Puke: A Love Story

Photo: Bob McGrath

It was mysterious and somewhat surreal: our two year old vomited at least three times in his crib during nap time without making any kind of retching sound, without crying, without any indication whatsoever.

The monitor was on and we didn’t hear a thing. I happened to be home early from work and our babysitter, Emily, was still here. We went in after his nap and were shocked to see him COVERED in puke. From his hair to his socks. His fingers, his face. The sheets, the crib, the wall, the floor. It was was truly everywhere.

He wasn’t upset, until he saw the mess… and saw us react. (Actually, I think we kept it very cool, considering the volume and scope of the situation.) Emily whisked him to a bath and I started to clean up his room. He has been lucky so far; he hasn’t been sick like this.

And, by the transitive property, I have been lucky to not deal with vomit as a parent, something that I was admittedly dreading. It’s almost as if his body decided to just GO BIG, all at once. Yes, it was pretty gross, but as I hoped it would, my concern trumped my disgust. I ran into the bathroom approximately every 32 seconds to see how he was doing. He was in there laughing and having a grand ol’ time with his bath toys.

He didn’t have a fever. We wondered if it might have been something he ate since he didn’t present any more symptoms, and that was that.

I couldn’t understand his nonchalance around this. In fact, I fixated on the incident. I talked about it with my husband ad nauseum. My babysitter and I kept recounting the scene to each other as if we were doing some kind of CSI investigation, except more of a VSI, Vomit Scene Investigation. How did we not hear anything? How long was he rolling around in it? I couldn’t stop thinking about him in there, alone, and not really understanding what was going on. Poor thing, was it possible he puked in his sleep? And if so, isn’t that really dangerous?

For me, vomiting is a full-out trauma. In fact, whenever I throw up, that’s what I call it: The Trauma. It feels apocalyptic. Like I’m being turned inside out, like I’m a human hurricane. Like I might pass out. Like I might not survive.

Of course, about a week later, I found myself in the midst of my own personal puke fest. There was a snowstorm heading our way that night. All the roads in our county were about to be closed, and it was predicted that many homes in our area would lose power. There I was in quarantine, lights off, convulsing, wondering if I was going to survive. This was part hyperbole, part hypochondria, and part real. It seemed like I was spewing everything I’d eaten in the last six months. My husband came to the bedroom to check on me, but he was mostly taking care of our son.

In between vomiting (which happened for several hours), I couldn’t help thinking about my mom, who died about a year ago. She helped me through several of these Traumas as a kid. She slept with me on the bathroom floor and forced me to drink water between bouts. She held me as I shook with the chills.

That miserable night I missed her and I wanted her with me. I yearned for that comfort only a mother can provide, that assurance that you’re going to be okay, that solidity, that loving presence. I even said, “Mommy” under my breath, as if I were a child again, burrowing under the sweat-soaked bed covers.

I realized this is why I couldn’t stop thinking about my son in his crib alone, vomiting all over the place. Because I would have wanted my mom with me.

Maybe he’ll be stronger, more independent than I. Or maybe he’ll realize how awful this experience is when he gets a bit older and he’ll want me by his side. If so, like my mother did with me, I’ll gladly ride out the puke storm with him. And those right there, are words I never thought I’d type.


Jocelyn Jane Cox writes about the humorous aspects of parenting and homeownership at The Home Tome.

Photo: Bob McGrath


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Comments (4)

  1. MOM2Three

    As someone who has lost her mother, I can absolutely relate to this–there’s something about parenting that connects you to the last generation in a new and deeper way. When they’re not here, you can at least feel them in how they taught you to be a caretaker. My mother lives on every day I act as a mother to my kids.

  2. Nina

    Yes, one of my most fond memories growing up is always my mom taking care of me (vomit and everything). The soup, the damp cloths over the forehead, the letting me sleep in her bed even though I was 11-years-old.

  3. Andrea R.

    This happened to us a few days before you posted it. So crazy. It was on day 4 in his “big boy bed” and after two times, he realized what was happening and told us and even made it to the toilet!!! I was relieved, but I also found it nuts (in a good way) how he was totally fine almost immediately afterward. I remember being so scared when I was little and that happened.