I hear her coughing.
I look at the clock. 2:40 a.m. I wait, listen.
Ah-huh… Ah-huh.. Huh… Ah-huh-huh-huh… Ah-huh… Huh…
“Doug?” I shake him. He’s sound asleep.
Ah-huh… Ah-huh-huh-huh-huh… blech…
I get up, walk to her room, open the door. She’s nestled in the bouncer instead of her crib. The incline helps the mucus drain through her throat.
I assemble the parts of the aspirator, open a vial of nebulizer solution, pinch the vial in half, and squeeze a half-dose into the chamber. I pick her up, sit in the glider, and cradle her in my arms. I flip on the power button of the nebulizer with my big toe and a rumbling and hissing starts. I lower the smiling fish mask to her face. She struggles, flails her head from side to side. Her eyes open and search wildly around the room. She cries. I rock her.
“It’s okay,” I say. “Shh… It’s okay.”
I hum—a hymn from childhood.
She stops struggling, breathes in the mist.
“It’s okay… There you go…”
A few minutes later, she’s asleep, but we’re not finished yet. I grip her head in my arms and then take the nasal bulb from the side table. When I start suctioning out the mucus, her arms flail and knock at my hands. I empty the snot into a burp cloth. Over and over again.
Then I rock her back to sleep. I listen to her breathe, the rattling has lessened.
I finally walk back to bed. 3:15.
I feel that I’ve just fallen asleep when the alarm screams. 5:15. I think about it. Did I wash my hair yesterday? Yes. I pick up my phone to check the weather. It has snowed overnight—about 3 inches. The university is still open. Her daycare is still open. I should probably leave early to be safe. I feel the soreness in my throat again—I’ve picked up another virus from her daycare. I’m still coughing up mucus from the last one. Do I have cough syrup left at work? Should I bring another box of tissues? I run through the day in my head. That… that… that… and that… Do I need that? Oh, and that.
She’s crying now. It’s her hungry cry.
You’ve had less sleep. You’ve felt worse. You are fierce. So get up.