When you have cystic fibrosis, you are told to watch out for germs, bacteria, and situations that could cause you to get sick. The common cold could escalate and -- the next thing you know -- you're in the hospital hooked up to the all-too-familiar IV drip. So, what do you do when you have CF and two little kids?
Getting married to the love of my life and becoming a father to our two boys have been the highlights of my 35 years. I became a parent seven years ago and realized from the beginning that there is a very delicate balance between parenthood and having CF. Kids bring so much incredible joy and laughter to your life, but they also bring all sorts of germs (and who knows what else). How can I protect my compromised immune system from a constantly snotty nose, a fever, or a cough when all I really want to do is hold my sick kiddo tight and snuggle him until he feels better?
I don't have all the answers and am constantly learning and re-evaluating to find my own balance. However, here are a couple of tips that I've found helpful over the past seven years:
- Ask for help. Making sure you have help -- whether from a spouse, family, or friends -- is probably the most important tip. Having someone who is willing to do extra sick duty, wipe noses, get coughed on and thrown up on, and potentially even catch whatever the kids have so that you can try your best not to catch it, as well, is a gift.
- Combine extra sleep with extra treatments. It sometimes feels impossible to fit in extra sleep or extra treatments, but it can make a huge difference when it comes to helping your body fight off any bugs you may pick up from your little ones.
- Dab while you cough. In our house, we do our best to remember to cough into elbows and not directly into someone's (especially daddy's) face. I know, I know -- it seems simple -- but try telling that to a 3-year-old or a 6-year-old who does not feel well. It takes major training and patience, but coughing into elbows is crucial for keeping germs at bay.
- Sanitize! Lysol® and hand washing -- and lots of it! I think that one is pretty self-explanatory.
- Ask for a heads up. If you have friends who also have kids, ask them to give you a heads up if their children have a cold or are just getting over one. You can then make an informed decision to continue with the get together or possibly reschedule.
Ultimately, you cannot keep yourself (or your kids) in a bubble. And, if your kids are anything like mine, they love to play in the dirt, leaves, mud, and whatever else looks fun at the moment. I believe that staying healthy is more about being smart than being overly cautious. Honestly, how many of us parents have been out with our kids and had to do the two-finger or inside-of-the-shirt nose wipe for a runny nose because you didn't have a tissue? All of us. But after the wipe, don't forget to find the closest place to wash your hands.
At some point, everyone gets sick -- your kids, your significant other, and you. So when it happens, do the best you can to provide tender care, while also protecting yourself. Learn to ask for help and to not be afraid to reschedule a gathering when it's in your best interest. I've learned that you can't stop the germs, but you can do your best to contain them.
In the end, building a bond with your child through comfort and those precious moments when all your kiddos want to do is to curl up in your arms makes it all worth it. It's why we become parents in the first place.