Somehow, I managed to avoid getting chicken pox during my childhood. Never thought much about it, since I suffered through measles, mumps, appendicitis, tonsillitis, head lice, two broken arms, pneumonia, allergy shots, and a few hard knocks on the head. I thought I’d caught a break.
One day, my three-year-old daughter comes home from preschool with some red itchy spots that quickly spread all over her body. I’m home with a baby, living in a new neighborhood where I don’t know anyone very well, and my husband is out of town on a business trip. My sister hasn’t had chicken pox either, so she can’t come over to help me. I poll other local family members and the couple of neighbors I’ve just met to ask if they can go to the store for me, since I’m under quarantine and out of milk. After a few days of baking soda baths and medicine for the itchies, my daughter starts to recover. But I’ve clearly been exposed. I notice something that looks like a blister on my leg. Just a little, tiny blister…
Oh. My. God. Within hours, I’m covered with a crazy itching rash that finds its way into every nook and cranny and covers my scalp. And I’m nursing a baby! Did I mention that my husband is NOT AT HOME?!
He finally comes home to a murderously irritated wife who has to spend hours at a time up to her neck in the bathtub, running through boxes of baking soda by the dozen. A horrible, miserable experience. No mirrors, no catching my reflection in a window. I’d put a bag on my head, but it would get soggy in the tub. Just close my eyes and pray for this misery to end. And then I find a tiny little blister on the baby when I’m changing his diaper. Well, what did I expect? Here, a gift from Mom–chicken pox! No need to thank me.
Myles had the lightest case of all, thankfully. I don’t think he even noticed, but I still felt terrible about passing it on to the little guy.
The nurse at the pediatrician’s office stifled a laugh when I told her I had the chicken pox…at age 30. She tried to make me feel better by telling me that she’d just heard from a boy who had to miss his senior prom because he had them. This did not make me feel better. Not at all. You should not laugh in these situations.
The following week, I got a call from a dad whose daughter went to the same preschool as ours. His wife had just come down with the chicken pox. “Can you help her?” he whispered on the phone. “I think she’s ready to jump off the roof.” The story of my plight had made its way through the preschool grapevine.
“Let me talk to her,” I said.
I don’t remember what I told her, but I think she spent the next few days in the bathtub with a large box of baking soda and a bottle of wine nearby.
We all survived, however. No scars, just bad memories.