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Stories, observations, and reflections from a life of raising boys

The Stomach Bug

Jenifer DeMattia

As October came to a close, so began the plague of 2013 in my home. It started as an annoying cold. Runny nose, slight cough. Then along came the flu, some other sort of virus, and as of mid December has ended with the almighty stomach bug. My three year old woke up around midnight rolling around on his bedroom floor begging us to make his tummy feel better. My husband and I looked at each other and knew what was coming next. A reminder of the Christmas of 2011, when our son spread the bug to us, and then everyone else we came into contact with over Christmas, and their families, and their families…and so on. The worst part was getting him past the throwing up part. He was so horrified by the process-But okay, who isn’t? So he threw up twice, was completely hysterical, but we got away easy. So we waited for our turn, which we knew is never that easy. After 24 hours it never came. Thank you God. 

Fast-forward 5 days. I woke up and the smell of coffee made me sick. Coffee, my closest companion and first kiss in the morning. Oh no. Commence vomiting, shakiness, headache, back pain, and more vomiting. One of my husband’s first comments was, “Please tell me you’re not sick.” I gave him the dreaded look and rolled over in bed. Yes, that’s right, he’s on kid duty today. The strangest part about the stomach bug is the state of mind it puts you in. It’s like a twilight state, like you’ve been put under for surgery, but it didn’t quite put you all the way under. Normally I would tell my husband everything he was doing wrong with the kids. At that moment, he could have been teaching them to juggle knifes and I wouldn’t have cared. Between my trips to the bathroom and coming in and out of consciousness I could hear the faint sounds of chaos coming from downstairs. At one point I heard a pizza being delivered at the door and my son demanding more soda. More soda I thought. That’s not supposed to be happening. Too weak, I slipped back away. The best part was every so often when my husband brought me our 4 month old so I could feed him. Breastfeeding with a stomach bug. Well, I actually have no words for how awful that was for all parties involved. 

Every once in a while my son would come upstairs and question me. Over and over he wanted me to confirm I was sick and that in fact I was staying in my room all day. I have no room for guilt when I feel that awful. Sorry baby, you have to settle for pizza and soda. Visions of his upcoming dental appointment flashed in my head. Around what I want to say was late afternoon I felt the familiar pull of the covers and the hurried breath of a 3 year old. I could tell he had my iPad because I heard the sound of his small finger swiping it open. He was playing Subway Surfers by the sound of the music. He calls it Temple Run, but it’s actually Subway Surfers because he’s too scared of Temple Run. How cute I thought. And then I felt his small hand on mine. He was rubbing my hand while playing his game on the iPad. Not even giving it a second thought, what I felt was a genuine act of love. My wild guy, the little dictator as we sometimes call him was letting me know he was there for me without saying a word. I opened one eye and looked at him, took a mental picture, and drifted off again.

Around three in the morning I could hear my husband throwing up. He came into the bed and first apologized for anything negative he had said to me that day. Tag, you’re it. So the next day was my turn. Back on with the kids and nurse to the husband. I shoveled the driveway from the snow we had gotten over night. Then I took the kids with me to the grocery store to stock up on ginger ale and chicken soup. I let my son use one of those mini grocery carts at the store and he probably rammed my ankles about 12 times. We came home and built towers out of Legos and wrote a letter to Santa. All and all I’d say it was a pretty good post stomach bug day. And then there was that mental picture I took. The one of my son rubbing my hand when I was in bed.

There is always something to be learned through any tough experience. First, there are many people who are very sick, and don’t get to recover. I am thankful that my family has been blessed with recovery. Second, I am raising a compassionate son. The little dictator, the very same boy who as I was giving him a bath that night said, “fight the fire”, as he threw a cup of water in my face. A person can be many things, some good and some needing improvement. But to have compassion and empathize with others in pain or sadness, that is something to be proud of. And third, when it comes to being sick, men are far worse to deal with than children. So for whatever sickness our son brings us next, we are ready. Armed with ginger ale, Lysol, and most importantly, compassion.