“Oh, it’s high!” exclaimed the other mother in surprise, holding aloft the thermometer. I gave her a sympathetic smile as I hoisted E out of her carrier to do the same process. How many times have my children had perfectly normal temperatures only for the childcare thermometers to offer up some absurdly high reading?
I tucked the thermometer under E’s arm, waited, and then gasped in surprise myself at the elevated number it showed. “What?” I peered at E suspiciously. “You do not have a fever.”
“Maybe the room’s hot?” suggested their childcare worker, heading over to adjust the air conditioner. The other baby, in the meantime, was having her temperature taken again and, this time, it produced a low reading to her mother’s palpable relief.
I decided to use the same thermometer for E’s second attempt. The number that came back was still high, but within the realms of normal. I frowned to myself and patted her head before handing her over. She must have gotten a bit too warm in her carrier, I reasoned. Her head felt as hot as it always did.
It’s Mr. K who always has a hot head. It’s not E. E’s head is usually cool. It’s been a relief, really, how reassuringly cool her bald head is compared to her bronchitis-ridden brother. Something was amiss.
But she was already settled into her teacher’s arms, as calm as ever. She had played around like normal at home. It was probably nothing.
Reluctantly, I left and headed off to work, but I kept checking my phone throughout the morning. The lack of calls from childcare was reassuring at first, but then my imagination went into overdrive. Perhaps they hadn’t called because they hadn’t had the chance. Perhaps they were too busy rushing E to hospital somewhere because something was really, really wrong, and maybe they had just called R instead and he was rushing to meet them somewhere-…
It was actually more of a relief when I got out of my final class for the morning and found a missed call from R on my phone. Childcare had indeed called him, but only because phone Japanese is not what you would call a strength of mine by any stretch of the imagination. E was not in the emergency ward of a hospital or anything remotely like that, but she did definitely have a fever. In fact, it had gone up to 39 degrees. I was to come and pick her up ASAP.
And so here we are. The 39 reading worried me and had me wondering about
goddamn bloody annoying why is there no vaccine for it roseola so we ended up going via the doctor’s (Mr. K stayed at childcare until afterwards). While he was pleasant and appeared to take me seriously, the doctor just diagnosed a cold (possibly with a wave of his boyband haircut to cap the whole thing off), and told me to come back if E still had a fever on Saturday. Honestly, that doesn’t seem impossible right now. After a nightmare night of her screaming on Wednesday, it seemed like she had turned a corner and her temperature was mostly normal by this afternoon. Now, though, she’s hot again and squirming in her sleep, and I’m searching my inbox for tomorrow’s company’s phone number. At least I don’t have to try to make sure I sound genuinely sick when I’m calling in because my children are sick, hey?
So yes. More cancelled work, more anxious waits as the numbers on the thermometer fly up just a little too quickly, more ambiguous diagnoses and the ongoing unpleasant realisation that, as far as medicine has come, there are an awful lot of things that nobody knows or just nobody bothers with. Whatever immunity E borrowed from me for her first six months has worn off. It’s her turn now.