Puke and Poop

So many things to talk about... the possible resurgence of the Minnesota Twins; the truly riveting Eugene O'Neill piece on public television last night that reminded me how pathetic it is that I've never seen or read an O'Neill play; the hilarious convenience of the Republican argument that it's hypocritical to be wealthy and liberal. The fact that marketing and advertising people are and always will be the bitches of the corporate world. But let's talk about something serious.

Let's talk about puke and poop.

I received the email from Anne yesterday at 3:41 p.m. "James just threw up..." She was on her way to pick him up at daycare. I don't know what it is about puking. I'm not normally a worry-wart parent. When he's with babysitters and Anne and I are out for dinner or on a trip, I never worry for a second about his health or safety. It's almost scary, almost negligent, as a matter of fact. I don't marinate him in sunscreen or make him wear a helmet just for leaving the house. I don't keep up with product recalls or irradiate every piece of food before it reaches his lips. But when he pukes, my stomach goes into sympathy sick mode and tightens up like... like a... I can't think of an original simile here. A knot, okay? A really tight knot.

When I got home, I saw the classic sign of puke #2: a Rorschach pattern on the couch. Damn. I had hoped for a walk-off hurl; now he was going for the cycle.

When puke #3 came just 30 minutes later, I knew we were in for a long night. The worst puke fest we'd ever seen with James came when he was one, and he ukeleled every half hour, five times. Number 3 was so violent (I was holding the plastic pale as liquid gushed through his mouth and nose), I asked Anne to call the nurse line. The only thing that calmed me down during the aforementioned five-barf episode was classic expectation management: The nurse had told us that something was going around, he would ralph 5-6 times every 20-30 minutes, and it would be done. And it was.

When the nurse called back this time, I got what I wanted. "Something has been going around," she said. That was the good news. Fears of food poisoning, plague, bird flu or ecoli bacteria from the sloppy Joe's he had for lunch dissipated. But there was some bad news, too. "You can expect that he'll continue this pattern for up to 12 hours, and in 50 percent of the cases we've seen, there's diarrhea as well."

Twelve hours? Twelve f***ing hours? That would put us at 3:30 a.m. No way. The kid doesn't have that much in him. Does he?

We had to regulate his water intake... two teaspoons every five minutes until bed. Too little, and he'd get dehydrated. Too much, and the vomit comet would orbit even faster. We turned on the TV and let him watch whatever crap he wanted to, just to keep him fairly sedate (including the transcendently annoying "Sponge Bob Square Pants," which included an episode where a bunch of sea creatures eat crappy fast food and... you guessed it, barf). I tried to assure James that each time he had a "big cough" (his term), he was one step closer to getting better. Secretly, I was eyeing the oven clock every time I set it for another five minutes... 3:30 a.m.? No frickin' way.

The rest of the evening is somewhat of a blur. Each time he managed to go more than 30 minutes without kissing the porcelain shrine, we had a glimmer of hope that it was over. Then it would come. Numbers 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 are indistinguishable. All I remember is that we even made a game out of counting them. The kid DOES like numbers, you know.

When we put him to bed, it seemed that the worst was behind us. Then at 10:45... you guessed it. The wretched retching sound crackled through the monitor once again. When I arrived in his room, he was sitting on the floor and said, pathetically to break your heart, "That was number nine." Good counting, James!

As Anne and I cleaned up, I noticed him heading for the kitchen. Not wanting him to guzzle too much water, I made chase, only to find that he had now joined that extra special 50 percent who suffer this al Qaeada virus in two orrifices. A whole new ballgame.

At 11:00 p.m., I was throwing the Walgreen's bag into the back seat of my car. Contents: more wipes and a pack of pull-ups... something the kid hasn't worn in nearly a year. It was the only type of diarrhea management that seemed feasible in the wee hours of the night.

Puke #10 woke me at 12:30 a.m. Then #11 announced itself just 30 minutes later. A gusher, this one. I wondered if the ailment had a bookend pattern, and maybe this was its grand finale. Thank God, I was right. It was the last puke of the ordeal, and the poo never returned. I was only awoken one more time, around 2:00, when he fell out of bed.

I friend of mine once said, "I knew I was a parent when I found myself eating a sandwich with one had and mopping up puke with the other." Truer and more beautiful words have never been spoken.


Aunt Christy said…
First of all: that post was gross. I'm going to dump the rest of my tortilla soup out.

Secondly: My poor little pumpkin!!! God, he must be exhausted. You guys too, but that's your job.

Thirdly: Eugene O'Neill blah, blah, blah...you need to be watching "The Shield" on Tuesday nights. Best. Show. Ever.
Anonymous said…
Ah, the memories. Buck up, in about another 7 years it'll get better.
Bellamy Grant said…
Wait, did you say another SEVEN years?!
Vegas Gopher said…
Wait a minute -- you claim to be a negligent parent with a lassiz-faire attitude toward James' well-being in non-puke moments, but you still have a monitor in his bedroom?

Jeez, we couldn't do that with Nora, or else we'd be treated to hourly airings of her one-woman show, "I'm Not Sleeping And You Can't Make Me!"

Of course, when she does sleep, it's usually in fun and interesting positions/places, which you can see if you follow the family photos link off my blog.

Chin up, champ -- you're Father of the Year in my book for enduring this episode with humor and grace. And without barfing your own damn self.

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