LORRAINE CANDY: Rubber golves, 5am showers… and Smartie sandwiches

Rubber golves, 5am showers… and Smartie sandwiches

Dawn is breaking over Britain. Beside me my five-year-old is finally sleeping, curled up on top of the duvet in his Toy Story pants. He looks tiny and fragile, his long black eyelashes so very dark against his deathly white complexion. He’s been vomiting on and off for seven hours.

‘Are my ears on right’ he asked deliriously before exhaustion claimed him. On the other side of me my nine-year-old is snoring. She’s been throwing up for three hours. Her skin is as white as the freezing winter sky outside. A towel (we’ve run out of bowls) is on the floor beside the bed in case she doesn’t make it to the bathroom (again).

Upstairs Mr Candy is lying on the floor next to baby Mabel’s cot. She’s only had one change of clothes and sheets so she’s faring better than her siblings, though of course it’s her, at eight months, we’re most worried about.

Medical miracle: Lorraine Candy writes about the speed with which a nasty bug passes from one tiny body to another tiny body

Medical miracle: Lorraine Candy writes about the speed with which a nasty bug passes from one tiny body to another tiny body

Right now I feel like I’ve been in the trenches of World War I all night (but without the joy of Eddie Redmayne and his Angelina Jolie pout. Birdsong, BBC1. Oh do keep up everyone — I’m more tired than you). It certainly smelt trench-like in here earlier as we scurried between rooms shouting ‘damnit man we need more towels’ and clearing up unmentionable debris.

Note to new parents: when a tummy bug is sweeping through school be mindful of what you give your miniatures for tea. Spaghetti bolognese is not your best option, my friends.

So far only Gracie-in-the-middle remains germ free. Perhaps it’s her ‘Do not enter. Danger of death’ door sign or her handmade ‘police line do not cross’ that’s deterring the viral invasion. Maybe she has a cast-iron stomach. As a toddler she used to secretly lick moss on the patio when she thought I wasn’t looking and it never affected her (thank God it was before we got the dog).

At times like these I wonder if Mr Candy and I did enough ‘due diligence’ before we had baby number four. Amateurs. Obviously we knew it would be hard work but I now realise, lying here after a marathon medical emergency, that there’s many things we didn’t factor in. For example: It takes over an hour to leave the house and even then someone is always wearing inappropriate footwear. Gracie went to school in two left shoes last week. One was her sister's (she’s been referring to her right foot as her fake left foot ever since).

Second, however many batteries you buy you will never have enough for four children’s worth of games (Toys R Us wouldn’t stock enough, quite honestly). Third, we seriously underestimated the bed-time versus drinking-time allocation — it can take up to three hours to get them upstairs, because you can’t man mark the slippery little fellas, then you’re too tired for food or booze.

Fourth, the last baby will never learn to crawl, walk or talk because some one else is always picking her up or answering for her. Fifth, we should buy Rice Krispies in quantities a rugby team would appreciate and not piffle about with one box a week. Six; Pizza Express is not a cheap, quick meal out when there are . . . six of you.

Lorraine compares a houseful of ill children to Birdsong (pictured): 'It certainly smelt trench-like in here earlier as we scurried between rooms shouting

Lorraine compares a houseful of ill children to Birdsong (pictured): 'It certainly smelt trench-like in here earlier as we scurried between rooms shouting “damnit man we need more towels”.'

But perhaps our biggest lack of ‘four-thought’ (see what I did there) concerns the speed with which a nasty bug passes from one tiny body to another tiny body. It’s a medical miracle occurring right under your nose. Far more impressive than the Hadron Collider or cloning sheep. One minute the boy was discussing the merits of a Smartie sandwich (what’s not to like) and the next he was on his knees in front of the loo.

Seconds later everyone else was queuing up behind him and we were doomed to spend the night wandering the house with rubber gloves on and showering at 5am. It’s been grim. The only highlight being the brief moments of delirium: ‘Don’t leave me in the car park’ and ‘You won’t need gravity where we’re going. Or feet’ are my favourite quotes from the sweaty light-headed off-spring.

I am only grateful for one thing: in ten days time we go abroad on holiday and maybe the debit/credit laws of fate mean we won’t be ill for our first flight as a family of six because we’ve had our dose of sickness already. No one can be that unlucky, surely

But now as the sun rises across the country we have to wait: for them to get better, obviously, and for us to get worse.

Lorraine Candy is editor-in-chief of Elle magazine