It goes without saying, but Gastro sucks.
It hit our house in a slow rolling wave since Thursday night, and all plans went out the window. We assumed my daughter drank a bit too much pool water at her first swim lesson of the season. Maybe the excitement of a very different week, schedule wise, was throwing her off. Even a change in diet, like too much acid or tomato sauce can cause her to struggle with reflex and give us a sleepless night. We’ve been through enough tummy troubles with her to know to anticipate signs of indigestion at least once a week or so.
I mean, she comes by it honestly. As a child I frequently struggled with nausea as a response to stress and change. And my little 2 (almost 3) year old also inherited my car sickness streak. So we tried not to read too far into the stomach upset Thursday night, writing it off as just another time where her belly was being fussy and we’d just need to help ease her back to sleep with the usual methods – cuddles, elevating her head, massaging her belly, and laying out a towel or two just in case she couldn’t call us fast enough.
But by 2:00 AM and my third laundry run of the night, our hopes were dashed and we had to face the truth.
It was our first major sickness of 2020.
My kids get unfairly sick. And my husband and I normally catch it soon after.
We are playing Childhood Illness Bingo and I’m close to a full damn card at this point. Hand and Foot, Pneumonia (3 times), Chicken Pox, flus and colds and infections and Athlete’s Foot. You name it, I’ve got an old prescription for it in the medicine cabinet.
My mother, bless her heart, has been quoted as saying that prior to me introducing grandchildren into her world, she was the healthiest person around. And now, we are known as Patient Zero and she blames every illness on my two adorable little snot factories.
I don’t argue that point at all.
I feel like I try to manage their diets well, I’m fastidious about clean hands and food preparation. We stop them from picking their noses, from chewing their hands. We disinfect, we take vitamins, we open the windows and make sure to get outside. We are up to date on our medical needs, but I can’t seem to keep these kids healthy no matter what I try!
So my son seems fine for most of the weekend, but we are watching him like he’s that B-List character in a Zombie movie who has a suspicous scratch he’s not telling anyone about. You know he’s gonna turn and devour the rest of the cast and crew at an inopportune moment, and you’re just waiting for the reveal. We don’t trust his pleasant demeanour and high energy, and we try to segregate them from each other, but we all know that’s useless.
Once there’s an infected in your midst, someone’s gonna get bit and the next thing you know, you’re defending the Winchester with a cricket bat, or hiding under a dumpster for a half a season.
Sure enough, at 10:00 PM Saturday night, we hear a woeful cry from my son’s room where he is sitting perched over a pile of sick (by the way, red grapes have the same effect as red beets do, so don’t freak out).
He looks up at my husband, with all the grave seriousness of a child just recently turned 5 and now full of wisdom and intones: “I think you were right Daddy, I shouldn’t have eaten that Kinder Egg after dinner.”
As the night wears on, and I end up sleeping in his room with him (sleeping being a vague term for laying awake, alternately fetching and then holding and then rinsing out a puke bucket for 7 hours) and my husband takes up camp in my daughter’s room, we have to face the facts. We’ve got gastro.
Our weekend then dissolves into non-stop Disney movies, crackers, and rationning water intake to try and stop the inevitable vomit from overdoing too much liquids.
Might I just say: GOD BLESS YOU whoever thought up Pedialyte popsicles? And the same goes to family members who drop them off at your door.
We are living in our Pyjamas and laying on the couch, and perhaps by bedtime Sunday night, we might be moving up the other side of the hill where at least my daughter is speaking again and making demands. My son has been able to keep down food and is only whiny, and clingy.
And that, above everything else, is what I struggle with the most it seems.
On a regular day, Mommy is Queen in this house and my poor husband is left second best through no fault of his own. He could spend all day doting on them and be fantastically silly, reward with treats and potty-mouth and feed them nothing but pizza and Lucky Charms and let them play with power tools and basically be the coolest Dad since that dude who CGI’d his kid a lightsaber – and they’d still beg for Mommy. And it gets overwhelming some days.
