Along this new motherhood journey, I have often heard whispers of a mythic plague that spreads like wildfire throughout the house, leaving no tummy untouched. With spring in the air, I was just about rejoicing that we had made it through another cold and flu season mostly unscathed. But then, the dreaded illness struck my family, and suddenly, I was facing yet another rite of passage.
It is one thing to care for a sick baby. Even two babies plus a husband I can handle. But when I found myself suddenly dashing for the ladies' room as I tried to conceal my distress from my twin two-year-olds, I was facing an all together new kind of challenge. What happens when the caregiver is so sick she can't care for anyone else, let alone herself? Of course, I am speaking about temporary incapacitation. I would never compare a 24-hour bug to something terminal or truly debilitating. Yet the experience did raise some very practical concerns for me. How could I possibly cradle both my son and daughter who were also nauseous and feverish while I could barely stand up myself?
First, I did what any sane person would do. I called for back-up. This was one of those bugs that struck without warning. It was 5pm and all of the sudden, my stomach was churning and I was sweating and trying to keep my cool while Ian and Sam begged to be held (at the same time). I phoned my husband and said I needed him NOW. He could tell from my tone that this was no joke and thankfully, he works close enough to home that he was able to make it in time to help me get the kids bathed and into bed. He spent the night alternately cleaning up and comforting all three of us. Once I knew he was on the way, I called my mom. Yeah, this was one of those times that I needed MY mom. In two minutes flat, she talked me down and made me feel like I wasn't a horrible mother for resorting to Elmo time while I counted the minutes to my husband's arrival.
This virus flattened me. The next day, as I lay in bed with daughter Samantha who still had a fever and was in no mood to do anything but sleep, I thought about how fortunate I am to have someone to watch Ian. And then I kept remembering that line from the movie, The Devils Wears Prada -- "I'm just one stomach flu away from my goal weight." With the way I was feeling, I was like, forget the last two pounds, I just want the room to stop spinning.
At this point, our nanny was still healthy. And how she took care of all of us that day proved prescient (and how wonderful she is). While we napped, she quietly stocked the house with Gatorade, Jell-O and chicken broth. Somehow, I think she knew we'd be homebound the next day. I, of course, was clueless or maybe just too delirious to think about what would happen if she fell victim to this horrible sickness.
This is where I learned my next big lesson about illness. You've just got to give into it. As it turns out, even though I should have guessed that the flu would eventually route its way to our dear nanny, I hadn't canceled ANY of my work commitments for the next day. I was sure that everyone would be fine and that I would manage to rally and fulfill my busy day. Not.
Sure enough, at 7:30am, poor Carmen let me know that she, too, had gotten it. I felt awful - mostly because she was now suffering from the chills and queasiness that had distressed all of us. But I found that once I took a deep breath and emailed and called everyone to say I was taking the day off, a sort of calm settled over me. One radio host was especially sweet when I canceled an interview on her show. I didn't have to say anything beyond stomach flu before she cut me off and said, "My god, you've got a house full of vomiting people. Of course, I understand." My family was sick. It happens. And despite a little cabin fever, by the end of a long day, we made it. I felt somewhat victorious as the sun went down and I was serving the kids broth and toast for the third day in a row. The next day was Saturday and I would have some help again from my husband. I had earned another mom stripe. Who ever thought the stomach flu could be so empowering?
The Well Mom Guide to Being Sick
Call for Back-Up
Don't be afraid to ask for help. Whether it is your husband, neighbor, friend or mom, there is no shame in admitting you need some support. And for the future, it might be a good idea to figure how who your back-up is before you find yourself in the midst of a breakdown.
Let It Go
Remember when mom used to say, if you're sick, you're sick. The same applies to us as mothers. Whether we are caring for the kids or caring for ourselves, it is helpful to give into the situation. In most cases, work or laundry or errands will still be there when we get back. So...let it go.
Remember Your Mommy Mantra(s)
Sometimes those mantras can really help you when you are trying to keep it together. In my case, I kept repeating to myself, "This too shall pass," especially during a particularly loud double tantrum. And it did! Check out The Well Mom for more on Mommy Mantras.
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