Every part of my body aches. My temperature is 38.5, yet I’m shivering with cold. My eyes are streaming so much I can barely see. My nose is red raw because I have been blowing and wiping it constantly. I can’t breathe through my nose. I’ve been coughing so much my head is pounding with a permanent headache. My voice is nothing but a whimpering squeak. My sallow, grey skin scares me when I look in the mirror. I’m so tired, yet the coughing and sneezing keeps me awake half the night.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is swine flu. Influenza virus A/H1N1pdm09, to give it its full medical name. And it has well and truly wiped me out for the past eight days.
It started innocuously enough with a sore throat and a slight temperature last Sunday. I didn’t think anything of it. In fact, I was joking it was day two of a hangover following a few drinks I’d had on the Friday night with the mums from school. I went to teach my Sunday night yoga class as usual, putting on a big smile and guiding my students through their 75 minutes of dynamic flow. It was only when I got home that it properly hit me how rubbish I was feeling, so I had an early night thinking that’d do the trick.
By the time I woke in the morning, I felt terrible. I still didn’t realise it was flu though, I thought it was a cold that would shift in a couple of days and that I’d just have to grin and bear it. Cardiff Daddy needed to leave for work and I had three kids to look after and a big work deadline. I didn’t have time to be ill. As I’ve written on my blog before, you can’t call in sick when you have little people to look after. Or when you are self-employed.
In fairness, Cardiff Daddy could see I was really struggling and managed to take Little Miss E, our six-year-old eldest child, to school while I dosed up on paracetamol and drank hot blackcurrant and honey. I cancelled the plans I had for my boys that morning, tried my best to entertain them with wooden railways and super heroes…. But as much as I tried to convince myself I was okay, I really wasn’t. I soon realised the best bet was to put Paw Patrol on Netflix and cuddle up on the sofa with them. Little Man O, now 4.5, was a dream, bringing me tissues and telling me he hoped I felt better soon. He couldn’t believe his luck watching so much telly in one go. Toddler boy I, my two-year-old youngest child, was more of a challenge though, clambering all over me and tipping all the toys all over the floor. It was a long and difficult morning.
Cardiff Daddy used his lunch hour to take Little Man to afternoon pre-school. I have no idea how I managed to do the school pick up that day, or the following day. I could tell from the expressions on the faces of the other mums that I must have looked horrendous. But what else could I do?!
My kids had fish fingers and chips for tea two nights in a row – and even preparing that wiped me out. As soon as Cardiff Daddy got home from work I collapsed on the sofa without even saying a word. He juggled his work load the next day to do the school runs and a friend offered to help me out after school and preschool the day after that, taking my eldest two home to hers for tea. I have never been so grateful for help. I somehow made it to the doctor’s surgery on the fourth day, toddler in tow, where my GP agreed with my self-diagnoses that what I had was flu. “Pretty likely to be swine flu”, he said. “It’s rife at the moment.”
I’ve had flu before. Twice, in fact. Once pre-kids and once about three years ago, when I was a mum of two. It was my hardest ever week as a parent and ever since then I’ve paid a tenner every winter for the flu vaccine in the hope I would escape ever feeling that poorly whist in charge of kids again.
Sadly for me, it turns out this year’s strain of the flu has mutated so the injection doesn’t really help. Despite being otherwise fit and healthy, I seem to be especially susceptible to flu for some unknown reason.
And so here I am, day 8, Easter Sunday, in bed in my pyjamas, and still feeling horrendous. My temperature has settled. But I’m still bunged up, coughing and spluttering, incredibly tired and wondering if I will ever feel better. I’m keeping everything crossed my children don’t come down with it. Seeing them as poorly as I am now would break my heart.
I’m gutted to have had to cancel all the family day trips we had planned over the Easter weekend. But I’m grateful the long weekend means Cardiff Daddy is home from work, meaning I can hide in bed for a few days while he takes charge of child care duties. Even though being in bed is the best thing for me, it’s been difficult. I’d been so looking forward to some quality family time. I was gutted when they went out for the day on an Easter egg hunt at Dyffryn Gardens without me and cried at all the photos he sent me of them enjoying their day out. It’s lovely for them to do fun things just with their daddy and obviously I’d rather they were out having fun than stuck at home, but it’s not like I missed out because I had something fun planned, or because I was working. Flu sucks.
It’s difficult being poorly when you are the primary carer for your children. It’s also difficult being poorly when you are self-employed and don’t have sick pay or a colleague to hold the fort for you. I had work that had to get done those first few days and masses to catch up on when I do eventually feel better.
Flu is one of those words that some people bandy about when they have the slightest sniffle. Please believe me when I tell you the flu is not the same as a heavy cold. If you’re not sure if you’ve ever had flu, then believe me, you’ve never had it. You would definitely know about it. It’s absolutely horrendous.
Here’s the NHS’s latest advice on swine flu. Anyone who can relate to this article, you have my utter sympathy. Do let me know on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page or by tweeting me on @cardiffmummy
You can see all of my blog posts about parenting on the Family Life section of Cardiff Mummy Says.