Childrearing

If My Daughter Vomits, She’s On Her Own

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My daughter is all ready for college! Thanks to the 24-hour flu, she’s now well versed in having a garbage pail by the bed so that she can just lean over and let it all out. I feel like an awful mother when my child is throwing up. That’s because I have a total aversion to the smell of vomit. I’m one of those people who, when someone else is throwing up, I immediately want to throw up, too. This, strangely, even holds true for my daughter, who I would take a bullet for. The second she pukes, I immediately want to do the same.

So it’s very difficult to be a loving mother when she has the flu. I hate to say it, but it’s really hard for me to be around her. Don’t get me wrong. I feel awful for her. But unlike adults, who know when they have to throw up and can make it to the bathroom on time, children seem to puke within seconds – literally seconds – of realizing they are going to throw up. It’s like, “I’m going to throw up,” and then they do! This is why they more than often do not make it to the washroom.

Now, my daughter is old enough to know that I can’t stand puking (although she has only vomited a handful of times in her childhood). She does her best for me. The other night she woke up – we were in the same bed – and said, “Mommy, I think I’m going to throw up.” I immediately said, “Get to the bathroom!” and ran with her. She almost made it.

Looking back, it was kind of cute how she ran, covering her mouth with her hands, and puking into them, in our bathroom, but not making it to the toilet. What’s a mother, who has a total aversion to the smell and sound of vomiting, to do but say, “It’s going to be okay! It’s okay!” while making sure her head is over the toilet and that mine’s outside the bathroom door.

Once she had finished the first round, she said, “I smell.” And, yes, she did. There was puke in her hair. “Let’s get you into the shower,” I said. Keep in mind this all happened at 4:30 a.m. But this is the time of flu season and I feel bad for any mother who has to deal with children throwing up, especially in the middle of the night.

My best friend, who has four children, recently went through a four-day puke fest. Each of her children had the 24-hour flu, one after the other. “It was brutal. It’s horrific,” she says. Once my daughter was showered, she got back into bed. That’s the other thing about your child having the flu. You, or at least I, need to sleep with my daughter. How can you leave a sick child alone? (Except, I will admit, I can’t exactly be right beside her when she’s throwing up.)

I put a garbage can next to the bed and told her if she had to throw up, she should just lean over and throw up into the garbage pail. And so she did. Four times. Yes, I am not a very good person to have around when you are throwing up (I throw my hats off to nurses!,  but I am pretty good with after care. I made her sip ginger ale slowly. I rubbed her back. I told her it was going to be okay. I had shut the bathroom door, where she had vomited on the shower rug, thinking, “I’ll deal with that later,” because that’s the thing about your child getting the flu. It always seems to happen in the middle of the night when you’re seeing double. It was a very l-o-n-g night.

And even the next day, cuddling with her long after she had finished throwing up, I could still smell the vomit. I knew it was in my head. Once, I was on a plane when a child got sick. This child wasn’t even near me, but the stench filled up the airplane. Truly, I didn’t think I’d make it through the flight. I look back to the days when my daughter was a baby and baby puke looks and seems actually kind of cute in comparison. At least there’s no smell. But once your child starts eating like an adult, they start throwing up like an adult.

And while I may have a total aversion to vomit, at least I never had an aversion to changing dirty diapers, like her father did. As mothers, we can’t be good at everything. And I will fully admit that I am not good when it comes to the flu. Give me dirty diapers any day.

(Photo: iStockphoto)