The past few days have quite possibly been the most trying of my entire life. I know that’s a pretty bold statement, considering I’ve had my heart broken a few times, lost beloved grandparents, survived taking an engineering physics class, run half of a marathon, biked over major mountains in Vietnam, and birthed three giant babies without pain medication (some of the more trying life events that come right to mind).
I’ll be the first to admit that I get stressed out pretty easily. But I also pride myself on being able to juggle many balls in the air, so to speak, without dropping one. That being said, there has been ball juggling and dropping galore in recent days, and if just one more ball hits the floor, I’m afraid I’m going to need to check into one of those rehab houses used by Hollywood celebs for physical exhaustion, or whatever it is they claim to need help with.
OK. So let’s get into the recent events at our house. Things all began to go south this past Thursday. Liam and I noticed some swelling and redness that had begun to form around the little guy’s circumcision site, which only days before had looked great and seemed to have healed up nicely. I called the pediatrician’s office to describe the blister-like swelling, and they said they wanted to see Rowan, so I made an appointment for later in the day.
Then, while the kids and I were still at home, Frances, our middle child, started with a fever, general crankiness, and complete loss of appetite. And the oldest, Nora, had refused to take a nap. It was shaping up to be a good afternoon.
At the pediatrician’s office, I started to worry when the doctor asked if I minded her getting another doctor with whom to consult and check out the little guy’s bits. Of course, the doc was gone from the room for about ten minutes, which seemed like eternity to me since I had to entertain and distract an almost naked newborn who needed to be held, nursed, and walked around, an ill toddler who was grumpy and also wanted to be nursed and held, and a cranky, chatty, ants-in-her-pants preschooler who was bordering on defiant (this is what no-napping does to her).
While I paced the small office with the little guy, while simultaneously trying to verbally comfort the toddler and shoo away the preschooler, I prayed for patience, peace and quiet, and for the damned doctors to just get the hell in the room already.
When they finally arrived, the tag-teaming duo agreed that our boy will essentially need to have a fresh circumcision performed by a urologist when he turns a year old, since skin had begun to grow on his penis and reattach itself from where it had once been cut. What?!?! This will be done under general anesthesia, they explained. Again, What?!?!
When I asked what had happened, the docs explained that it was just the way Rowan’s body had healed. No fault of ours or the doctor who performed the circumcision. Hmmm.
You might imagine how this all made me feel once I tell you I never wanted a circumcision for our boy in the first place. Why mess with nature? I asked my husband. He won’t look different from other boys. Lots of parents aren’t circumcising their kids these days, I argued.
In the end, I let Liam decide and told him I would support his choice. Grrrr…I tried and succeeded to withhold any I told you so’s when I explained to him what the doctors had said. He offered, “I bet you’re wishing we hadn’t had him circumcised.”
Um, that would be a yes.
Moving on to Thursday night then. Once we got the kids to bed, we started getting ready for bed ourselves. As I was brushing my teeth, I began to feel nauseous. Perhaps it was just the three chocolate Easter egg candies I’d eaten, I thought.
Negative on the candies being the cause of the nausea. Three hours later, around midnight, I began a hardcore puking fest that lasted off and on six or more times until five in the morning. I’m grateful Liam was able to come lay in bed with us to keep an eye on the kids and on me as I alternatively puked and nursed, nursed and puked a feverish toddler and an unsuspecting newborn.
I was worthless Friday, so Liam stayed home from work. Again, grateful. Frances still ran a fever (which she will do, as she refuses all kinds of medicines). Gratefully, she nursed well, so I didn’t have to worry about her continuing to not eat or become dehydrated.
Nora then developed a crazy runny nose. It got so bad, she utterly destroyed two boxes of tissues, and grew a red, raw rash that extended from below her nose and up to her cheekbones on both sides of her face. We gave her some Benadryl, rubbed her face full of Vaseline, and sent her to bed.
I then went to bed hoping that the two bananas and two pieces of toast—all the solid food that I was able to force in my body that day—would be enough to sustain us, the breastfeeding trio, through the night. At least Frances’s fever had broken.
Around one in the morning, Frances got sick. She only puked twice, and it wasn’t nearly as violent or plentiful as my episodes had been. Grateful. And, we didn’t need to change the sheets. Again, grateful. See how I’m trying to find the positives, here?
Saturday morning everyone seemed well enough, but for me. Overnight, I had gotten a migraine headache that was just wicked. I thought my brain might be swelling and my body shutting down, having decided it was depleted, exhausted, and just plain done with life for good.
