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Standing outside in the middle of a winter night with a croupy child

Night One

A person with a stethoscope draped around her neck says the bizarre cough tormenting your child is croup. You never forget the sound, even though that conversation happened about 15 years ago. Once you’ve heard croup, you know croup. It knows you, too, because it shows up on your doorstep every winter and parks in at least one kid’s little body.

In the earliest hours of last Sunday, Archie woke with the telltale cough. He barked from his bed, up and into the hallway until he was bedside. I knew what to do, explaining to him we’d go hang out in the bathroom while the hot shower made mounds of steam. He’d breathe it in for about 15 minutes, then we’d go outside into the cold night. Those two things would help his cough calm down.

Kids are funny. He never questioned the cure, he simply went with it. I sat on the toilet lid and pulled him on my lap. He coughed and coughed, but it slowed significantly by the time the mirror was completely obscured. Then, we opened the bathroom door, which humidified the rest of the house to Floridian levels, and tiptoed downstairs.

I peeked out the backdoor. Sometime after I went to bed, it began to snow. I told Archie he would need boots. The first pair I found in the dark were Beatrix’s purple moon boots. I helped him pull them over his footy-pajama’d feet. I found his coat. I found mine. Before we stepped outside, I flipped the backyard Christmas lights on, grateful for the subdued glow. My husband lined our back and side fences with soft white lights, which made it look like a salted rim. The corner plum tree has blue lights draped on the branches. We stood on the patio. It was so quiet. Snow muffles sound and obscures stars. He only coughed twice—once when we first went outside and right before we went inside and back to bed. He slept for several hours in peace.

Experience has taught me the second night of croup is the worst night of croup.

Night Two

Monday’s first hour was barely underway when I woke to his cough. It was loud, rough, and he was really upset. I got up and pulled him from his bed, whispering to him we’d do steam and cold again. Remember how it helped? He nodded. I was worried, remembering a similar night almost a decade ago when I had to take Ryley to the ER because his croup was so bad, he couldn’t breathe.

Instead of sitting in my lap, he parked himself next to the open shower door. He seemed to relish the steam pouring over. Once the mirror was dripping, I turned off the water and we ventured downstairs. He sat on the bottom step and waited for Beatrix’s boots despite the snow melting during the previous day. Coats on, Christmas lights on, we stepped out into the gusty night.

The wind was terrible and disconcerting. Bare tree branches lurched and scraped each other, houses, the fence. But the sky was clear and straight above were dots of stars and a single, strong, steady, brilliant planet. I pointed them out to Archie and thought about how I never really go outside at night any more. If I do, it’s to get something from the van or because someone forgot to check the mail. Mother-approved bedtimes don’t foster a tendency for standing, looking up, staring, being caught by surprise by night’s beauty. The wind was angry but the stars teased: When did I stop caring?

I looked at Archie who was looking at the sky. It had been several minutes since he coughed. We went inside and back to bed. I tucked him in with a prayer. Then, I grabbed my phone and launched an astronomy map app.

The planet we saw was Jupiter, the largest of the large. I’d tell Archie in the morning. It dwarfs our dainty home but that night we dwarfed it, significantly. Reach up and pinch it like a sugar crystal to drop on our little frosted world. The cold night does wonders, for little lungs and for weary, worried mama spirits.

Without night, this would be impossible (also, not our backyard, heh)

7 comments to Standing outside in the middle of a winter night with a croupy child

  • Mom

    Love your imagery. It is great to have the distraction of beauty while taking care of our Archie. I recognize the lights of a certain neighborhood in G. J.

  • Amy

    I often think about how I’m rarely out at night, enjoying the night. Here, even if I am out, the marine layer almost always obscures the stars.

  • I love reading your perspective on life experiences. Although I only have three I understand the “weary worried mama spirit” and I sigh in relief to hear that you understand. Other mamas understand too…
    There is something so magical about the night and getting the chance to get to stand out in it in the cold. Even if it is for the croup! =)

    Thank you for your sweet posts! You gave me a little respite tonight.
    Gretchen Jensen recently posted..Back in the swing of thingsMy Profile

  • Rae

    This is beautiful and I love how you found the beauty in the moment despite lack of sleep and the scariness of croup. (And it is scary! Even when you know it’s normal and it’s going to be okay.)
    Rae recently posted..A pic, a memory, and a new blog.My Profile

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