I nurse her to sleep. She loves the cuddle time, just the two of us. I usually sing to her – some nights she picks the songs, sometimes she joins me. We watch the stars of her night-light change colours, wave goodnight to all of them and drift off to sleep. While I wait for her to finish feeding, which can be minutes after she has nodded off, I set on the timer on my mobile for 30 seconds and count her breathing.
Yes, you read that right. I count her breathing, with one hand on her stomach to check if there is too much of a dip. Then, I count again when she has gone to sleep. On days that I’m worried or she has a cold, I get her father to double-check. It has become a routine for us now. It is stressful but when it seems like the breaths are coming too fast or too shallow, we have to look for other signs of asthma so we don’t end up in the ER. We do it every night. We also do it during the daytime when we feel like she may be overtired or breathing heavily or too stuffy.
Recently, I came across a now-static blog that had a post titled ‘Let me count your breathing‘. I immediately followed the link. It led me to a treasure trove of information on a child with asthma. I haven’t been through all the links or pages of the blog yet but I randomly clicked through a couple and decided that I would definitely be going back there again for a detailed look. The post reminded me how it isn’t normal for other people to be counting their children’s breathing. In fact, most people I know have their children sleeping in a room of their own. That’s something I dare not do, for how would I know if her breathing changed during the night?
As I went through the comments on that post, I realised that there were many other people like us whose kids were in and out of hospitals, due to asthma, during the initial days. So, it wasn’t just us. We weren’t crazy parents, worried for nothing, ending up in the ER ever so often. This is how it is for everyone else with an asthmatic child. It gets better, they all say. The episodes will reduce, ER visits stop and she will be able to live a normal life. Normal like the other children even.
For a long time I hoped that this wasn’t really asthma and that she would pick up by the time she is 2 years old. After all, reactive airways doesn’t have to be asthma, which can only be diagnosed with certainty at the age of 2. After watching her react to temperature changes and too much exertion, both of which are known asthma triggers, I have accepted that it is probably asthma.
When every other parent I know complained about sleepless nights during the newborn days, I would count myself lucky that I never had to worry about that. She was a good sleeper except for the nightly feeds, which lasted all of 5 minutes each time – not enough time to fully wake me up. After she started to co-sleep with us, it got even better. Until the asthma came knocking at our door. Looking back, I’d rather have a temporary period of sleepless nights with a newborn than lose sleep over respiratory issues as the baby grows up.
11 breaths per half minute. Sleeping.
Now to go watch some telly. She’ll call me when she wakes up for a feed.