Those words are always so heavily laden with dread but never more so than hearing them at two o'clock in the morning.
It's dark, it's cold and I'm in my deepest sleep. The voice comes from the left of me which is strange 'cause I can feel a small, warm body cuddled up to the right of me. Oh right. The youngest has made his way into my bed sometime earlier, slipping in unnoticed. It's the eldest who's standing next to the bed. Sniffling.
"You'll be ok hon. Just go back to bed and try to sleep it off"
I'm not good at being woken up in the middle of the night. When the boys were newborns I was ok because there was no middle of the night. I was working on a 24 hour clock broken into increments of 'feeds'. Now though, the middle of the night is not a good place for me and I will do anything to stay in bed. Including sending my sick son back to bed without any intervention from me. Which he does.
Exactly 8 minutes later he's back.
"I still feel sick Mum. I feel really, really bad. I need you to come."
So now I'm up. Dressing gown is on and I'm at the medicine cupboard. Thermometer. Check. Kids Panadol. Check. Measuring cup. Check. Cup of water to wash down the Panadol. Check. Deep breath and smiling bedside manner. Check.
He's waiting for me all bundled up in bed. He's miserable which is very unusual for him. My eldest doesn't like a fuss. He hates to be sick so will usually do his best ignore all symptoms and just get on with it. Not tonight though. The thermometer beeps and confirms my lips-on-the-forehead assessment. 36.7C. No temp.
"What do you feel hon?"
"My throat is really sore."
I'm not a doctor but I have had 8 years of diagnostic training. I check his neck. His glands are up and he's a bit tender. Tonsilitis? No fever so probably not. I sit there in the dim light and consider what it could be. And then he coughs.
And he sounds like a seal barking.
"Oh hon, I think you've got croup."
"Is that bad Mum? I feel really bad."
"No hon, it's not bad. I'll make it better."
It's now 2.30am and I'm giving him Panadol. I promise to stay with him until he falls asleep again, which I know will be about the time that the Panadol kicks in. I slowly and gently rub his back and watch his 8 year old face relax.
I'm back in bed just after 3am and immediately I feel warm little feet against my legs. The 5 year old is still there, hogging my pillow. I'm awake now so I mentally prepare for the day ahead which will start in a few hours and which I'm facing with half a tank of fuel. A trip to the doctor; notify the school; cancel my morning's meetings; think about dinner 'cause we're clearly not going out now; be ready for the little one who'll be jealous that the big one is staying home and he's not.
I sigh, no longer pissed off that I've been woken up in the middle of the night. I feel strong. Tired but strong.
I'm a mum. I've got this.