The beginning is always the same. Middle of the night, a child cries, I listen and hope. Perhaps sleep will return. A fool's hope, I know.
Then comes the sound. Every parent knows it. Like a cough but guttural, wet, productive. The sound that sends me bolt upright, out of bed, scrambling for the door with an even more futile hope: that the sound I heard was something innocuous like, say, the cat. Not what I know it was. Not that awful splash of stomach acid and bits of pizza, half-digested gummy bears, banana, raisins.
I put my hand down, feel the telltale chunks in the dark. Sheets, magic blanket, pajamas all end up in a pile in the bathroom.
Every hour for the rest of night I'm up to replace pajamas and the towel. Dr. D, who has little experience with vomit, feeds the child in the morning. Mistake.
By evening, Rowdy is keeping down pedialyte, but Mud Pie has a bellyache. By morning Pie and St. Nick both lay listless in the family room, bowls beside them. By noon Dr. D lays in bed with chills and stomach cramps. That night my own gut churns in a way I can't ignore. 1am, I'm hit. 5am, my head pounds and my breasts are hot from un-drunk milk. I'm suddenly awake and certain something is very wrong with the baby, so I crawl from the sofa in the family room, up the stairs, and find Baby sleeping soundly. I feed him, and he violently spits up enough to soak my pajamas. I'm too sick to care. I crawl back to the sofa. The next morning we were supposed to load the truck and drive to Milwaukee, but in crazy faith we decide to postpone. A day.
We sit in the living room all the next day. Baby continues to throw up every feeding. Rowdy and Pie and St. Nick move on to intestinal "vomiting." Fish joins them. We think he may miss the puking part of the illness and we're relieved. And since none of us has much capacity for rational thought remaining, we decide to load up the next morning and take our trip, dammit, because Dr. D can't cancel his meeting and I'm not going to be stuck home with five sick kids. Driving through Chicago with five sick kids sounds so much better somehow.
So the next morning Fish wakes with a stomach ache. St. Nick is still weak, Dr. D can barely stand. Pie and Rowdy seem perky, however, so I help them pack (and pack for everyone else) and by 9:30 we're on the road. Amazingly, Baby does not throw up again, and Fish and the rest quickly fall asleep. It's the shortest 6-hour drive in the history of our family. Plus the sleep does us well. Could it be we're free from this illness? We swim (rather halfheartedly), eat dinner (quite cautiously), and tuck in for the night.
3am. The sound. Again. Rowdy. Again. I thank whatever force of the universe compelled me to bring extra pajamas. The next day, a miracle! Rowdy is eating! Pie and Nick and Fish are eating! Everyone is well! We drive home giddy with relief. We watch a show, go to bed and rest blissfully.
Until St. Nick wakes me at 1am. "Mom, Mom. Fish just Superpuked."