I'm home this afternoon with my oldest J-baby and what seems to be the end of her stomach bug that has plagued her for the last 5 days. We saw our fantastic family doctor today and he assured me that I was doing everything I could do (despite feeling like one giant walking mom-failure) and that she'll be better in no time. She's just got to get it all out of her system. So after a trip to WM for more Lysol, a lunch of chicken soup and some snuggle time on the couch watching "The Lego Movie" my sweet little girl looks up at me and says "Mom, do you feel better?" I asked "What do you mean? YOU are the one who has been so sick, not me." She replied "Yeah but you've been really upset lately. You don't look the same, your hair isn't pretty and you've cried a lot." Talk about a powerful revelation moment-- my poor child who has quite literally puked her guts up the last several days is worried about me and how I'm handling it. And I guess its pretty apparent that I don't handle it very well.
Early Saturday morning as she wretched after simply drinking some watered down Gatorade I googled "vomiting in children" to re-read the list of recommended do's and don'ts that I've read countless times before but still read again just to reconfirm that I'm doing the right things for her. However a big piece of the article jumped out at me that I haven't paid much attention to before: "Vomiting can be very frightening for children, so its important to remain calm and reassure them that they're going to be ok." Even though I read it and comprehended it, I still haven't found a way to put this into action.
In fact, I've probably worried about EVERYTHING else other than how she must be feeling emotionally: did she stain the carpet, will this wash out of those stuffed animals, will the vomit smell come out of my car, what if she makes her little brother/sister sick (which she did), how will I get caught up at work after missing these days, what if she gets dehydrated/how much will an ER bill cost us if we have to take her in, etc... my mind just starts spitting out these questions and what-ifs and worst case scenarios in rapid fire. I screamed in her face GET IN THE BATHROOM when she stood in the hall right outside the bathroom door and gagged. I called Jaret screaming as she threw up while secured in her carseat right behind my driver's seat, then pulled over and stripped her down in a parking lot while not saying a word to her because I was holding my breath and fighting my own gag reflex. I've asked her a thousand times "Are you ok?" and then made an involuntary disapproving facial expression every time she didn't automatically answer me with a "yes" right away... so many times now that if I even look at her she immediately says "Mommy I'm fine" even if she isn't. She is just trying to avoid my series of impending questions.
Now rereading everything I've typed, I'm disgusted at myself.. What kind of mother makes her child feel BAD about being sick? She can't help it, I know she would if she could. She doesn't like to get sick, she hates being confined to the couch or not being able to eat her usual snacks or be around her siblings for fear of sharing germs. I know its not her fault. I'm not trying to make her feel this way, and its not at all my intention in the words I've said or the faces I've made.
I've always had this crippling aversion to vomit. Just ask my mother, or especially my little brother. Once when he was probably close to Jailyn's age, he told me he had a stomachache while I was babysitting him and I basically locked him in the bathroom-- not the big "comfortable" bathroom in the house we grew up in, with thick rugs on the floor and a padded vanity bench to sit on in front of my mother's makeup counter, and a big bathtub and shower in case he DID throw up and needed to clean himself up-- nope, I threw him into the hallway powder room. Just slightly bigger than a closet, with a toilet and pedestal sink, and cold hardwood floors. And I think he stayed there for a good 45 minutes until I stopped gagging myself, called my grandparents and convinced them that it was an emergency, and they came over. I held the door to the bathroom from the outside and told him he could not come out until he either felt better or someone else arrived to take care of him. This was only one example of the many times I quite literally lost my cool when he was sick as we grew up... The time he got the stomach flu while on a mini family vacation to Hot Springs and we had to cut our trip short to come home... I rode the entire way home (4-5 hours?) with headphones on, volume all the way up, and my head buried in a pillow to block any "smells". I think by the time we got home, my dad was more concerned with my well-being than my brother's. The poor kid-- I probably scarred him for life.
Ultimately I think vomiting scares me because it is so out of my control. I mean, really-- you CAN'T control it. No one can. As an adult you can usually recognize the signs and get yourself to an appropriate place before anything becomes embarrassing or messy. But children can't always recognize it in time,or don't know what to recognize as a "sign" until its right upon them or its too late. Then there's the mess, and the embarrassment if it happens in the wrong place, and the ever-present fear of it happening in public. More so, there's the fear of not knowing the difference between just a stomach bug versus the possibility of something worse: a symptom of a concussion, appendicitis, an obstruction, or worse. My mind spins in circles over what could happen, what it could mean, what do I do, how do I prevent it?
