When all else fails, laugh and be grateful
The battle lines are drawn. It’s the Wickers versus the insidious stomach bug and finally after much germ warfare, the Wickers are gaining ground and close to a win.
For over a week, I haven been fighting the stomach bug. I’ve been the victim but mostly the medic,
running stumbling to the front lines to provide aid to the fallen. Sleep has been in short-supply. Vomit and diarrhea have not been. My husband was the last to fall victim – right before a weekend where he was scheduled to work 38-hours in three days after working a regular 40-hour work week. Forget the Dr. McDreamy stuff. This is real life. Thankfully, he found coverage for Friday, but he was back at work bright and early Saturday, and I was schlepping the kids to and fro the hospital to bring him plain, hot soup – about the only thing he could stomach for lunch and dinner. I actually kind of liked this duty. I got to see my husband, and I found him looking handsome despite having puked his brains out not too long ago. He glanced back one last time at the minivan before entering the glass doors to his prison for the next two days and smiled, and my heart fluttered the way it always did when we first started dating. I was looking quite fine myself, in an over-sized Notre Dame fleece, black workout pants accented with toddler drool, dog slobber, and unidentifiable smears, no makeup, and hasn’t-been-washed-or-brushed-much-lately hair. No doubt he was filled with feelings of romance as well.
Rachel was our first victim of the virus; it’s been going around the the parish school. She nearly missed hurling on her younger sister who was below her on the bottom bunk. Next up was Madeline. Then a few hours later Mary Elizabeth succumbed. I was exceedingly proud of this little trouper. She came to me just after I’d drifted back to sleep after – brace yourself – extracting big chunks of tilapia studded with rice and veggies from a bathroom sink (poor Madeline couldn’t make it to the toilet in time), and she whispered, “Mommy, I think I have to throw up.” I leapt out of bed with the kind of alacrity only a mom who knows what it’s like to be puked on can do (yes, I once almost got some in my mouth when I scooped up a nauseated, little one) and took her to the toilet. She’s only 4, but Mary was able to make it to the bathroom in time. Later she hurled into the big bowl I’d placed next to her in my bed and didn’t get even a drop of bile stew on the nest of towels I’d surrounded us with. Early the next morning, she woke me up. “I’m hungry,” she said. And she proceeded to eat a normal breakfast. For two days we were all healthy, and I thought to myself, “This is getting easier. The stomach bug isn’t quite as bad when the kids are older and puke doesn’t end up covering every surface area.”
I also figured the rest of us were fine. We’d successfully dodged the germ bullet. Hooray for us. Foolish, foolish woman. At this point, our home was one big Petri dish for germs. Not surprisingly, I woke up Tuesday morning with cramps and was preparing to stoically empty my bowels when my 2-year-old started convulsing beside me in bed. We just so happened to be sick at the exact same time. That’s how bonded I am with my little boy. So my toddler and I tag-teamed it, working hard to expel the demons who had taken control of our innards. I mostly used the toilet. Little Man did better in the bathtub; his aim isn’t as good as mine yet, but he’s getting there after our glorious night together. I got about .5 hours of sleep, and then I woke up the next day and had to take my two oldest to school since my husband had an early meeting, and I was trying to keep him healthy (epic fail, obviously).
As I loaded the kiddos into the van, I first prayed that I wouldn’t get sick in the car and then started to curse myself for deciding not to homeschool again this year since I could have popped in a movie for the kids and stayed in my puke-encrusted PJs all day. Instead, here I was taking my puke-encrusted PJ-wearing-self and driving my kids to school while my 2-year-old screeched at me telling me he was hungry. What the? How do these little people bounce back so quickly? How could he possibly be hungry after a night like that?
When the stomach bug first hit our house, I thought of posting some pity-provoking Facebook update or tweeting something about the puke fest going down in our house, but I decided against it. (I really don’t share every sickness, every flooded basement, or wild animal encounter on social media). The last time the kids ended up blowing chunks (let’s see how many puking euphemisms I can come up with in one post!), we were on a beach vacation. Three out of four kids ended up sick. So did my dad and sister-in-law. She grew so ill she had to go to the ER. Fun stuff. But here’s the thing: It wasn’t fun when it was unfolding, but it was quite funny in the aftermath. Mary Elizabeth still talks about the time she was a mummy at the beach.
Here’s how she spent a day at the beach:
As for why I’m posting about it now is simple. I’m here to say to all the weary, battle worn parents out there: You will survive and you may even find some silver lining in it all – just not in the lining of your intestines. Don’t expect those to be right for a long time. Drink your Kefir. (I am not paid to endorse Kefir, but I should be.)
Yesterday I started being able to eat normally again after my non-intentional Master Cleanse (forget running – the stomach bug will help you fit into your skinny jeans in no time), and I’m already finding humor and glints of gratitude in it all. I think of poor Thomas’s shaking body as I put him in the bathtub and rubbed his back and said to no one in particular, “This is awful,” and he emphatically agreed.
“Yes,” he replied just before he lost his cookies (no cookies had actually been eaten for dinner the night before).
I think of Madeline saying something about how tilapia doesn’t taste very good the second time around and how Mary Elizabeth wanted to be the one to bring her daddy drinks when he was recovering in bed and how she told me I smelled awful the morning after Thomas and I had been in the puke trenches together. I thought of how when Madeline and Rachel came home from school the day I was still recovering and feeling green, they worked together to tidy up the kitchen, make dinner (Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese), and fold towels that had been forgotten in the dryer.
I also found joy in how each child cuddled just a bit closer in the aftermath of their hurling. I found fulfillment in serving my husband. I could not work for him. I could not make his stomach feel better, but I could bring him soup and Kefir as well as a smile. I could joke about the fact that I hadn’t showered in two days and that I was just doing my part to save us money on our utilities. I liked how the kids and I were all holed in together, shut out from the rest of the world and all the distractions and to-dos like bears in hibernation and had nothing but time for games and reading stories.
Life has been kind of crazy lately. We’ve been fighting flooding basements, long work hours for my husband, and the dreaded stomach bug among other stressors; yet, on Friday night I found myself shooting off an email to someone – a stranger no less who is bound to think I’m a wee bit delirious (and perhaps I am after dealing with vomit and diarrhea and skimping on shut-eye for over a week now) – where I made light of the puke-poop fest. And reliving the last week actually me smile. I signed off of my email, kissed a pallid husband whom I love so very much good-night, and felt grateful for the life I’m living even in the midst of all the hazardous waste.