I get touched-out easily.
You know what I mean? When you’ve been over-touched, over-stimulated, over-NEEDED all day long and you can’t handle someone being in your personal space for even one second more. That feeling of your skin crawling, of feeling like you are one light brush away from wanting to never feel sensation ever again. I got this a lot when my children were infants, especially when I had my second child. My son was a mess of neediness, and I felt like David Attenborough should be narrating as he climbed all over me like one of those poor monkeys.
I’ve always had an open door policy on hugging, and I shower my kids with physical affection, sometimes to the tune of them squealing ‘STOP MOM’, but then they quickly snuggle back in. I want them to know they can always come to me for that, that I will give them a soft place to land no matter what age they are. I’m from the generation that was ruined – I meant raised on ‘Love you Forever‘.
But sometimes I hit my limit.
My job is emotionally demanding and draining, and then needing to care for my children’s physical, emotional and mental needs leaves me feel pretty much empty by the end of the day. And when I’ve been glued to my child, even in his sleep, for the better part of 72 hours, every hug feels like I’m suffocating and I’d give anything for just 15 minutes to myself.
It’s Sunday night now and things seem to have leveled out. Both kids are eating some scant amounts of toast and eggs, and both finally have colour back in their cheeks. Perhaps the worst has passed, so we all breathe a collective sigh and try to return to some normalcy. I was sitting down to eat, perhaps the first real meal I’d had since Friday. If my husband is reading this, YES, thank you, I know it’s my own fault for not taking the time, but you saw what happened! I’d barely gotten the plate in front of me before the chorus started up:
“Mommy, sit beside ME.”
“Mommy, I NEED you.”
“Mommy, I sit on your lap.”
“Mommy Mommy MOMMY!”
I’m grateful for my husband, who tried to rationalize with my adoring fans that Mommy had just sat down and she needed to eat too, that it was rude to interrupt like that.
Kids don’t rationalize as I’m sure you know. Especially sick kids.
My 5 year old throws himself dramatically on the couch, crying into the pillows.
“BUT I WANT HER!” he wails piteously and Daddy frowns, trying to distract while I just shovel food into my mouth, preparing to either flee or cry because I can’t imagine being used as a human teddy bear again right now.
“Why do you want her?”
“Because she cuddles me,” my son sniffles and looks at me with big doe eyes from over the edge of the sectional, and my resolve breaks. Because to him, all his physical needs were met but one: comfort. There was nothing else to do but rest and despite all my open affection and snuggling for the entire weekend, it still wasn’t enough for a child who was feeling rotten and only wanted the one thing they knew somehow made them feel better no matter what.
I set my fork down, climb over the couch cushions and open my arms and my octopus child launches onto me with a shy tremulous little smile. He snuggles into my neck and sighs like he used to when he was a baby and whispers “My Mommy”, as if I really am all that he needs in the entire world.
It was like a battery getting recharged and I knew I’d signed up for being his outlet for the rest of my life. And soon I’d be that Mom in the book, crawling on the floor to whisper my song of love to my teenager from the doorway. The moral of that story is how quick times flies, but love can move through our entire lives, even with something as simple as rocking our child in our arms. He was little right now, and sick to boot. And all he needed was his Mommy.
It’s hard to remember sometimes, when you’re elbow deep in laundry with throw-up buckets are all around you, and you’re just trying to manage hydration levels to avoid a trip to the Emergency Room, that sometimes no amount of medical help will ever be quite as effective as a mother’s hug, especially to a child. I might be touched out and needing a break, but he was feeling emotionally unstable too. He was just learning to manage his emotions. I’ve had 30 years of practice. I needed to be the bigger person in that moment and know that I can get my rest later, and today was not the day to set a firm foot down when the whole house was quarantined with what felt like the plague.
I am still refusing to sleep in his bed again tonight, mind you,, and I’m glad everyone has stopped throwing up so I can shower in peace, but I guess it can’t be too bad to have a super power like a Mom Hug.