(Yar! There be graphic descriptions of tummy ickiness ahead!)
Some months ago, at a time in my life when I was obviously feeling quite optimistic and spry, Tom mentioned that some friends of his were going to Munich for Oktoberfest. He had been invited, he said, but was not going. He cited Moira’s as-yet-unscheduled surgery and wanting to keep the fall open.
“Not go?!” Cried I, the supportive wife. “Nonsense. You’re going. What a great opportunity. We’ll schedule her surgery afterward.”
“But I have to go away for a six-day work trip the week before. Won’t that be too much alone time?”
“Nonsense!” I cried again. So convinced was I of my prowess as Super-Earth-Mother that I said, nay, insisted that Tom join his fellow lads on a trip that I then dubbed “Bro-Cation.” I had every confidence that I could manage two trips flying solo while also organizing a playgroup or two, several speech therapy appointments, Little Gym baby tumbling for Moira, preschool for Maggie, and keeping a tidy, organized home.
The first week went well enough. Tom emailed me on Thursday with a shopping list for the 30+ person dinner we were hosting the following Monday (I told you we were busy). Thursday night I decided that I was the Grownup-In-Charge, goddammit, so we were going to get some delicious fish ‘n chips takeout.
(Oooh! Plot point! Haddock-shaped hubris!)
That night I read on Facebook that one of my playgroup friends and her ENTIRE family of three kids and Dad had been felled by an especially swift-moving and intense strain of stomach virus. Because I’m nothing if not slow on the uptake, it didn’t register to me that I should be concerned…until the next morning, when I went to get Maggie up for school without putting my contacts in first.
J. Maarten Troost once wrote “There’s nothing like a dead pig in the backyard to help determine the day’s priorities.” And so it also goes when one comes within an inch of sitting in a pile of regurgitated fried food in your toddler’s bed. I knew we were in trouble when I went to pat her hair and the telltale stickiness around her face met my fingers. After twenty years of chronic sinusitis, my sense of smell routinely fails me, which has been both a blessing and a curse along my mothering journey.
Luckily that was the only round for Miss Margaret. Naps, laundry, and a day spent entirely in the living room soon put her right again. Tom came home, spent a few days with us, and the haddock came out of the blankets–of all the special wash-alone handmades on her bed, guess which one she hit? If your answer is “Every damn one, resulting in 5 loads of laundry with one item each,” congratulations. You’ve got a bright future in vomit.
Tom left for Munich the following Sunday, and I was sure we were in the clear. I even made a point of saying to several friends “Yeah, Maggie had it but the rest of us were fine. Went through pretty quickly. No problems at all.”
(Ooooh! Plot point! EVEN MORE HUBRIS WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU WOMAN.)
Needless to say, by the time 6pm on Monday night rolled in, I had been taken down hard. How hard?
Clipped. Flipped. Freakin’ flattened.
I hustled the girls off to bed as fast as I could and assessed the situation. Moira still–STILL–wakes up 3-4 times a night and nurses. There was just no way I could keep down enough water to preserve any sort of milk supply. She was just going to have to drink water from her sippy…and scream. I put on the soothing tones of When Harry Met Sally and let the fever wrack me. When I finally heard Moira do her usual 10pm siren-cry, it took me a full ten minutes to get up the stairs–I had to keep stopping to revisit my new familiar, Mr. Bucket.
Turns out this time she was crying for a reason, and that reason was covering her entire crib, the wall, and three layers of bedding. But it’s true what they say: mothers, when pressed, can find enormous reserves of strength. In the time it took me to clean her up, clean her bed, and soil yet another towel trying to catch the remains of her dinner, I didn’t even come close to feeling sick.
And now that at least a few of you have run to the phone to make sure your birth control pill prescriptions are current, let me assure you that we made it through the night. Maggie was fed a steady diet of “Mickey’s Clubhouse” the following day and Moira was in disgustingly fine fettle after her brief run-in with the virus. I grimly managed to get through the day, bitterly pining for some magical person to show up at my door with a bottle of Powerade. Tom called from Munich that afternoon to check in:
“How are you? I left the beer hall early this afternoon to see how you are.”
“No! No! Go back and drink! Carry on! Enjoy your vacation. Someone in this family is going to have fun this week, so help me.”
Tom bravely set himself about the task of having fun for all of us, came home a few days later, full of promises to care for the girls all weekend so I could rest, and then promptly fell ill himself. Obviously.
Moral of the story? Never agree to a solo vacation unless YOU are the one taking it. And also? I can survive just about anything…as long as I keep an emergency Powerade in the cabinet.