I fell asleep one night listening to the complaints of my four-year-old daughter (yes, we have a family bed, which is fodder for a whole other story at another time). She said, “My mouth doesn’t feel good.”
I did a little investigation (the kind you do with heavy eyelids in the near-pitch darkness) and told her, “Just go to sleep. You’ll feel better in the morning.”
Fast forward to the wee hours of the morning–4:34 AM, to be precise–when I heard the five words a parent never wants to hear: “I need to throw up!”
As soon as those words came out of my daughter’s mouth, the entire contents of her partially digested dinner followed. I barely had time to sit up before I realized two things: one, for someone who hates to get her hands dirty, I had no qualms about cupping my hands together to catch vomit; and two, my daughter needs a lesson in chewing her food better because I was catching whole pieces of upchucked pork chop.
My hubby awoke to my desperate cries: “I need a cup, anything – help, she’s throwing up!” He came to my rescue with a glass from the bathroom counter and managed to catch the last remnants of dinner. While I raced to wash my hands, he cleaned up the bed and our daughter without batting an eye (yes, I married a saint).
At this point, we concluded our daughter had eaten something bad and hoped we had seen the worst of it. She asked for a cup of water and quickly downed it all, proclaiming, “My mouth feels better.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. We all went back to sleep–including our son who had woken up blurry eyed on the other side of me (did I mention we have a family bed?).
Call it a mother’s intuition, but about ten minutes later I decided to take a peek at my daughter to see if she was all right. As soon as I opened my eyes, I saw it coming. My daughter stared back at me helplessly as the dam–a.k.a. her mouth–opened and liquid came shooting out all over my head and into my left eye. I felt the burn as a stinging sensation took over my eye. In that moment I understood the premise behind the movie “Monsters, Inc.”: children are toxic and being touched by them can be fatal.
While hubby did the clean up (again), I jumped into the shower to disinfect. In between my moaning and scrubbing, I understood that we were up against something bigger and more menacing than bad food. Our daughter had the stomach bug.
The bug would cause her to throw up a total of ten times over the next eight hours. If you do the math, that equals an upchuck every 0.8 hours. None of us got any more sleep that night (our son also skipped school the next day due to fatigue).
In the morning I called the advice nurse who prescribed an anti-vomiting med for our dear dehydrated daughter and I finally glimpsed the light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Little did I know what it would take to get through to the other side.
With two kids in tow (one clutching a bright green tupperware container), I drove like a madwoman to the hospital pharmacy. While we waited in line to have the prescription filled, my daughter got to work filling up that tupperware, her little head buried in the bowl. She was still heaving and doing her thing when we reached the front of the line.
I’ll never forget the look on the pharmacist’s face. If anything can make a grown man recoil in horror, it’s this: a vomiting child one foot away. He yelled, “Just give me her number! Go sit down!”
I somehow managed to balance my daughter and the tupperware container with one hand and fish around in my pockets for her medical card with the other. I threw the card at him and wondered how long he would be disinfecting his hands after helping us. There was an upside to it: I had the shortest wait time at the pharmacy, ever.
We returned home with the most wonderful drug in the world and my daughter stopped upchucking long enough to keep some liquids down. After a couple of painfully long days and nights, we emerged from the dark underworld of the stomach virus.
I reveled in finally being free from soiled sheets, pungent tupperware containers and gastric juices in my eye. It was oh-so glorious… until I once again heard those five words a parent never wants to hear, this time coming from my son: “I need to throw up!”
Liwen Y. Ho (a.k.a. Mama Ho) loves her husband and two munchkins and hates germs of all kinds. You can read about her life as a recovering perfectionist at 2square2behip.