There I was on a Friday afternoon, having mentally checked out. I was wondering how I should spend the next few days…watching Casablanca or baking things with dough? I was just minding my own business when I got a call from Drew’s daycare— “Andrew threw up…he’s going to need to be picked up.”
I rushed over to the daycare after putting all my valuables that live in the car into the trunk where they’d be safe. I put my sweater over Drew’s seat in case…you know. Then I raced into his classroom. I heard his miserable crying about 50 feet away. He was wearing unfamiliar clothes, and his teacher told me how he’d barfed all over his outfit, even his shoes.
On the way home, he began to cry again. The other sounds told me that the hope that maybe it was a one-time barf thing was dashed. “Mommy’s gonna take care of it…we’re going home, Andrew; Mommy’s gonna take care of it.”
When we pulled up in front of the house, he began to scream again. I got out of the car and only had time to hold wipes under his face while he barfed for the third and fourth time. Poor kid, I thought, while trying not to touch anything gross. The only salvageable pieces of clothing he was wearing were his socks, so I put them on my hands like mittens and cleaned him up as best I could. I remembered why I bought all Drew’s clothes at Dirt Cheap…so I could throw them away if THIS happened. So, shirtless, shoeless, with borrowed pants slipping off his waist, Drew clung to me and fussed inconsolably as we made our way into the apartment and the bathtub.
He would need to be scrubbed down, and his hair needed a wash. But he was blissfully rid of the offending lunch and happy to be in the “baftub”, with his Star Wars toys and LEGO airplane. Now the problem…I needed a cup to wash his hair with, and I’d forgotten to get one on the way in, in my haste not to touch anything or let HIM touch anything.
“Lord, give me inspiration,” I prayed, rummaging through the drawers under the sink while Andrew twirled the propellor of his plane, saying “plan! Off for spin,” a bunch of times. I couldn’t find anything. Then I picked up the package of 100 q-tips. They were in a half-plastic, half-cardboard box, and they were all I had. “Well, you’re not supposed to stick these in your ears anyway, so what good are they?” I asked myself, as I dumped all of them into the sink. The thin, clear plastic box was as flimsy as a ziploc bag. I filled it up with water, got Andrew to tilt his head back by dangling his Cookie Monster sponge high in the air, and rinsed his hair out.
I took a moment while he was occupied to wash my hands. The water ran onto all the q-tips now filling the sink, and I wondered if this was how an adult would handle this sort of crisis. The bathroom was a wreck by the time I got Drew’s bath over and done with, and he was sitting in his bubbles smiling, the sickness forgotten, his black eyelashes wet and glistening and setting off his perfectly blue eyes. How can you rally so fast, I wondered?
The other day I went to the doctor—the same doctor who first discovered I was pregnant with Drew. It was sort of a fluke thing…they did a pregnancy test that turned out negative, and I went back to work. It was like 2 days before the first day of school. The next morning they called me, and the nurse casually informed me that the test had a tiny little positive line on it after all…the girl cleaning the exam room had noticed it. My heart dropped, my words failed, I jumped up to my feet in the empty classroom, surrounded by kids’ toys and Clorox wipes. The next days were a blizzard of blood tests and hurried prayers in the car and frantic calls to my father when they started using words like “ectopic” and “levels”…I’d had some abdominal pain and the “levels” were low, so maybe…we should just make sure…
Then the ultrasound where I saw that dot that was barely an embryo. And everything changed.
That little positive line that could…Andrew Lawrence Hunter.
The last time I got really sick to my stomach was the day he was born. I woke up after some drugged sleep in the hospital bed and demanded Thomas bring me a trash can. He did, then turned pale. “I think I’m gonna sympathy puke,” he said miserably.
“Then go to the bathroom! YOU aren’t hooked up to an IV!” I exclaimed. I remember I wondered if this was how a real mom would handle this. A GOOD mom. Nothing gives you perspective and clears your head like sudden puking.
Drew bounces back from being sick much faster than I do. He takes after his father in that way. Once he’s got his crackers and his Duck videos, he’s good to go. As the grownup adult, I’m the one who has to make sure that the germs are all gone, that we have pedialyte, that his temperature is normal, etc. I also have to scrub his car seat—it turns out those car seat covers have a million little hooks on them, which I painstakingly removed while wearing a shirt tied around my nose and mouth…cuz germs. Only after a shower and like 90 million hand washes could I eat my own fish and chips (Lent). He slept through the night and woke up happy as a clam. Except for the bland diet, you’d never know he was sick. By ten am he was yelling at me for turning off his music video and giving Eskimo kisses to his stuffed puppy.
It turns out that item 20 on the list (FIX something) shows up a lot when you’re an adult. When I wrote it down, I intended it to mean fixing a broken household item. My mom was always good at that stuff, and Thomas does most of it in our house. I’m horrible with broken things. But, in a weird way, I think this qualifies. Andrew with a stomach bug was something I’ve been dreading since he was born. I wasn’t sure I could handle it. And handle it I did. Honestly, it wasn’t as scary as I thought. Much less scary than the first time he had to use a nebulizer, or the time he slipped and fell on the bathroom rug and I couldn’t get a good grip on him, or the time he choked on a piece of cheese and I literally started screaming for help for the first time since I was a little kid. I handled it, and it turned out okay.
The only other time I’ve screamed for help…I was seven and I was at a pool party. I couldn’t get a grip on the side of the pool. I’d treaded out too far and I realized I wasn’t as good a swimmer as I’d thought. I knew my father was somewhere with the other dads, and in between breaths, bobbing up and down, I managed to cry out “Dad!—Help!—Dad!” And then this big strong arm reached in and pulled me out. He only needed one arm. I don’t remember what happened after that, but I get it now. From his perspective, it was probably scarier than from mine. My dad’s a lifeguard and he’s probably nearly drowned a bunch of times. But you’d rather have it happen to YOU than to your kid…whatever it is.
In the scheme of things, mine and Andrew’s problems are very small. I know people whose children have complicated health problems, who have waited while their babies had long surgeries. I can’t even imagine that. I’m not sure I’d be tough enough. If helplessness is something we all experience to some degree, I think I’ve been lucky. But I know more is coming. There are so many things in the world I CAN’T fix. I can’t make Drew eat vegetables (though I’ve tried). I can’t change the weather so he can go outside and play. I can’t make people be nice. I can’t keep him from getting his heart broken. I can’t promise him anything, really, except that I’ll take care of it as best I can…whatever it is. With whatever I have.
Thanks, team. 🙂
I’m reading all of your blog posts straight through, and can’t stop because they are interesting, funny, ironic and profound, all at the same time, and in a unique voice. This last blog brought tears to my eyes. It perfectly sums up the unqualified love (and sometimes utter terror) involved in being a parent.
Thanks so much aunt Jill!