them to babysit the healthy child. Because, while they’re sat in front of your TV with your M&S chocolate brownie bucket, you’re pacing the floor of A&E with a hysterical toddler, for four hours, only to be handed a bottle of Calpol by the doctor and sent home.

Yes, unfortunately I speak from experience. Because I’ve spent many an occasion in the children’s A&E waiting room of our local hospital, with my son, when the ratio was in his favour.

And each time, we were surrounded in the blood-stained, pee-lined room, by the obligatory sick kids, who are clearly actors, paid to make the waiting area look busy, to excuse the ridiculous waiting times. There is always, without fail, ‘child with nasty sounding cough’, ‘child throwing up into cardboard tray’ and ‘silent child, who just looks a bit peaky’. None of whom look like they need to be in A&E and all of whom, look like they could pass something much nastier onto my child, than the ailment we came in for.

So on seeing this foreign body on my daughter’s head, I was in no rush to whisk her off to casualty.

There was always the option of calling helpline, NHS Direct. But I didn’t phone them either, because I’d dialled that number a year earlier, when my accident prone daughter had received a similar looking bump to the back of her head.

I’d answered the operator’s standard 100 questions, in order for him to arrange for a nurse to phone me back, so I could answer exactly the same 100 questions.

“Yes she has stopped crying.”

“No she didn’t lose consciousness”

“No there’s no blood.”

“Memory loss? Er hang on”… “small, inarticulate baby - do you remember falling off the sofa?”

I was told to dose the patient up on Calpol and watch her like a (neurotic) hawk over the next 72 hours, for signs of ‘unusual behaviour.’ Which is when paranoia really sets in: Has she fallen asleep or is she unconscious? What’s the real reason she won’t eat this fourth sandwich? Is she trying to tell me something, by bringing me this toy stethoscope? Has she always had that mad look in her eye?

So, remembering the warning signs and not wanting to build up a record of mysterious head injuries, I decided I’d just sporadically jab a bag of frozen peas at my daughter’s forehead every time she ran in my direction, in a vain attempt to bring the swelling down.

And give her Calpol. Which is easier said than done. Because no amount of pleads, bribes and threats, can persuade either of my children to voluntarily swallow the pink stuff. Fortunately, I am very experienced at holding a child in a headlock, while ignoring their pleading eyes and squirting 5ml of medicine down the back of their throat. It is possibly one of my least favourite mothering tasks, besides cooking, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the alternative i.e. not administering the drugs, is far worse.

Because I did that once and my son ended up being carted off in an ambulance, with febrile convulsions, caused by a rapid rise in temperature. Which is not something I’d repeat in a hurry. Mainly, because they insist on taking you to that bloody A&E.

So anyway, my daughter’s head. No A&E, no NHS Direct, Calpol administered, all under control. Only then my husband, picks the only night of the week, I really don’t want him home from work early, to come home from work early.

In he comes, up the stairs, one , two, three..

‘OH MY GOD! She’s fractured her skull!’ he cries.

‘No she hasn’t!’ I insist, with a manic chuckle.

‘How do you know?’ he demands.

Ok, hide the doubt, shift the blame, look confident.

‘Because NHS Direct said?’ I respond.

‘We should take her to A&E,’ he declares.

NHS Direct said not to? ‘I offer.

‘OK, if you’re sure.’

Am I sure? Am I just being lazy? Or am I being sensible? Hmm, maybe I’ll just Google it one more time. Now where’s that phone?