A truly sick story
I never really feared diapers. Maybe it’s because I babysat a lot of kids and learned early on how bad a diaper can look after a small child eats too many raisins. The answer, of course, is very bad. But not deadly.
So, it wasn’t the diaper part of parenting that had me trembling. Rather, it was the explosive possibilities contained in the other end of the child.
(Warning: barf references coming!)
For nineteen months, I lived in fear. And then last week it happened. Lucy puked.
There was some irony involved with the timing of this event. Revisions on my book were due, and one of my editing tasks was to remove gratuitous barf references.
Reading about other people’s barf apparently has the same effect on some people as smelling it, or so I learned from some of the people who read early drafts. Mind you, neither of these people has given birth. One, a 65-year-old man, probably never will. Still, I want pre-mothers and mature men to be able to read my book without throwing up.
The book is about pregnancy, and I barfed during the first five months of mine. How was I to decide which barf references were essential to my experience, and which ones should be, well, hurled?
I did my best to be restrained, and removed many barf references. While I was doing this, I was struck most cruelly by the stomach flu. I was most likely infected by an otherwise innocent-looking 8-month-old whose mother lives in fear of being mentioned in this column. I would never publicly reveal that my friend Colleen has a toxic son. Never.
Anyway, I did my best to clean up all unnecessary references to you-know-what on the page, stopping every so often to you-know-what in the proper place.
Lucy thought it was hilarious. “Boff!” she said, after learning what event was associated with the sound of running feet followed by a monstrous roar.
Two days later, I was better. And, working with as much focus as I could muster, I finished revising the book — two minutes before Laramie, our babysitter, was scheduled to leave, and 45 minutes before I was due at an appointment.
If you must know, I was rushing out to get my eyebrow waxed. I do this every so often, hoping that someday, it will learn to be the two eyebrows I was meant to have. Also, I’m going to a wedding in New York this weekend, with people I haven’t seen in 10 years. I don’t want them knowing how much I’ve grown to look like Bert since college graduation.
With this as my motivation, I had about 20 minutes to clean myself up, pack Lucy, grab the things I needed and head out the door. In the olden days, 20 minutes would have been plenty. I could shower, brush my teeth, get dressed and get going in this amount of time. This has been one of the hardest things to get used to as a parent. You can’t brush your teeth and your hair at the same time, because one arm is stuffed with baby. You don’t fly out the door carrying 30 pounds of child and gear. You waddle.
As I did my best to disguise the fact that I hadn’t showered that morning, Lucy was wrapped around my leg. Whining.
I say she’s not much of a whiner, only she actually said, “Whining,” that morning (in her whiny voice). So she whines enough that she knows what it is and when she’s doing it. Wherever Lucy sits on the whine spectrum, she was extra whiny as I was struggling to get myself ready to see other human beings, ones who don’t love me, or look to me for food.
Because I’d spent all morning in a dark, cold room staring at a computer screen, and because Lucy and I had to be somewhere in just a few minutes, I was having a hard time shifting to happy, patient Mary Poppins mode.
Instead of brushing my own hair, I let Lucy brush hers. It did the trick. My eyebrow cleaned up nicely, and I thought about treating myself to a cup of coffee, but decided against it because we were planning to have dinner that night with friends, and I had a few things to do beforehand. Like shower.
So, Lucy and I headed straight home. We got caught in a traffic jam, and she started whining again. “Out,” she said. “OUT.” I completely understood how she felt, so I did my best to keep her entertained in the back seat. I gave her a playing card from a deck that happened to be handy. It worked. She studied it intently.
“It’s a Joker,” I said. “Joker.”
(Warning: More puke ahead! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!)
Then Lucy opened her mouth and barfed. She barfed and barfed. For once, I was glad to be stopped in traffic. I was freaking out that she’d choke on it and turn blue. But it didn’t happen. Her little mouth just kept opening like she was some sort of malfunctioning hand puppet, and her lunch tumbling out and running down her overalls, her legs and her car seat. It even coated the Joker.
If I had a cell phone, I would have called Adam right then and there and said, “Do not come straight home. Stop by the store and get a new car seat. This one’s a goner.”
But I don’t have one, so I just watched as poor Lucy boffed over the entire back seat. She’d kicked her shoes and socks off, and by the time the flood reached her bare feet, she was distraught.
“Feeeeet. Feeeeet,” she said, holding her left foot up so I would know to wipe it off. I did, using the little fleece vest the very thoughtful Colleen had given Lucy, thereby achieving both irony and poetic justice with the same anecdote.
Fortunately, both the vest and car seat cleaned up just fine. So did Lucy, eventually. She boffed all night long, all over me, the bathroom floor and the nest of towels I wrapped us in. All through, though, I held her close.
My big fear, that being barfed on would send me on a never-ending downward spiral of nausea, did not come to pass. We even smiled at each other during those times her stomach gave her a break. Pale and dark-eyed, she looked so beautiful.
It might even have been one of my favorite nights of parenthood. I didn’t have anything to do but hold Lucy and let her know, in every way I could, how much I love her. I kissed her, I stroked her hair, I held her tight as she puked down my back. Adam got covered in his share, and together, we helped her through.
By the next morning, she was her usual self, full of giggles and fun. Adam dressed her in crazy striped overalls, with a red bandana on her head. She looked so great that we took her to a mall, where we were going to help my Mom pick out a dress to wear to my brother’s wedding next month.
Relieved, I gave Lucy a loving squeeze as we headed down the sidewalk to our meeting place. Then, right outside a snooty French bakery, Lucy puked all over my dry-clean-only, don’t-ignore-me, shoplady shirt.So much for my rare attempt to look good in public. There is one bright side, though. My eyebrows still looked fantastic.