On Illness, and Love


A couple weeks ago Sophie got sick. She stopped eating yet she needed constant diaper changes. She had a fever. She had a runny nose. She wouldn’t sleep. I gave her Tylenol. I turned PBS on and left it on—a rare treat. I played with her. Read to her. Took her temperature constantly. I tried to comfort her in ways my mom and my mom’s mom and almost everyone’s mom does—soft hand to the forehead (Are you hot?), soft kisses to the cheek (You’ll feel better soon.), looks of worry when she wasn’t looking (Are you going to be OK?).

By the end of the day she was exhausted. I was exhausted. She was crying because she was starving and exhausted and didn’t feel well. I was close to crying because she was starving and exhausted and wasn’t feeling well. So I did what I always do when I’m out of tricks. I turned on my ipod, picked her up and danced. We danced and danced and danced.

And then, after about 20 minutes of dancing, something incredible happened. She fell asleep. As an infant, she fell asleep in my arms constantly. As she grew, she eventually only fell asleep in my arms while nursing—it was then that I’d slip her into her crib for naps. But now she’s mobile. And weaned. And on a nap and bedtime routine. This simply doesn’t happen anymore.

I hated that she was sick but I loved this moment her sickness gave me. When Sophie was an infant I longed for the chance to get things done when holding her, asleep, in my arms. Maybe it’s the grass is always greener, maybe it’s those rose-colored glasses. But whatever it is, whatever you want to call it, I now long for the opposite. While she naps and I’m working on a story or cleaning the house, I long, physically long for the feel of the small heft of her weight in my arms, for the sound of her sleep noises without the static of the monitor, for the warmth of her body against mine.


Yes, I hated that she was sick. But I loved this moment. I loved it.

“The power of love to change bodies is legendary, built into folklore, common sense, and everyday experience. Love moves the flesh, it pushes matter around … Throughout history, ‘tender loving care’ has uniformly been recognized as a valuable element in healing.” —Larry Dossey