Rude Awakening

Z threw up in the middle of last night.

A week ago, the girls both got sick, one after the other, with a very high fever that lasted a day. After a day of recovery, both were back on their feet. When Z inevitably came down with it, his fever never seemed to get as high, but he maintained it longer. He didn’t get over it after one day, or two. That’s how he ended up on antibiotics for the past five days.

Antibiotics are a real boon to civilization, don’t get me wrong. However, not only do they get rid of any bad bacteria that is making you sick, they also eliminate the bacteria that lives in your guts and helps you to digest food properly. This can lead to intestinal discomfort, vomiting, or diarrhea.

All of which hit Z about 1am.

We co-sleep with him (as we did with the girls), so when the baby gets sick in the night at our house, it means the mess happens in our bed. If we’re lucky, it’s between the Wife and I. If we’re unlucky, the baby is snuggled up to one of us when he does the technicolor yawn.

The Wife and I are old hands at this by now. This is not our first rodeo, nor our first barfy baby in the bed. That fact doesn’t make this kind of event any more splendid, but does help us shrug off the initial shock and disgust so that we can immediately move on to taking care of business.

(I will also say that the first few times you are woken up in the night by your child making a wet “HRUUP!” sound, it may take a minute for you to fully come around and process what’s happened. Then you have to drag your consciousness up from the depths like an anchor from the bottom of a dark sea. You just want to sleep but now you have a gross mess and an unhappy baby to deal with and it’s such a pain. Fortunately, by the time you’re on your third child, you never really get very far from the dividing line between sleep and wakefulness anyway. Day or night, you’re either about to pass out or constantly being woken up. This kind of interruption is just more disgusting than most.)

“You take care of the baby,” the Wife mumbled, “and I’ll take care of the bed.” Teamwork is essential at a time like this.

The most challenging aspect of having a messy baby is that the mess won’t stay localized. Oh, no. Babies will immediately begin transferring the ickiness to every surface within three feet of them while simultaneously making sure their own body gets entirely covered. Usually while crying and rubbing their face. So there’s no point in trying to clean up if you haven’t cleaned the baby first.

Yet, at the same time, the vomit (or whatever your midnight mess happens to be) is already soaking through the sheets and into your mattress. Yes, of course you own a mattress protector for just this reason. But you never got around to putting it back on after the last time you had to wash it, did you? So stripping the bedding needs to be done ASAP, too.

I’m not going to bother you with the revolting details of the cleanup, like how Z’s left ear was entirely covered in mess or how he was also having liquid poops. I’ll just say that it was pretty gross and leave it at that.

Once I’d bathed Z and the Wife had gotten the sheets and pillowcases into the washer, we swapped. She held and comforted Z while I the bed put back together. All in all, we handled it as efficiently as you could expect for the circumstances, which means it only resembled the light-hearted slapstick of a Marx Brothers routine rather than the violent incompetence of the Three Stooges. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the time that MeToo kept being sick and we had to do this shtick twice in one night. But it was bad enough.

Boy, I’m tired. Anyway.

Z’s tummy is going to be unhappy for a little while. To help, we’ll be feeding him things like yogurt and kefir that can get healthy probiotic bacteria back into him. Bananas will help soothe his belly and replace potassium while toast will be easy to digest.

In the meantime, the Wife and I decided to stop giving him the antibiotics, even though he was supposed to be on them for ten days. He hasn’t had a fever in four days and his breathing is normal again (prior to starting antibiotics, he was breathing as if it hurt or was uncomfortable). Whatever was ailing him seems to be gone. As always, when we give our kids medicine we must weigh the benefits against any adverse side-effects. Dehydration can hit babies hard and fast. If “intestinal discomfort” means Z having another week of diarrhea, then the cure would be more harmful than the disease. Which it seems to have cured already.

Yes, being a parent can sometimes mean being up to your elbows in liquid poo at 2 o’clock in the morning…

Um. Yes.

I wrote that intending to balance the first half of the statement with a more positive assertion about how a lot of the time parenting is also very rewarding and/or fulfilling. However, while that is very true, I just can’t summon up enough brainpower to make it sound good and not like some limp platitude stuck on the end of the post to wrap things up.

Man, I am so very tired.

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