In the week prior to Valentine's Day, we spent six days in a state of profound sickness and misery, particularly on the part of Little C, but when the little one is sick, everyone is miserable! Over the course of the week she went from a simple fever of 102, to an itchy red rash covering her body, to a fever of over 104, to throwing up (which she NEVER does!) All of this was accompanied by much crying, moaning, very little sleep, and general yuckiness. Lots of pleading inquiries of, "Mama, why does my body hurt so much?" It was not fun at all, but we were somewhat relieved to finally get a diagnosis on the second trip to the doctor in 2 days: a double ear infection, strep throat and scarlet fever. I know, scarlet fever? As my friend Elaine said, it sounds colonial! But apparently it's a normal enough reaction to the strep bacteria in the body. According to Dr. Sears:
There is a characteristic rash that sometimes accompanies strep throat. This appears as fine, red pimples all over the trunk (chest, abdomen and back) that feel rough, almost like sandpaper and may look like a sunburn. This rash, with strep throat, is called Scarlet Fever. Do not worry; this is not serious like it used to be. It is simply the body reacting to a toxin produced by the strep. It does not mean the infection is more serious than strep throat without a rash, and it goes away with treatment.
Once she started on antibiotics, she improved quickly, much to all of our relief. I am not quick to rush to antibiotics, and in fact this was her first round of them since her birth, but this time they were certainly in order. It took a while to get all of our energy back afterwards, though, and it took me a number of nights to start sleeping better again. Something that was a great comfort to me through the ordeal is my beloved book Naturally Healthy Babies and Children by Aviva Jill Romm. Her chapter on "Fever" is excellent, and I frequently revisited it for the reminder that fever itself is not something to be afraid of, but is rather an indication of the body's response to infection. She writes:
The role of fever in illness is not completely understood, but prior to "modern medicine," traditional healers consideredfever to be an innate fire motivated by the body's vital energy to heal the organism during illness or infection. During the past century, Western science has promoted the idea that fever itself is an illness and has sought to suppress it with aspirin, acetaminophen, and antibiotics.
Current research on the human immune system is revealing that fever is not a disease but an immune system enhancer and stimulant. Fevers are now known to cause the production and release of chemicals in our bodies that actually combat infections. Increased temperature may also create an environment inhospitable to the growth of pathogenic organism that in large population in the body can lead to severe consequences. What wise women, mothers, and traditional healers have known for ages, conventional medicine, still in its infancy, is just beginning to acknowledge. We may yet "discover" that it is the widespread suppression of the immune system that is contributing to the rise of autoimmune diseases.
Fever has another effect that often goes unnoticed. When children recover from a fever, they often demonstrate new skills and abilities. It is as if the heat of the fever served as a motivating developmental force. After a fever, a child frequently seems even stronger and healthier than before, as if impurities had been burned away, leaving the pure gold of the child's soul. While none of us wants our children to be ill, in our efforts to eradicate all illnesses with any means necessary, we have forgotten to see the subtler nature of the natural physical response.
That whole last paragraph is fascinating to me. I have observed this in Clara so many times. Perhaps it is just because I was looking for it, but as a baby, she frequently would run a fever, and then we would notice that she had surmounted some developmental hurdle in the days or weeks following. Coincidence? Perhaps, but I am glad to know that I do not need to be afraid of a fever in and of itself. I don't want to romanticize the body and it's natural systems. I know that there is a time for medical intervention, (Certainly, when I had a uterine infection and went into labor at 32 weeks, I was grateful for "Modern Medicine,") but there is so much wisdom to be learned from our bodies and their natural systems, and I want to observe, honor and support the wisdom inherent in my own body and that of my daughter.
So we drank a lot of herbal tea, read a lot of books, snuggled by the wood-stove, and played lots of games of Guess Who? and Go Fish! One good thing that came out of this time is that I feel like in some way it reset our family dynamic. I think Dave and I are looking at Clara with new appreciation and respect (seeing her little body fight this sickness, and her little soul struggle to stay cheery was truly inspiring) and she seems to be more tolerant of our parental care and direction. That awful place of a month or so ago, when it felt like we were constantly battling wills, seems to have passed, at least for now. For all of this, I am grateful...
What are some of your favorite sick-time rituals and healing agents?
