The other night, I had just drifted off to sleep. Our cat was curled up against my tummy, purring away and giving me some extra warmth. I was reaching that really good point of sleep when a small, familiar voice woke me up with a phrase that always makes me panic:
“Mum. I don’t feel so good.”
It was the baby, obviously, and his stomach was upset. He’s never been very good about describing his symptoms, but from what I could gather, he’d just experienced one of those vomit-burps. I’m sure you know what I mean. It starts out as a burp and then takes a frightening detour and though you emerge with your digestive system intact for the moment, it freaks you out. Am I getting ready to spew? Or was it just a slight malfunction? I need to know how much I need to dread the next few minutes/hours and whether or not I should move my operations to the bathroom.
I felt my stomach drop, particularly when the baby squeezed out a few tears and rested his head on my chest (partially because I felt bad for the little guy and partially because if there was going to be spewing happening, I did not want his face mere inches from mine).
I interrogated him on the state of his stomach (“Do you think you need to barf? Have you pooped today? On a scale of 1 to 10, how gross does your stomach feel?”) and urged him to try going to the bathroom. I gave him a Tums, even though I wasn’t sure he was old enough to have one yet, and after a few minutes he declared that he thought he was okay.
He climbed back into bed and I asked him if he wanted a bucket, just in case. He did. I climbed back into my bed and stared at the ceiling and waited and listened.
Though I’ve gotten better at handling digestive eruptions since I’ve been a mom, I’m still prone to panic at the thought of one of us coming down with any kind of stomach bug because I can’t deal with vomit. And, of course, because I’ve turned overthinking things into a sport, I’m sure that this speaks volumes about me as an adult and a parent.
I can remember at least two occasions in which the baby has puked and I have handed the reigns over to another parental figure with shaking hands. Once was when he was about a year old and we were living with my mom. It wasn’t the first time he had been sick, but for whatever reason, I stood in the doorway of his room, wide-eyed, unable to move, and asked my mom to please clean him up for me.
Another time was about a year ago and we had made the unfortunate decision to eat at Wendy’s earlier that evening. Regurgitated chicken nuggets are, I’m pretty sure, the scent of Hell. I couldn’t deal and the husband heroically did all of the dirty work.
Because of our recent crushing blows, I’ve been really upset. Like, really upset. And I’m questioning every aspect of my life and how I’m doing. My evaluation of myself results in pretty low marks and my inability to deal with vomit or even the threat of vomit threw me.
I don’t remember my mom ever having trouble taking care of me. I can distinctly recall a particularly nasty stomach bug that I had in third grade that seemed to go on for days and had me spending my nights in my parents’ bed, next to my mom, and when I had to get sick I would KICK her. She would wake up and hold back my hair and direct me toward the bucket. Calm, sleepy, unfazed, and certainly not dry heaving behind me.
I don’t know that I could do that and it’s just the latest in a long list of things that I’m feeling…incapable of. I’m having trouble going to sleep at a reasonable hour, getting up at a reasonable hour, doing laundry, participating in any cleaning activities, exercising, dieting, getting lunches and clothes ready for the next day, figuring out what I want to do about job stuff, raising a man, being a partner to a man.
Am I just overwhelmed? Or am I just incapable?