As I rocked my toddler before bed, the thought came from nowhere: “You know, we haven’t had a stomach bug in a while…”
On its heels: “CRAP. That’s always what I think right before we get one.”
Like clockwork, the barfing begins the next morning (well, middle of the night). I almost laugh at my magical fortune-telling superpowers, but I can barely manage to run back and forth between the preschooler in the tub and the bedding. Good Lord, the bedding. What did she eat?!? I don’t remember having anything like that for dinner. And it’s all down the walls and the sides of the mattress and…
Sanitize cycle. We just, for the first time in fifteen years of marriage, got a brand-new washer and dryer. And it has an “oxi-sanitize” cycle in which I add Oxi-clean powder and some puke-laden towels, and it runs for two and a half hours and magically kills whatever caused my kid to expel the contents of her stomach.
I marvel at the timing, thankful (maybe more thankful than the situation warrants) that the bug waited until the week after the new washer and dryer were installed.
The next morning finds me still cleaning. My sorta-smart watch says I got three hours of sleep divided among five different stretches. I’m passing out Gladware™ square bowls that we use for this (and also for leftovers). The count is now three kids down, Daddy in bed dying (I don’t begrudge him this—I’m a bigger nausea/vomiting weenie than he is), one kid still apparently fine, and me.
I feel mildly queasy, and I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been thinking about vomit all day (and have cleaned it out of my bra once already) or because I’m the next victim. Honestly, I’m not sure which I prefer. I don’t want to be down and still have to clean all this up, but I also hate the waiting. As I mentioned, I’m the biggest wuss about nausea—I spend any and all periods of sickness, wondering if I’m going to die and hoping the answer is YES, and SOON. If I’m gonna get this bug, we might as well have it over with.
As I wait for the verdict on the “am I sick or not” question, I flit like a large, sleep-deprived hummingbird between the three sick children while trying to also keep the one healthy kid out of mischief. Everyone is in jammies, and Netflix is on (a standard sick-day provision), and applesauce cups are what’s for breakfast.
In a lull between stomach projections, I look at my kids lying on the floor in various states of malaise, and I feel… settled. Happy? That’s weird.
If there’s a lower form of service than stomach-bug mothering, I’m not sure what it is. But while I would never say I look forward to them, I’ve found the barfing days are, in some ways, my best days.
I’m fully engaged in caring for the physical needs of my children; no other option is available. I’m relying on the grace of God to pull me through what’s bound to be a difficult day—again; I am low on alternatives; this is not the kind of day I can handle on my own with barely a nap’s worth of broken sleep. Because of those two—full presence and reliance on grace—I find myself spontaneously, compulsively, perpetually grateful for every. little. thing. The sanitize cycle on my brand-new washer. Exactly as many towels as I need: I use them as drop cloths for the kids too small to reliably hit a container, and the last one is fouled moments after the dryer sings the little “cycle finished” song. My friend swings by to hand me a coffee (my first of the day!), even though we canceled our get-together so she wouldn’t be exposed to the nastiness. My normally active kids are cuddly. I have water that is clean, running, and HOT, so I can wash off these disgusting children.
The root of the word “humble” is Latin: humus. Ground. These are humble days. And when I’m low to the ground, and my pride is out of the way, I find myself looking upward, and when I’m looking up, I see gifts as He gives them.
The bug was mercifully short, which is always my hope. By the afternoon, they were keeping down liquids and then ate some applesauce and toast right around the time I got sick for real. My husband recovered about the same time the kids did, so I tagged out and whimpered in our bed for several hours. That one kid never got it. I don’t know why.
But I’m thankful.
Robin Chapman is a full-time imperfect Jesus lover, wife, and homeschooling mama to four babies, ages one to seven. When she isn’t buried in children or hiding from them, she enjoys reading, photography, and sharing stories on her blog, where she’d love to connect with you! You can also find her on Facebook or Instagram… or perhaps holed up in her bathroom with some coffee.