There’s one part of parenting I never got used to, one thing that made it almost intolerable. It wasn’t the sleepless nights, the dirty diapers or the crying. It wasn’t even the sibling rivalry, the bickering or all the yelling.
No, it was the stomach flu.
Ick, ick, and double ick! You see, I have: Emetophobia or Norophobia (the fear of vomiting or the fear of the stomach flu). I can’t stand the nausea, the complete lack of control over bodily functions or the volcanic spewing from seemingly every orifice in your body. While it’s bad enough to have it yourself, it’s even more traumatizing to watch your children go through it.
And, if there’s one sure thing about motherhood it is that your kids will get the flu and they will bring it home and try to share it with the entire family.
Stomach bugs are not technically the flu. In fact, in other countries it is called: “The Winter Vomiting Bug” which is a lot more accurate but extremely gross at the same time. Gastritis is more common in the fall and winter months (when kids are crammed indoors). And, because stomach bugs can appear quickly and seemingly out of nowhere, it’s hard to keep the sick ones quarantined.
But, please, for the love of God, TRY!
I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “Sally was throwing up a few hours ago but she seems fine now so we decided to come anyway.” Are you kidding me? For those of us with “Flu Phobia” that’s like hearing, “You know what would be fun? Let’s drink some Syrup of Ipecac and wait for the barfing to begin!” (According to the experts, it takes at least three days of being symptom-free before your child isn’t contagious anymore).
If you have a cold or even strep throat, I’ll meet you for coffee. Heck, I’ll even babysit your kids! But, expose me knowingly to the stomach flu and I will disown you. People used to say, “But, Ann it’s only a day of being sick vs. a week with a cold.” I don’t care! I’ll take the week. I’ll take TWO weeks!
We used to share one bathroom when my kids were little, so if one of them barfed the chances of us all getting sick were astronomical. But, even while caring for ill children, I rarely got sick. Why? I took precautions. Crazy precautions (let’s just say it wasn’t beyond me to pee in the yard).
I’d use my sleeves to open doors, turn on lights and pick up toys. I’d wrap a scarf over my mouth whenever I went to the restroom and I washed my hands often. The sickies were quarantined in certain areas of the house and were not allowed in the kitchen at all. And, I made sure not to touch my face (the virus enters the body through the mouth). It turns out that the “crazy” lengths I went to actually work and are listed on the websites dedicated to battling the flu.
My kids are grown now, but last week my granddaughter decided to get “The Winter Vomiting Bug” at Nana’s house. I had been playing with her and cuddling her all evening and the illness hit her very suddenly. I figured I didn’t have a chance in a million of not getting sick, but I reverted back to my craziness anyway. I sealed off the bathroom she used tighter than the tomb of an ancient Egyptian king. I was careful not to touch anything she had been playing with, I was mindful about not putting my hands near my mouth and I cleaned every doorknob and light switch.
And, I have to say, “So Far, so good.” With a few precautions and a little consideration, we can stop the epidemic-like numbers of the norovirus. And, that brings a lot of peace to those of us who suffer from emetophobia.