Thursday, September 10, 2009

Full Family Flu and Other Sagas in Sickness

With gratitude for good reviews, and H1N1 in the news, thought this excerpt from Twinspiration: Real-Life Advice from Pregnancy through the First Year might be well-timed. Hope you enjoy!

How can you manage when one or both infant twins are sick…especially when they are so young and cannot actually tell you what ails them? Perhaps the best advice is to stay calm, and realize what you can, and cannot control. Certainly, you can control your powers of acute observation.

Make sure before the twins arrive that you have a reliable, pediatrician-recommended infant/child-care medical reference text. My husband used to get very amused upon arriving home from work to a coffee table (or bed) full of texts opened to chapters on whatever affliction I feared the twins might suffering from. Sure, it looks silly to those who haven’t spent the day with two babies, one of whom seems out-of-sorts/lethargic, the other who seems to be breathing too rapidly, but the reassurance of knowing what to look for when early symptoms begin to surface helps greatly when an eventual call to the pediatrician may be necessary. (Plenty of times, it wasn’t.)

Before you think the medical books just foster hypochondriacal alarmism, let me tell you; reassurance galore was provided when the tomes revealed our symptoms were incomplete for a life-threatening diagnosis. Equally reassuring was acquiring the knowledge of what we should be keeping an eye out for…an elevated fever or excessive grogginess…whatever might help the doctor in deciphering what ailed our little ones.

You can and should document in writing which baby experiences which atypical symptom, and when. You may feel as though you can remember each and every unique aspect of their dual existence, and perhaps you can. But when you are exhausted, emotionally invested, and maybe even ill yourself, err on the side of safety. We made a point to keep our snot spectrum status/temperature tally/medications menu written down by the phone, so that if the pediatrician call was necessary, we had the up-to-date information on each baby ready for dispensing. My husband also would benefit from check-in calls home and I could accurately relay how everyone was faring.

Even when the medical books declare the twins are not in danger, you often will (and should) call or visit the pediatrician just to see what, if anything, you can do to ease your babies’ discomfort, as well as confirm there is not an undiagnosed problem. On occasion, you may just have a gut feeling “something isn’t right”. Respond accordingly.

Early in our twins’ lives, many well-wishers declared:
“You will know when something is seriously wrong; it’s mother’s intuition.”

Another oft-repeated prediction was:
“You will be able to tell sight-unseen what each cry means.”

Imagine my disheartenment when I did not sense any “intuitive” instincts regarding my newborns’ health. Feelings of gross inadequacy compounded when not only could I not discern what a specific cry “meant”, but frequently I could not determine which baby was even crying!

Please don’t allow yourself to feel incompetent if you experience the same “lack” of maternal mystique. As time passed, my experience, not intuition, increased. My familiarity with what was “normal” and what was out of the ordinary solidified, and allowed me to act with greater expedition and confidence than in those first trying days. Time-earned experience has helped me respond with more “maternal” wisdom than any miraculous birth canal enabled bestowment of magical Mommy powers.

Your twins may manifest symptoms of the same virus/illness differently. For instance in our house, when strep has reared its ugly head, Darren runs a fever and loses appetite. Sarah shows no symptoms until it is well-rooted, then she typically wakes, asks for water, and vomits it up.

As much as you dislike your children being ill, with repeated illnesses of the same ilk, you do familiarize with how your twins individually respond, and can anticipate the course of action you need to take for each. Practice and experience, as unpleasant as they are to acquire, alleviate the extreme anxiety parents feel with repeated occurrences of sickness.

c. 2006, Cheryl Lage from Twinspiration: Real-Life Advice from Pregnancy through the First Year
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Missy (Two Little Monkeys) said...

What a great post from an Great Book! Have I mentioned lately - how much I love your book?
So very true - my identical twins definitely do not share identical symptoms. I am still learning today!!!

♥georgie♥ said...

That is a GREAT exerpt Cheryl...

Rebecca said...

I loved your book when I read it...I should really find it again!

monica said...

Great exerpt! Thanks for sharing!

noble pig said...

I am worried about the flu with my sons asthma. He really goes down when ill. We will have to the vaccinations when they are available.

angie said...

This is excellent. Excellent. I especially like the part about actually documenting......because when it comes down to it, you never remember. :) At least I don't.