She’d had fevers before. She’s stood on my legs and smiled until the moment before a nurse jabbed a needle into the pudgy rolls of her thighs at which point her small face contorts in agony. I’ve held her close to my chest as she cried a long piercing wail of pain, but when Joanie’s temperature heated for no discernible reason, I was terrified. We were in New York, staying at a modern boutique hotel with a pungently perfumed lobby and nothing was familiar. I woke up early to get some medication at the pharmacy down the road. The air stank of piss and old groceries and the city that was so fascinating the day before now left me skittish. I was eager to get back home where I know the brands of baby medicine, and temperature is measured in Celsius, and healthcare is free.
At home Joanie’s eyes returned to their usual bright state, her cheeks flushed and her arms strengthened, but her fever persisted. Eric assured me she was mostly healthy as I peered down into the crib stroking my little baby’s warm forehead.
“Maybe we should take her to the hospital. Fever’s are dangerous for infants.”
“She’s okay. It’s just a slight fever and she certainly isn’t lethargic.”
“But she’s so small.”
“If it’s like this tomorrow we’ll call Dr. Olav.”
He rubbed my back and stoked Joanie’s soft peach fuzz hair. “Come to bed.”
“I’m going to sleep here.”
“Come to bed,” he repeated, and I did, but only to wake up an hour later and sneak back to the nursery where I curled up on the foam play mat by the crib and slept with my head on Elmo’s tummy, waking up every half hour to check on her breathing.
The next morning Eric laughed and shook his head at the sight of me on the floor with my glasses hanging from one ear. We took Joanie’s temperature and her fever had subsided. She smiled up at us and kicked her legs with the force we had come to expect from her.
“See, she’s fine.”
In our family dynamic, Eric is the one with the calm approach. I tend towards the more spastic and worried. If it wasn’t for him, we would have been to the emergency room at least fifteen times in the last five and a half months.
“Why is she scratching her ear like that?”
“What’s that red mark?”
“She’s coughing! She’s coughing!”
Joanie is a very healthy baby. She amazes the ladies at the daycare with her strength and energy. Even when she’s coughing or feverish she is happy and vivacious. Still, even though we haven’t used it yet, it’s nice to know we can take her to the emergency room and not be charged the equivalent of our life savings. Those few hours in the States with a sick child reminded me of how lucky we are to be born in a country with free healthcare. It blows my mind that people have to sacrifice so much just to get their kids basic health services. Our system in Canada may not be perfect but at least it helps more people than it cripples.