The Poops and the Pukes

‘Tis the season, right? Our family typically gets a little explosive right in the midst of the holidays. Although, the whole winter season seems to be fair game when it comes to the stomach “flu.” One year it was so bad that Santa stuffed gastroenteritis into my stocking, courtesy of all the toilet-hugging I did at the beginning of Christmas break. This year it came early in November and to my surprise, only three out of the five of us shot it out of both ends.

Initially, I felt pretty lucky that it didn’t take all of us down at once and we got it out of the way early on this winter. Surely we only have to go through this horror once a year? The reality is, I know better and I was a fool for thinking it had anything to do with luck. It’s not a one and done type of virus–rather, it’s tied to a vicious cycle that apparently is making the rounds again in February. Health notices from the schools are packing our emails and co-workers are dropping like flies.

If I only had to look out for myself, I know that I could wash my hands a thousand times a day and sanitize like crazy to avoid getting this thing again. I made it through an entire weekend in cootie-ville and didn’t bring home one little germ. Not a one. Because I get queasy just thinking about it–which means my OCD kicks into overdrive–which means I do everything I possibly can to prevent the poops and the pukes from spilling over into my household.

Except there’s one problem. I have three damn kids.

When I get a heads-up that this stuff is going around, I am germ-conscious to no end. I know how to clean possibly contaminated surfaces, when to wash my hands, and what parts of my face not to touch. Again, if I lived alone I bet I’d have a good chance of averting this virus altogether. However, once you throw kids into the mix, all bets are off.

They are dirty little things, aren’t they?

Trust me, I do teach my kids when and how to wash their hands. As a nurse, you’d better hope I’m drilling this lesson into their cute, wee heads. But, kids will be kids. That means they are quick enough to shove a few goldfish crackers into their mouths right after dropping a deuce in the potty but right before I get a chance to smell their hands for actual signs of handwashing, i.e. the scent of soap.

All mommies know that you simply can’t tell a kid to wash their hands and expect they’ll actually do it every single time. You either have to be there to supervise directly or you have to make them prove it. If they are anything like my children, the second you ask for said proof, you’ll see that wide Cheshire cat-like grin spread across their face right before they dart off towards the bathroom again.

That being said, when the cookie-tossing and bung-hole fireworks are being passed around in our inner circles, there’s not much hope for our family to steer clear of it. And when one of my kids gets it, I’m toast. No amount of Lysol, clothes and linen washing, or handwashing will keep me safe.

I’ll tell you exactly why this is.

So picture me sleeping soundly in my bed while hubby is at work. The kids had already been tucked into their own cozy beds hours ago. Sometime in the middle of the night, one or two little critters sneak into my room and cuddle up next to me. This is typical because I usually don’t notice they are there or I’m too sleepy to care. That is, unless one of them sleeps side-ways and kicks me in the ribs or another stretches their arms out violently, waking me up with an accidental whack to my nose. We can get into co-sleeping another day, though.

Assuming I haven’t sent any kids back to their rooms by this point, a small groan stirs me awake. I instantly jump out of bed at the first sound of retching. Unfortunately, the way it has always gone in the past for me is that one retch is too many and it’s already too late. The sheets and blankets are now covered with a puddle of you-know-what.

As I grab the heaving kid under the arms, we tear off towards the bathroom as quickly as I can get us there. But my Hansel or Gretal has already left a chunky trail behind us.

So with my tired, burning eyes, I spend the night changing sheets, scrubbing carpets, and of course, wiping tears–maybe even a few tears of my own. There are no gowns, gloves, or masks to protect me at 4 a.m. I’ll wash my hands until they’re raw and wipe down everything. The moment I think it’s over, the moment I roll back into my bed and tuck my arm under my pillow, is the moment my little one heaves and hurls once again. The worst part is, I am the one who is on the frontlines here (literally up to my elbows in it) so it’s inevitable that I will become the next victim.

It’s those surprise attacks with their invisible and not so invisible germs spreading far and wide that pretty much guarantee our demise. How do you contain a bomb once it’s already gone off? If we’re really lucky, we might catch wind of the storm that is brewing within our kiddos bellies before they pop. And here I go again with that luck thing…

In my case, those nights where my babies tell me ahead of time, “Mommy, my tummy hurts!” are few and far between. When it does happen, it’s almost as good as holding all aces in Vegas.

One hint of a tummy ache will allow me to prepare for battle. I can make a little bed on the floor in my room with a bucket on one side and plenty of water on the other. I can create a pathway made of towels leading all the way to the bathroom. I can even have some tissues, gloves, and disinfectant at the ready. At the very least, it will help to lessen the middle-of-the-night zombie cleaning routine that is sure to come.

Despite all of these preparations and no matter how careful I am, there’s still a 99% chance that I’ll end up getting sick. But for the sake of the rest of my family, I’ll continue to do what I can with the hope that I’m able to contain that nasty little bug. In times like these, you need to cling to a bit of hope.

My twelve year old always has the right idea. She quarantines herself in her room whenever one of the boys starts spewing out of one end or the other. If anyone in our family is spared from the virus, it usually ends up being her.

Mamas, however, don’t get to isolate themselves to avoid getting sick. The idea of it is so laughable to me since I can’t even get a moment of privacy in my own bathroom. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t run or hide from my kids–ever. They’re like leeches on my back. I think this further establishes that when it comes to the pukes and the poops, I’m screwed no matter what.

Ahh…motherhood. Our angels give us so much, don’t they? Joy, purpose, love, and a chance to hold our own hair back while we’re face-deep in the porcelain throne, reliving those fond memories of our college years all over again.

On the bright side, my youngest is six years old now and this is the first year he made it to the toilet in time during one of those nighttime blowing chow episodes. I sure hope it wasn’t just a puke fluke because I have been dreaming of the day when my kids are old enough to hold it back long enough to hit their mark. Fingers-crossed that from now on, they’ll make it to the bowl every time, on time.

O.k., so this is one of the worst blogs I have ever written simply because I have been nauseous throughout the entire time I’ve been writing it. No, I do not have the poops and the pukes at the moment but my mind sure is a tricky son of a B.

How do you guys deal with that magical combination of stomach virus plus kids? I’d love to hear any tips or funny stories…but maybe just not right this second. Wait until I sip on some Sprite and nibble a saltine. If it all stays down, I’ll be happy to read any comments you send my way.

Stay healthy y’all!

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