I don't know why I'm like this. I guess everyone has their quirks, and this is one of mine. Fortunately for me, my husband's strengths fill in my weaknesses and this is a prime example of that intertwining of our relationship. While I run in the other direction when one of the kids is sick, he runs to them. He holds their hair, pats them on the back, hugs them and talks softly, telling them it will be ok. He is more nurturing than I am. Do you know how horrible a feeling it is to realize that someone else can be more nurturing to your child than you can? Than you're capable of? Thankfully its him, and he doesn't fault me for this. He knows its just the way I'm wired. If in the midst of one of these moments one of the girls asks where Mommy is, he just says "She's getting you a drink" or "She's getting your bed cleaned up" and leaves out the fact that I'm probably putting Vicks up my nose and holding my breath while pacing in circles.
Shortly after Jailyn's question to me, she dozed off. Curled up with her pillow and blanket (atop the sheet and pool towel she's laying on that is protecting my beige couch) she leaned up against me and fell asleep. I was still thinking about her concern for me and hadn't answered her before she dozed off. I think about the way she asked me, and the words she used--
1. "You don't look the same" = I'm assuming she's referring to the fact that I haven't worn a bit of makeup all week. I've spent every morning running around putting extra towels on the floorboard of my car, switching out loads of laundry, and spraying Lysol on everything after the kids have touched it. Who has time for makeup? I'm not even sure where my makeup bag is.
2. "Your hair isn't pretty" = I have spent probably a total of ten minutes on my hair in the last three days. Its out of my face and is (relatively) clean, but I haven't had time to curl/straighten/tease/hairspray it. My "signature" look has been absent this week, I am fully aware of it. Since she enjoys fixing her hair in the mirror with me in the mornings, sharing hairspray and picking out hairclips together for her, I know that the absence of this part of our routine is evident to her.
3. "You've cried a lot" = This part probably stings the most of all. The anxiety of knowing one or more of my family members are sick has kept me up at night, and when I'm tired I become overly emotional, easily upset and once the tears start they don't stop. I have jokingly told Jaret before that the pregnancy hormones never really left after I had Jackson, as I cry easily and often and at the drop of a hat when anything stirs up my emotions... This is true tenfold when I'm stressed or anxious. Tears are my trigger reaction. So when my child tells me "I'm going to throw up" or wakes me up on the one night that I was fast asleep and says "Mommy, I threw up in my bed", you got it-- here come the waterworks. Of course children interpret crying and tears in the only way that makes sense to them, that they can relate to: something is upsetting me. I'm hurt in some way. My child thinks that by being sick, she's hurting me. How do I explain to her that I'm just tired, and worried about her, and sick of cleaning and laundry and Lysol and Clorox?
But really, she doesn't need this explanation. Or should I say-- she really doesn't need a REASON for this explanation, because I need to just get it together. "Suck it up" is a popular phrase that I do not particularly appreciate and therefore do not use, but it seems appropriate now. I need to suck it up-- my ridiculous worry and anxiety about things that are outside of my control-- and instead focus on what is more important: reassuring my child that even though she feels crummy now, she'll be fine. The stain on the carpet doesn't really matter (it'll just blend in with all the others) and if the stuffed animals never smell the same, we'll throw them away and find new ones. The car will air out, and my boss has children-- she understands. She will help me get caught up at work. All of those things are so petty, and shouldn't even hold a candle to the importance of making sure my daughter knows that I'm always there for her, no matter what happens. That I won't get so wrapped up in the "what-ifs" to forget that I'm so fortunate to have otherwise healthy children. I have friends who would bend over backwards to clean up the wrath of the occasional stomach flu, instead of dealing with terminal or chronic illnesses of their children... friends who worry daily about things that I can't comprehend, like their children's disabilities or social anxieties or disorders... or worse, friends who have lost their babies and wish it was them who could take a sick day from work to sit on the couch and rub their sickly child's back as they sleep, but instead are faced with another day without their child.
So when she wakes up, she'll find a mom with pretty hair and some makeup on, excited to refill her Gatorade cup and make her another bowl of soup, let her pick the next Disney movie we watch, and pat her on the back if she can't keep her soup down. Most of all, this mom will do her best to keep the tears at bay. I can sleep later, the carpet doesn't matter, and work will always be waiting for me. My little girl won't always need me or want me to take care of her, and I don't want to miss that while I've got it.