By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
Having kids is great – as long as you can stand all the bodily fluids. Because you’re definitely gonna see some, smell some and clean up way more of them than you ever suspected.
Tom and I are coming off an ugly weekend which was besieged by a stomach bug that crawled through the intestines of three-fifths of our family. Three-year-old Kate was the first to go down. She woke up Friday in the middle of the night crying. By the time I reached her bed, it and she were partially covered with a mangled mush of what was once her lunch. Disgusting, I know, but it happens. So Tom and I shifted into “sick-kid management mode” – I clean up the kid and he cleans up whatever the kid threw up.
(Note to young, single women everywhere: If you’re smart, you will look for a good, kind-hearted man with a stomach strong enough to enable him to perform this highly valuable service. It might not sound important right now, but, trust me, it is. A man who will strip a bed and scrub carpet in the middle of the night is a man who truly loves his family.)
The great thing about toddlers is that, most of the time, they bounce back quickly. As soon as I’d cleaned her up and changed her pajamas, Kate was fast asleep on my bed and snoozed peacefully until morning. It was as she’d been cured by the simple act of shifting her stomach into reverse for just a moment or two. By daybreak, she was up and asking for chocolate milk and Saturday morning cartoons.
We kept her quarantined in our bed with a cup of 7-Up and dry toast so we could make sure the virus had run its course. Tired from the interrupted sleep, I forced myself to get up and get ready to take the boys to a birthday party at an indoor play center. They were both eager to go and had a great time while we were there. But on the way home, I started to feel a little – off. I couldn’t quite pinpoint it, but something didn’t feel right. I was queasy and tired and a little cold. And, though I’d barely eaten all day, I wasn’t hungry at all – a fact which certainly confirmed illness.
So I crawled into bed for a nap with a heating pad. Tom and 5-year-old Jack joined me, and we snoozed on and off for a few hours while Kate and Adam played nearby. When we got up later, Jack felt better and Tom seemed fine. But I was worse. Every muscle in my body ached, and I had a taste in my mouth that can only be described as week-old roadkill. No amount of teeth-brushing would shake it, either.
We skipped church that Sunday because I figured spreading a pestilence like the one we had wouldn’t be the Christian thing to do. By Sunday afternoon, I was finally beginning to get some relief. I even managed to make and eat some macaroni and cheese, which is one of Jack’s favorite meals. Jack, on the other hand, was suddenly disinterested. Not hungry, he said. “Uh-oh,” I thought.
By nightfall, the bug was closing in on poor Jack. A hot bath and a dose of ibuprofen did nothing to scare it off. Around 1 a.m., I heard a cough and then a loud cry from the bedroom. I shook Tom awake and said “It’s Jack,” and we both shifted back into our familiar “clean up kid, and clean up mess” roles.
Judging by the length of time it took Tom to clean up the mess and the foul smell coming from that room, I knew it was particularly bad, and I was grateful Tom was able to be our one-man Haz-Mat crew. I have one of those sympathetic stomachs that would probably force me to add to the mess if I’d entered the area. Since I’m great at cuddling a sick kid, I focused on that instead.
Just like his sister two days prior, Jack fell asleep again quickly and rested well all night with no fever. I kept him home from school today to be sure we were past the puking, and he was. We both began to feel better as the day wore on.