Our first Christmas together was absolutely magical and perfect in every way.
I had decided that for our first Christmas together I wanted it to be small and easy, at home, not too intense, just me and my little girl, plus my mum and her partner ideally. As the single person in the family I usually go to either my mum’s or my sister’s house for Christmas (or visiting my dad and brother in Oz). My house isn’t really big enough to host everyone at mine, (I only own 5 chairs and my table couldn’t fit much more than than anyway!). I could technically fit everyone in to sleep but it would be a crush and in such a small space it starts to get a little claustrophobic very quickly.
This year both my mum and my sister had invited me to their respective houses, however after living in my lovely house for 8 years I have never had a Christmas at home and I really wanted that for our first Christmas together. Mum’s partner had already committed to hosting his large extended family for Christmas – approximately 20 people, which would have just been a bit hectic and overwhelming for both of us. However it meant that they couldn’t come down to mine for Christmas either, so we would have been on our own. But as my mum and her partner were in London for a Christmas party on the 21st anyway they were able to come to mine on the 22nd-23rd, and so we decided to just move Christmas up a bit! My daughter is only 2 so doesn’t really understand much of what’s going on, but just in case she was listening I spoke to Santa and arranged for him to send a couple of elves with our stockings early.
So on the 22nd they arrived and I cooked a big old Christmas dinner feast and we ate ourselves silly. Then we put the little one to bed and Santa’s elves built a new trampoline for the garden. Stockings were filled and Christmas TV specials were watched.
Then on the 23rd we woke up and opened some presents, checked out the trampoline (which had to be slightly rebuilt as we had managed to put the netting on inside out in the dark the night before!). It was a gorgeous sunny day (a miracle after several days of heavy rain) so we walked to the park and played for a bit, then went to a cafe for a coffee. We walked home and ate leftovers and watched a cheesy movie, and ate chocolate and it was all really relaxed and happy and wonderful.
I was so filled with joy that our first Christmas together was so calm and perfect and everything I had wanted that I got quite emotional about it all, which was just as well as the next couple of days were a little rough.
I had planned to go to a child-friendly carol service on the 24th, but the kid woke up with a cold, cough and a bit of temperature, and was grizzly and teething all day. Multiple screaming meltdowns and the carol singing attempt was a disaster so we had to leave in the middle of the service as she just screamed and screamed the whole way through it.
Christmas Day itself was basically just a Wednesday as far as we were concerned, and we wanted something to do, so we had arranged to volunteer at the Food Bank Christmas lunch, which is held in a massive conference hall, and open to all to come and eat food that would otherwise have gone to waste (around 500 people attend it). They needed volunteers to drive lonely, elderly or vulnerable people there (or in some cases just people who don’t have cars or anyone to spend Christmas with). Our instructions were to drive our allocated person to the venue, sit with them and chat to them during the lunch and then take them home again. All of which I could manage easily with a toddler! Thankfully the lunch was so huge and overwhelming that I think it stopped any potential tantrums in their tracks, and the kid was pretty good the whole day, enthralled by the dancers, people on stilts, face painting and so on, though sadly we were told she was too little for the bouncy castle or a balloon animal. Though I did get a fantastic free caricature of us to keep as a little memento from our first Christmas together.
After that we popped in to wish Merry Christmas to our neighbours and then had a quiet wind-down to bedtime. All fine.
When I went up to bed around 10.45pm I decided to just check on the kid’s temperature just in case as she had been a little grizzly all day. I’m so glad I did – she was burning up, her body was so hot and her temp was in the red zone on the thermometer. I took off her duvet, stripped off her pyjamas, woke her up to give her some Calpol (children’s paracetamol) and water, and then called 111 (the UK’s non-emergency health helpline). The dispatch officer was nice and talked me through a checklist to determine the urgency of the call, and then told me that a Dr would call me back to tell me what to do.
I got a wet flannel to sponge down her hot body, but then googled the NHS advice which said you’re not supposed to sponge down anymore as it can cause babies to go into shock, so I put her pyjamas back on and sat with her for a bit in the rocking chair waiting for the doctor to call. After a while, I decided I may as well carry on putting my own pyjamas on and getting ready for bed, as I was really tired so I put the kid into my bed and got ready for bed too. Lying in the bed an hour later, still waiting for the Dr to call, I set myself an alarm in case I fell asleep so I would wake up to check on her, and eventually I fell asleep too.
The doctor finally called me back at 3am (they were super busy as it was Christmas day and they were understaffed) so I had to wake the kid up again to run through a full checklist (was she conscious, floppy, etc). Her fever was still really high and had not come down so we did another dose of Calpol and he said it was ok to take off her clothes so I stripped her down to her nappy. We eventually went to bed with instructions to try Ibuprofen next time if the fever still wasn’t down after 4 hours, and to wake up and check on her every 2-4 hours. I re-set my alarm and we went back to sleep, though at 5.30am she was still boiling hot, her whole body was radiating heat like a furnace and her temp just wasn’t coming down at all.
By morning we tried some Ibuprofen and headed off to find a pharmacy to assess her (as per the Doc’s instructions) but they were all closed, so we came home. Thankfully her temp finally came down a bit and she seemed fine, playing happily if a little cranky and congested, but after a couple of hours it went back up again and she got really quiet and tired and listless. She barely ate anything for a couple of days, and even refused biscuits and ice cream and juice, which is the way you know your kid is REALLY not feeling well. Thankfully by the second night she had sweated it out a bit and was much better by the 27th, though still a little snuffly. I was also lucky that my sister and family were visiting on Boxing day so there was someone else there the second night – in case her temp had gone up and gotten really scary again at least there was someone there I could wake up for support!
I can honestly say that there is nothing more frightening than being alone and scared at 3am (and at 11pm, and at 12pm, and at 5.30am) with a sick kid whose high temperature refuses to come down, whose hot little body isn’t cooling down and knowing after dosing with medicine there is little else you can do. That was the first moment I wished like hell I wasn’t doing this alone, as having someone else there to be frightened with would have made it so much easier than feeling so scared and completely alone. I am lucky that at 11pm-12pm on Christmas Day some of my friends were still awake and sending me reassuring text messages that helped a little.
So, to sum up, we had the PERFECT Christmas 2 days early, and then the little one got sick at actual Christmas anyway, which was scary, but mainly because it’s the first time she’s been properly sick since she moved in. She’s on the mend now thank goodness and I’ve been on a steep learning curve on colds and fevers in young children, which will hopefully come in handy next time around so there is less fear and panic!