I rarely get sick or feel “under the weather,” but late this past weekend, something hit me. It wasn't really the flu or a cold necessarily, I honestly think it was just a case of plain old mom exhaustion ... Imagine that! I just felt really, really tired and achy, and after preparing an entire dinner, I asked my kids' "permission" to go get into my bed! They willingly and lovingly agreed to completely clean up the kitchen together so I could rest my weary bones! I was thrilled, but admittedly, I was a bit skeptical!
So ... with my door open to listen closely to the “goings on,” I retreated to the restful haven that I call my bed. After resting tentatively for a short while, I received a knock at the door. It was one of my smiling children coming to ask if I needed anything. I actually did need something, so I asked for a few crackers from the kitchen. Moments later, they appeared! So nice!
Not too long after that, another small knock sounded. The door opened farther and another sweet child appeared, also asking if I wanted anything. I asked for a glass of clear soda. It arrived in record time, un-spilled and in a very “nurse-like,” almost professional manner. So sweet!
I rested a bit longer and decided that although the house sounded very peaceful, I should collect myself and climb out of bed to check on the status of the kids and the house. As I slowly walked through, I was shocked -- and impressed -- that the house was standing and no worse for the wear. In fact, it was cleaned up and the lights were even turned off (you know moms -- it drives us all crazy to see a light on in every room when there's not a person around!).
“Hm,” I thought. “This is so different from those first five years ...” and my mind took me instantly back to those early years. Back then, when this mom got sick, a total household panic ensued -- literally. I remember during the first year of our six babies' lives, I got the full-blown stomach flu. It was the most violent type! Not only was I out of commission, but also that meant the “baby schedule” was out of commission AND most of our friends and volunteers, a.k.a. “baby feeders,” didn't want to come over and help -- and trust me, I didn't blame them! Word traveled fast how very ill I was and no one wanted the unnecessary exposure to my horrific germs! So my four-day illness became a sort of mass casualty scene, where long shifts, never-ending feedings, baths, and diaper changes were carried out by an exhausted skeleton crew chasing their tails!
Talk about guilt?! I laid in my bed quarantined, dehydrated, and spent -- listening to the chaos -- feeling SO guilty that I was helpless to change the short-term fate of my family! It was a long weekend and probably THE experience that sent my already OCD-type germ response into overdrive!
Another memorable illness comes to mind in the years since that first one. It was one night when I was making my hour-long drive home from my 16-hour shift as a nurse. I didn't feel too well and I decided that denial would be my tactic for this round of sickness. Sick? Not me!
As I returned home, I took a shower and decided that I was just tired. My muscles ached furiously and I told myself that I had just spent 16 hours on my feet and had had a long commute each way, so NATURALLY I'd feel this way at the end of a long day (never mind that I did this shift every weekend and had never quite felt this drained before!).
I denied my illness all the way up until we began to hear retching and vomiting from the kids' rooms above us ... And as I rinsed set after set of vomit-filled bed sheets in our laundry room sink, I finally faced the music or, more accurately, the vomit, and “allowed” myself to join the ever-growing sick population in our house. That was the first time I had been gravely ill while taking care of six gravely ill 2-year-olds. Not to be graphic, but especially around the age of 2, it's very hard to coordinate a vomit-spewing child with a bucket -- to ensure that a literal puke fest on every possible surface of the house doesn't occur every five minutes! Not to mention that I had six of these, or maybe eight all at once?!
Every spare surface of our home became a “sick bay,” as I call it. I made as many make-shift beds as I could fit anywhere near me in the “main” areas of the house. This made it easier to help do the “bucket vomit tango” each time it struck, as well as offer comfort, fluids, and medications for fevers. I knew I'd never make it up the stairs each time, so anywhere there was space and a shred of privacy, I made a bed! Whew! That was quite the Influenza War of 2006 we suffered here in the Gosselin household!
Since those early years and since the kids have grown and learned the “bucket vomit tango,” it hasn't ever become EASY to manage the mass illness here, but let's just say that I'm extra glad that I'm a registered nurse. The training in patient care really helps when the “sick bug” hits here! I once traveled the hospital corridors “making my rounds,” and now I make them in the hallways of my own home whenever illness strikes. Once the germs start spreading, it's a FULL 10 days to 2 weeks until I remove the “quarantined” signs from our front door!
I'm sick, resting in my bed as I type this, with a little sick one not far away! I'm bracing myself for what I still hope is NOT the Influenza War of 2013! Wait ... did I just hear that telltale retching sound? OH NO!!! Gotta go ...
How do you handle sickness in your home? Tell me below ...
Image via Mady Gosselin