Neurotic Parenting

Shit seems to come on Tuesdays, Terrible Tuesdays: the dog drama, finding out a wonderful friend and neighbour had died, and discovering a cold sore inside my nose, all happened recently on separate Tuesdays. I’d feared the cold sore since getting one just before RB was born. I called 111 for advice as I held back my tears, terrified I would kill my baby. I’d kissed him that day and the NHS website says neonatal herpes, fatal if untreated, can be passed through a cold sore.

111 told me to go to my doctor or pharmacist, both of which were closed. My doctor could give me an appointment in two weeks (in my very white British area I don’t see immigrants taking all the appointments, old white British people on the other hand…) Pharmacists have never been that helpful for definitive advice, in my experience. So I spent the next week washing my hands relentlessly and smothering myself in Zovirax. I even emailed the Royal Society of Paediatricians for more information but got no response. I was driving everyone crazy but them telling me it will be okay will not make it okay. There’s a difference between wishful thinking and positive thinking paired with positive action.

I called the doctor again in the hope of a phone appointment, but it didn’t happen, so after a week of neurosis I insisted on an emergency appointment to get in within a fortnight. I’d have a breakdown if I kept up as I was – I wouldn’t touch RB without washing my now dry and flaky hands. Every time he got anywhere near my face I panicked, which made burping him, feeding him, and generally caring for him, difficult.

The doctor I saw prescribed tablets for a cold sore and a cream incase the infection was bacterial. He mostly made me feel like a neurotic parent but the NHS website makes it sound serious enough. To add to my neurosis the NHS website doesn’t distinguish which symptoms relate to which degree of herpes. If my baby was listless how urgent was it? Had he caught a cold sore on his skin, had it developed into brain damage or was he approaching death? I needed professional advice I could trust because I needed to keep this child in full health.

Now it’s four weeks later and whatever it is is still there. A different doctor yesterday (who didn’t make me feel neurotic) prescribed more anti-coldsore tablets and a different anti-bacterial cream. I still haven’t kissed RB though I’ve stopped washing my hands every 20 minutes. We’re onto a new layer of skin now. RB is safely out of the neonatal zone (which is up to 28 days post birth) so his immune system should be much stronger, but I’m not taking any chances.

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