“You are burning up!”
I yell at someone in my dream. The feeling is too real. I wake up with a gasp and realize that Laddu is in bed, her arm resting on mine. Her skin is hot to touch. I touch her forehead and with a sigh push the covers off and make my way downstairs at 2:00 AM.
It is 5:00 AM before I fall back asleep only for the alarm to go off thirty minutes later. The morning is chaotic between fixing lunches, making breakfast, keeping an eye on all three kids and being summoned to the bathroom every few minutes so Laddu can try to throw up. I am relieved when the older two leave for the bus stop.
When the house is quiet once again and the medicine has worked its magic, I sit on the sofa with Laddu lying on me. Her eyes flutter open and shut, her skin is wan and she looks sick. I caress her face, my touch light and hopefully soothing. Her breathing eases and she goes to sleep. I lean back and close my eyes.
Instead of sleep, I feel a sense of gratitude. I imagine what the morning would have been like if I had to leave to work as well. We would have made do, one of us staying home and juggling the calls, work, and a sick child. Instead today I caught up on my sleep, fed my child by hand and watched her as she instinctively gravitated toward me, her body seeking mine as if by an invisible bond. Through the day, she clung, she shadowed me where ever I went. I indulged, I cuddled, I laid my hand on her bare skin as if to absorb the heat from her.
On normal days when she is in daycare, I fantasize about going back to work. I imagine I will find something flexible, something that would let me work from home, a job that will let me arrange my work hours when something like sickness strikes. Even in my fantasy, the guilt sticks to me, it rears its ugly head, telling me things I know are true. I am well aware generations of women before I have done this, all the women I know around me are doing this, the juggling, the multitasking and leading happy, actualized selves. A part of me longs for that. A part of me demurs, selfishly reaching for this uncomplicated life.
The battle is real.