Every leaf and branch catches the icy, wet flakes...
I love the way that patterns emerge from the landscape when highlighted with the wet snow...
The view from my window...
Another window view...
The world feels new today, thanks to the blanket of silencing snow, and because we are privy to welcome a new life into the world! My oldest friend birthed a sweet boy yesterday afternoon, and I can hardly think of anything else since hearing the news. Welcome to the world, Eliseo, and congratulations to Kelcey, Alex and Lili! You are all very much loved!
Because February can suck sometimes, (not when in NYC, but more on that later!) I've been collecting images of beauty to share with you in another one of Erin's fabulous photo challenges. Check out her blog to see what beauty she and others have been finding in what feels like the year's longest month. March feels like it's just around the corner, which means we get into maple sugaring season, and MUD season, and I'll need to keep looking for beauty then too. Join in and add to the beauty!
:: a local barn adds color to the landscape ::
:: farm like the earth is your friend. i love that! ::
Seven and a half years ago my beloved and I stood together in a field of flowers, before all the people we loved best in the world, and solemnly pledged our lives to one another.
In retrospect, we were shockingly young, each of us not quite 23. Recently we were teasing my parents about how they could have consented to our wedding and they joked back "You weren't asking for our permission!" And of course we were not. We were madly in love, two dreamers who found in each other a partner in our dreams. We had known each other as casual friends for years, and I deeply trusted the quality of Dave's character. He made me laugh, made me believe the best about myself, made me feel safe. I felt like I could do anything if only I could be with him. We wanted the same things in life, and we wanted a life together.
Of course, as Dorothy Day said (quoting Father Zossima from The Brothers Karamazov) "Love in action compared to love in dreams is a harsh and dreadful thing." We soon found that the feelings of elation that carried us through our mad-cap courtship were no match for the quotidian efforts of daily life. We both have wrestled with depression, and some days, when each of us is struggling to get through the day, our partnership has felt like a cruel match. But we certainly have great compassion for one another, and at our best, we can be a true support and comfort to one another.
After seven and a half years, I can look back and say, "What was the rush?" We both had so much growing up to do. And yet we've done a lot of our growing up together, which has sometimes been exhausting, but has also been a lot of fun.
We used to say that we didn't believe in "The One," because love is a choice that we make each day. While I do still continue to make that daily choice, our years together have woven our lives so tightly into one cloth that Dave has come to be "The One" for me.
"In the name of God, I, Caren, take you, David, to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow."
I love the young, young woman in that picture, who spoke those words seven summers ago. She knew that marriage would be hard, and she had great courage, along with her idealism, to make a vow that she knew would be difficult to keep.
And I am still madly in love with that young, young man who took my hand that day and has not let it go. In many ways, each of us are already different people than we were on our wedding day (and I imagine that we will continue to evolve over a lifetime together), but we have somehow succeeded more often than not in honoring the deep core of one another. We have tried not to shy away from the work that a relationship on this level requires, and while we have often stumbled in this attempt, we have continued to come back to it. I am so grateful for the effort that Dave continues to put into understanding me and to being a faithful husband to me. And of course, becoming parents has brought us together in ways we could not have anticipated. Dave is such a good father, and watching him with our daughter makes me fall in love with him all over again.
So thank you Dave, for being my Valentine, for being my best friend and my partner in life. I love walking this journey with you. I will keep going, bound by my love for you, the vows we made, and this life we are building together. I will not turn away from the work that lies before us, and I will celebrate the story we have already lived. Thank you, thank you, thank you, my love.
Excerpt from "The Country of Marriage" by Wendell Berry: (The entirety of the poem was read my uncle at our wedding.) Read the whole thing here.
Sometimes our life reminds me
of a forest in which there is a graceful clearing
and in that opening a house,
an orchard and garden,
comfortable shades, and flowers
red and yellow in the sun, a pattern
made in the light for the light to return to.
The forest is mostly dark, its ways
to be made anew day after day, the dark
richer than the light and more blessed,
provided we stay brave
enough to keep on going in.
O gracious and everliving God, you have created us male and female in your image: Look mercifully upon this man and this woman who come to you seeking your blessing, and assist them with your grace, that with true fidelity and steadfast love they may honor and keep the promises and vows they make; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. AMEN.