I chugged some much needed glasses of water and Gatorade, and then, a cup of coffee. Next, I forced myself to eat a lovely meal of spinach and eggs, peanut butter toast, and Ibuprofen (thank you, husband!). I showered, went back to bed, and woke up an hour later feeling like a million bucks, thanks be to God.
It was good timing too, since Liam’s brother and sister had just arrived from Connecticut and Massachusetts, respectively, to meet the baby for the first time.
Gratefully, Saturday and most of Sunday passed without incident. I seemed to be better, though my appetite still hadn’t returned. Frances was still striking on solid foods, but nursing well. Nora’s nose continued to run like a sprinkler, and she developed a loud, hacking cough.
We enjoyed a really great visit with Liam’s family. It was so nice, in fact, I burst into tears the moment after they left to head home. I’m sure my emotional state was made worse by lack of sleep and the stress of the past few days, but it’s hard living away from family and not getting to see them very often. Guess I should be grateful I enjoy my in-laws so much!
Moving right along. This brings us up to last night. Right before bed, Liam started looking pale and concerned.
“Are you feeling sick?” I asked.
“Maybe I’m just hungry,” he said hopefully.
I think deep down, we both knew what was in store. Sure enough, soon after midnight, Liam got sick. And then, Frances had a relapse. Again, we didn’t need to change sheets, only pajamas. I’m not sure I was feeling grateful at that point though, truth be told.
After we got cleaned up, Nora began a hacking fit in the other room, which led me to run the shower on full heat to create a steam room in the bathroom. I grabbed her from bed, even though she was half asleep, and sat with her on the toilet until her coughing subsided.
It was then that I wondered about the superpowers of mothers and all they are capable of doing despite not being totally well themselves, both emotionally and physically. Even when I think I can do absolutely no more, I somehow rise up and do what needs to be done to take care of my loved ones. It’s instinctual. And kind of amazing.
OK. Almost there.
This morning, Frances started with the cough and cold. Only, unlike her older sister, she is incapable of blowing her nose and generally taking care of herself. In fact, she is helpless and hopeless. She wanders around the house trailing Liam and me whining and exclaiming, “Runnies!” every time her nose begins to drip. Or, “Hold me! Hold me!” It is insane how much you can both love and be utterly repulsed by your children in the same instance. When I heard her whining ‘Runnies!’ for the hundredth time today I silently raged, “Will you please just shut the fuck up?!” while simultaneously gently dabbing at her nose and after offering her a genuine hug, full of empathy and all the comfort I could muster.
Liam didn’t head into the office again today, but he’s been working from home. I think the pukes are behind him, but he’s still pretty unwell. And pale.
I am happy to report that as of this writing, I feel ninety-five percent myself, not including the extra postpartum pounds my body is carrying, but you know what I mean.
Sadly, just in the past few hours, Nora has gotten the stomach bug too (insert exasperated emoji face, here).
Before the real deal, she must have run to the toilet fifteen times thinking she was going to be sick. For many of those fake-out times I was in the bathtub trying to relax. I found myself wondering as she cried wolf—I mean, pukes—if and when she finally did get sick, would it be callous and irresponsible of me to continue enjoying my bath through it all? I mean, she’s so mature and capable for her age. Surely she could see herself through the pukes while I continued to enjoy my soak?
In the end, about the fortieth time she came running dramatically—”Aaahhhh! Aaahhh!”—to the toilet, she did let loose all over the rug and her foot, in addition to the inside and outside of the toilet bowl. You’ll be happy to hear I did heft myself out of the bathtub to hold back her hair and gently rub her back, while offering words of comfort and encouragement (though it should be noted I did briefly consider staying put and coaching her from the warm water). Poor girl.
So. What’s left? I’m sure Nora has more in store for us tonight. One time of the vomits cannot be all there is for her. The baby, miraculously, has remained well—apart from the stress of needing a brand new circumcision in a year. I am hoping against all hope that he stays well. Given our luck, though, and the contagiousness of this stomach bug, I am sure we will deal with him soon enough.
At one point today Liam and I just looked at each other like we were ready to give it all up. Throw in the towel.
“Just don’t leave me,” he said, only half jokingly.
I laughed. As if I even had time to consider divorce! Although. Mexico had crossed my mind.
“If we can make it through the next few days, we can make it through anything,” I promised.
The question remains though: Can we make it? Or will one more unlucky event unhinge us both and require the local Children and Youth Agency to come and remove our children from our home?
Please, everyone, get well. Before the rats catch on that we have food scraps aplenty collecting on plates and other dishes on our counters and tables. Before the film crew from Hoarders shows up at our front door, mistaking our house full of cluttered shit for a house with real issues. Before I run out of clean underwear. Please, get well!
I’m hopeful we’ll get through it.