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How a Stomach Bug Made Me a Better Mom

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I knew it was coming for days before.

Chills, aches, stomach cramps. Finally, on Monday, it hit. Yep, Mommy had the stomach bug. The husband had just left early that morning on a business trip. Crap.

So there I was, alone at home, fighting a stomach bug while taking care of our two boys under 3 years old. (Shoot me.)

I somehow managed to get them out of bed, put them in their high chairs, throw bananas and Cheerios on their trays and collapse onto the couch. The toddler asked for milk, but I didn't even care. I couldn't get up. I looked at the clock. It was 7:16 a.m..

How on earth will I make it through the day?

I was achy. Everywhere. Even my gums ached. No energy. Chills. Dry mouth. I wanted nothing to eat or drink. I just wanted to lay there. But I couldn't. After five trips to the bathroom and almost fainting because of the dizziness, I laid back down on the couch, right as the toddler said he was done with breakfast and wanted to watch Care Bears.

Well, here goes.

I got them both down from their high chairs, sat them on the couch and flipped on Netflix. I laid down on the couch as well. Turns out, laying down was the only way to stop the nausea. Even sitting up on the couch wouldn't do. I chose a Care Bears episode and laid there. The seconds ticked by as we waited for the show to start. It finally did.

And then, I did something I've never done before.

I didn't check my cell phone. I didn't get up to do the breakfast dishes. I didn't get out the laptop to write an email.

I stopped.

And I looked at my children.

Really looked.

And instead of seeing banana-smudged faces that needed a wipe, or food-spattered pajamas that needed a change, I saw them.

I saw their gorgeous, perfect clear baby skin. I saw their rosy cheeks and noticed that perfect little bruise from yesterday's fall. I touched their arms and realized they both had bug bites from playing in the yard yesterday.

Instead of seeing dirty nails that needed a trim, I held those perfect little curious hands and smiled at all the mischief and learning these little hands will do. The dirt that would be touched, the bugs that would be picked up. Then I wondered how these little hands would change the world one day. These perfect, God-created, precious little hands.

And, as I laid there, helpless, I held them both tight. I felt the backs that have grown strong from chasing butterflies, climbing on dining room tables and running at full-speed to hug Daddy when he gets home.

Then I closed my eyes. And I saw the two little boys who will grow into men, and one day, take care of their mama when no one else can. One day when I'm laying down and can't do much else, just like I am now.

Instead of the overgrown hair that I should have trimmed months ago, I saw their perfect strawberry blonde curls. I smelled the outside air and their sweet sweat from hours of running around in the backyard. I ran my fingers through those locks and felt all the tangles from their perfect, deep baby sleep last night. Those perfect soft red curls. Those curls I had dreamed about, and prayed for, for years before having them.

My kids were so perfect in those two minutes that I had an urge to get up and get my cell phone to take a picture and post it on Instagram or my Facebook page. But I couldn't. And I'm so glad.

By the time the Care Bears episode was over, the toddler was ready to play with toys in his room. I somehow hoisted the baby and walked into the kids' bedroom. I had just enough energy to collapse back onto their bedroom floor.

And then again, it was just me and my two children. I was laying on the floor of their room. (Literally, my cheek was on the rug on their bedroom floor.) And they were sitting together, playing.

Why don't I ever do this?

Because today was different.

As the kids were both engrossed in their Lego train land, it wasn't my cue to quietly leave the room and start on my long to-do list. It wasn't possible for me to get my cell phone and check Facebook. It wasn't possible for me to text a friend about our park playdates this week. It wasn't possible for me to start dinner.

All I could do was sit and watch them.

And they were different too. Instead of growing bored after a few minutes of playing alone, then leaving their room to find me, the boys stayed. They played for almost an hour. And I was right there, laying next to them on the rug.

Smiling in disbelief at all these perfect moments that I'd missed to post a status update, send a text or do dishes.

I had a lot of time to think. I thought about how I put my TV news career on hold to stay home and raise them. I thought about how hard my husband works so I can stay home.

I thought about what little time I actually spend with my two little boys, totally engaged and present. Not sitting on the couch with my cell phone in hand. Not making dinner in the kitchen while they play at my feet. But sitting on the floor, all the way down at their level, playing right there with them. Singing songs. Playing make believe. Playing puzzles. Reading books. Knowing what their favorite Lego color is, or what their different fire trucks are named.

And then, right there, as I laid helpless on the rug of their bedroom with a forgotten blue Lego piece sitting uncomfortably close to my left ear, I said a prayer:

Thank you, God.

Thank you for making me sick so I could see all that I was missing out on.

I never thought I'd be thanking anyone for getting that stomach bug.

But I was.

And I also made a promise.

I'll get back on the floor when I'm healthy again, too.

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Formerly an Emmy-nominated TV news reporter, Janie Porter is the creator of SheJustGlows.com and (often-unshowered) stay-at-home mama to two boys under 3 years old. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter for more posts about less-than-perfect parenting, juice and smoothie recipes and tips on finding your inner glow.