Motherhood has been challenging for me. Although I had a history of mothering every animal I ever met since I could sit up unassisted, I had no experience whatsoever with actual human children. I never wanted a child, never liked being around them. They seemed so... I don't know, sticky. And loud. Then, I turned 34, and wham, there was that biological clock. Hormones are convincing little buggers. They get what they want. So, I suddenly was baby crazy, much to the surprise of my husband. One year later, our daughter was born. I had no idea what to do with her; I'd never even changed a diaper -- in my entire LIFE -- until my daughter was three days old, and even then, my husband had to teach me how to do it.
We're safely past those first few years of awkwardly trying to adjust to the demands of motherhood, and now that I can look back at some of the more trying times, I can see something interesting: Every single one of those challenges was made easier by my dog, Norm, or my cat, Sebastian. They've served different purposes, but together they've served as my co-moms. Mothering my daughter has been a team effort (whereas fathering her has been a breeze for my husband, who took to parenting like a pro) and, like Cinderella (the movie version) with her team of mouse friends, Norm and Sebastian have been the unsung behind-the-scenes heroes in my house. It's time I shone the spotlight on them. So, here it is: my first installment of a series I like to think of as "How My Pets Saved Me as a Mom":
For the sake of this story, you'll need to learn what is pretty much my most embarrassing secret: I am an emetophobe. If you don't know what that is, can I just tell you how lucky you are? Emetophobia is the fear of vomiting. Just the thought of anyone vomiting is enough to raise my stress levels sky-high. I haven't actually allowed myself to throw up since I was a little kid. I can't handle watching vomiting scenes on television or in movies; I hyperventilate and my hands shake and I feel like I'm going to pass out. Accidentally catching the opening of "Tosh.0" is my worst nightmare. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it's actually pretty serious.
Guess what I didn't consider before I got pregnant? Kids vomit. Some of them vomit a lot. Recently, my daughter had a three-hour bout of vomiting and I had PTSD for two weeks afterward. Emetophobia and motherhood are not exactly compatible concepts.
For a while, I thought perhaps I'd kicked it. My daughter, as an infant, was extremely spit-uppy. In fact, she could be counted on to spit up after every meal. I dealt with it like a champ, even catching it IN MY HANDS if there wasn't a cloth handy (mothers, we do the most vile things with our hands, don't we? Hey...t hat gives me an idea for the most disgusting Pinterest board ever...). Then, she started on solid foods... and then, one day, IT HAPPENED. She was about 3 years old, and I didn't see it coming. One minute, she was standing there, totally content. Then next, she exploded like Vesuvius. Suddenly, she was standing in a pile of vomit, and covered in whatever she'd had for lunch. She looked absolutely shocked, having no idea whatsoever what just happened to her. I froze for a second, wracked with terror, and then sprang into action. I was herding her toward the bathtub when she lost the rest of her stomach contents right there in the hallway.
I managed to strip her of her clothes and get her into a warm bath. She seemed better, but I was a wreck. Not only was I dealing with caring for my poor little girl and trying not to expose to her the depth of my horror (above all, I don't want her to believe that vomiting is scary), but my mind kept wandering to my bedroom floor, and the hallway floor, and the piles of (ugh) now-cooling vomit waiting for me to clean them up. In my mind, they'd grown to vomit-mountains the size of Everest. I was physically sick at the prospect of scaling them. Finally, I gathered every ounce of my strength, along with a roll of paper towels, a pile of trash bags and every household cleaner I could carry, and I headed to my doom.
The floor in the hallway was spotless. So was the floor in my bedroom. And there, where I'd expected to find my worst fear, was Norm, giving me the same look I imagine an executioner gives a death-row prisoner as he tells him about the last-moment pardon from the governor. Norm, my sweet boy, my angel, had done the job for me.
"Norm! That is DISGUSTING!!!!" I said, closely followed by a whispered, "Ohmygod thank you."
Time has passed since then, and my daughter has had two stomach viruses in the three-or-so years since that first time. Both times, I've been called upon to clean up the aftermath, and I've pulled it off without Norm's help. But I've never forgotten what Norm did for me that day, when I was sleep-deprived and terrified, stressed to the limit from this new frontier of motherhood. I know, I know... it's disgusting and probably wasn't the healthiest thing in the world for Norm. I'm not proud of it, and it doesn't paint me in the most flattering light, but I don't care. Norm was a better mother than I was that day, and he didn't even judge me on my shortcomings. He just jumped in my lap at the end of that long day and licked my face.
Adopt-a-Pet.com is North America's largest non-profit pet adoption website which helps millions of pet lovers find new family members. For more info on dog adoption or cat adoption, visit our website and follow Adopt-a-Pet.com on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.