By Stacey Philpot
My husband has an immune system made of steel. I’ve often wondered if he has a stash of kryptonite hidden underneath the bed he isn’t telling me about. A few years ago, when little red dots appeared first on the tips of my fingers and then journeyed up my palms, I told myself I was having a reaction to all the scotch tape I’d used hanging posters in my classroom. I knew it was a reach but it was my first week back in the classroom, and I needed to not have a strange illness. Yes, I also had a sore throat and maybe a spot or two between my toes, but surely they were nothing? Except my then one-year-old daughter looked like a rare spotted cub while sitting in the bathtub that night. Houston, we have a problem.
The pediatrician quickly pronounced her ailments as hand, foot and mouth disease. Without so much as a cursory glance at my hands, she determined I had it as well and recommended I see my doctor. Oh, and I should also not return to my classroom until it resolved as it was contagious.
That night as I crawled into bed my husband leaned over to kiss me goodnight.
“What are you doing?” I shrieked. “I’m contaminated!” His response? “I’m not worried about it.” Also, his response to the many times I’ve been contaminated with strep, mono, various rashes we couldn’t figure out, the flu—- in fact no matter what I’ve had this has been his response. And you know what? His kryptonite has always worked.
Not so for everyone in our home, though. My sweet little one got mono from me as a baby. Last year, dear friends of ours stayed with us in the in-between time while one home had to be vacated and the new home wasn’t yet completed. Even though I sprayed the house with Lysol multiple times a day, working double time to protect us all from one another’s germs—– I was horrified to watch as one by one their children came down with strep throat just days after I had.
For this reason, I generally kiss my kids on the back of the head. I don’t hold other people’s children. The truth is, I never know what contagions I might be carrying. I feel like I’ve been run over by a bus much of the time, the only thing worse than this is knowing I’m also responsible for making someone else feel the same, even temporarily.
This fear of infecting others has led me to say, “But seriously, stop kissing me!” more than once. What if my husband’s powers run out? What if we push his luck too far? I can be “fine” at four o’clock and contemplating the ER by eight. What if he kissed me at five?
Recently, I had an episode after IVIG in which there was a concern I might have had meningitis. There was also a concern I might have given it to my daughter whose fever had reached 104.2 that morning as her eyes rolled back in her head. As they set my room up for “precautions,” I could hear my daughter in the room next to me, but I couldn’t get to her. I wasn’t allowed to see her or touch her. All I could think about was her tiny little lips, kissing me goodnight the night before. What had I done to her?
In the end, it was determined her issues were viral, and it wasn’t long before I heard her laughing at cartoons on the T.V., her fever well controlled. For me, it seems maybe I’ve added to my collection of strange ailments, this one being vasculitis.
As a mom, I never thought there would be a day when love would look like withholding affection, but it seems that day might be here. I never want to look at my child and wonder if I’m the cause of such pain again.
It’s a delicate balance, affection and protection, and one I feel we’ll be perfecting for many years to come.
So what about you? How do you balance germs and affection?
Stacey is an author, goofball and avid reader. You can find her blog at chronicallywhole.com where she endeavors to encourage other warriors like herself along in their journey of battling for health and discovering wholeness. She is mom to Hayden and Avery, stepmom to Julie and wife to Ryan (a smarty pants who works at NASA and logs their whole life on spreadsheets and pie charts, true story!) She has a strange affinity for eating whole meals in bed (don’t tell anyone) and is convinced smelling old books will make her smarter.