Resident Parents

Yes, that is what we are called. Informally, you get allocated this badge by either:

  1. Being held hostage in a children’s ward for longer than one night
  2. Had your 3rd+ open access admission
  3. Arrived in the ward after at least 2 sleepless nights which would give you the appropriate dress code, hair style and slightly demented aura necessary to qualify (which is automatic for 1 & 2)

Now, what we resident parents find funny and the things we talk about might offend you, you may think we are completely insensitive and you may think that we are horribly blasĂ© about the pain and suffering of our children… we are not. In general, we are so horrifically traumatised by what is going on and the fact we are completely and totally useless/helpless to do anything about it – our only relief is to attempt to make light of it through black humour. 

Anyone that has sat up all night with a sick child can tell you how heart wrenchingly horrible it is – to watch someone little and completely helpless in so much distress or pain is one of the worst things in the world. Now imagine doing that every day, imagine having to hold and console them through constant blood tests, injections, horrible tasting medicines… watch them cry because they are starving hungry and their surgery has been delayed or seeing the pain coming back before they’re allowed another dose of painkillers… all of that is what you have in common with that other haggard person in the parents room attempting to make tea.

Now, you will always be able to identify the long term resident by the fact they know where the sugar, tea and coffee stash is kept – they also know where to park for free, how to operate the microwave and how not to set the toaster on fire by accident. They are also the nicest, most reassuring people to meet on the ward. You’re not on your own, they are surviving so you can survive too… good, bad and absolutely no change at all – it’s all possible.

The things every resident parent gets:

Jealous when another parent gets to go home with their child and you’re still being held hostage at the hospital. This can be visceral – you want to be the better person and feel happy for them, but some days it’s just not possible. It’s not fair, it’s not right… especially if they’ve been in for less time than you, and especially if you liked them. I miss certain parents because they become really good company… then they’re gone. You’re on you’re own again. (Well, not really. But that’s what it feels like).

Exasperated with parents that are falling apart, in tears, completely hysterical… then you find out that they’re only in for 2 days and their child has a tummy bug / cold or simply needs to sit under the mood lights for a few hours with jaundice. You do try to reason with yourself – they do not have your perspective, so this, to them, is a serious as your chronically ill child. In your head it is still okay to scream at them ‘SERIOUSLY?!!!’ as long as you don’t say it out loud. Also, genuinely the best thing you can do for them is tell them what is wrong with your baby – give them perspective. They all snap out of it when they look at you and think ‘shit… this could be so much worse’

Angry, frustrated and cross when Doctors don’t listen to you and you turn out to be right. Either meaning you’ve been held hostage in hospital for longer than you needed to be, or your child is still poorly when they could have been better. As a general rule – we parents have no medical training, we do however have a superpower – understanding OUR child. We know when a vomit is them having eaten too much and when it’s an infection, we know just by looking at them whether they are not right and we can tell the difference between tired cry, distressed cry, hungry cry, I have no idea why I’m crying cry, nappy cry, pain cry and I’m trying to decide whether or not to cry whimper. The consultant I had the most faith in was the one that said ‘rule 1 in paediatrics – listen to everything the parent is telling you. They are the expert on their child’

Completely broken when you’re watching your child hurting and can do nothing about it. This is the point you go to the parents room and find someone to talk to – nurses, doctors, counsellors and other family members will never get it the same way that other person in the kitchen making tea does and they will ALWAYS stop for 5-10 minutes to listen and put you back together. It’s just what resident parents do.


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