Well, that was dramatic
Yesterday was a pretty normal day. Daniel bumbled around with his big, friendly grin, knocking into things and experimenting with cause-and-effect. Jazz skittered around, bouncing between glee and whinging, with frequent pitstops in officious. (Normal.) Poppy watched the goings-on with a smile, occasionally bursting into utterly contagious chortles. And Grace was quiet.
Of course, Grace is often quiet. She can charge around, thundering up and down the house. She can giggle, shriek and shout. But very often, she is quiet. Watching the others, playing alone, just sitting. Grace does that.
So I didn’t think anything at all of Grace having a quiet morning. Her energy levels were normal, and her mood was fine. She was just… quiet. Grace does that.
Grace didn’t want lunch. Hm. Grace doesn’t do that. Grace normally approaches her food quietly and methodically. She rarely displays overt enthusiasm, mind you. No cheers, no clapping, no beaming smiles. She doesn’t freak, flail and complain about anything, either. She simply sits at the table, picks up her fork, and commences to chomping. And keeps chomping through two, three, four bowlsful. Every day.
So, Grace not wanting lunch is unusual… but with everything else so absolutely normal, I still didn’t think much of it. We put on the naptime diapers, read our stories, and went to bed.
She went to sleep quickly, which, had I been thinking about it, is also unusual. Normally Grace sings and talks for a good 20 minutes before settling down. Not today. But I didn’t think about it because I never pay attention to the chatter anyway. I’m aware it’s going on, but it requires nothing from me, so I just do the stuff I do during naptime. Today it didn’t happen, but I was just doing the stuff I do during naptime, and the prompt silence didn’t really register.
She slept for quite a bit longer than usual. I noticed that.
She was standing when I entered the room, obviously just woken, a bit shaky, a bit pale, which sounds pretty obvious now, I know. But Grace has a porcelain complexion. She’s usually pale. Kids who’ve woken only as you’ve entered the room and pole-vaulted themselves to their feet while still two-thirds asleep are usually a bit shaky. Nothing of note there.
I carry her downstairs, set her on her feet by the diaper table, and kneel in front of her. I’m about to remove her diaper and put her on the potty — dry all morning! Not one single accident! — and she makes a funny hiccuping sound. She looks a little confused, but not upset. It’s as if she’s puzzled about something.
I turn to face her. “Are you o –”
And her mouth opens and… she explodes. The turkey stew she’d been only moderately interested in at lunch makes a reappearance, along with sundry other unidentifiable chunks and and cheese and a whole lotta slime. And it lands… on her shirt, on her pants, on the floor… but also? But MOSTLY?? On my shirt. Secondarily, on my jeans.
My question is answered. She is not okay. Not at all. The other children, vultures all, gather round. Goodness! This is weird and interesting! Maybe even exciting!!
“Oh, poor Grace!” I slip my arm around her shoulder — no pulling her onto my slime-filled lap — and I croon, mostly for the audience. “You just threw up! You feel sick!” I look at the others. “Poor Grace feels sick!” (C’mon, you little blighters. Some empathy is in order here.)
“Poor Grace feels sick!” Jazz echoes.
“Yes. She just threw up. She is sick.”
“She threw up. She is sick.” Jazz is the queen of repetition, but I often wonder if she grasps much of the content of her parroting. Does she feel the empathy she’s mimicking in my voice? No idea, but it’s a start.
And shall we just pause for a second to consider the scenario?
Grace has just hurled. And what am I doing? Giving Grace some physical and emotional comfort while working on empathy with the three other toddlers. I am soothing Grace, and consciously, deliberately modelling empathy.
All while I’m covered in puke, y’all. COVERED.in.Puke. Because I am a KICK-ASS CAREGIVER.
And then I clean Grace up. (I am still covered in puke.)
And then I put the babies in their high chair with a handful of Cheerios. (I am still covered in puke.)
And then I settle Grace and Jazz on the couch with some books. (I AM STILL COVERED IN PUKE.)
And then — and only then — do I zip upstairs. I couldn’t do it before, could I? I’d have had four uncontained, unmonitored babies doing gawdknowswhat in my home. So I zip upstairs. NOT to immerse my body in a soothing disinfectant bath. NOT to shower. NOT EVEN to complete a thorough scrub at the sink.
No. I get to rip the sodden, stinking clothes off my body, and throw some clean ones on. That’s it, that’s all. I manage a hand-washing at the kitchen sink when I return downstairs.
Because the life of a caregiver? Is about SELF-SACRIFICE! It doesn’t matter if I feel like a reeking, sticky, slime-covered pillar of puke. I have babies to care for! (Much like a mother, I know, but if those were MY kids, they’d have come with me into the bathroom and played on the floor while I had a bath. All four of them.)
Grace puked twice more before her mother arrived. And during those episodes, I discovered that Grace does not LIKE to puke into a bowl. You see the heaves begin and the nasty acidic pre-vomit drool start to drizzle from her lower lip, so you grab a bowl and hold it in front of the child. She stares into the bowl for a second as the heaves build, and then, when the substance makes its arrival, she TURNS HER HEAD!!! So she can PUKE ON THE FLOOR!!!
(WTF? Why fight the bowl? Bizarre.) However, at least she missed me this time…
The second time she puked, I was ready. I knelt on the floor, hauled the kid in my lap, and rammed that bowl against her collarbone. There was no avoiding it. Though goodness knows she tried.
(And again, WTF?)
When Grace’s mummy arrived, Grace was in the post-puking bounce-back, and although still pale she was her normal placidly cheerful self. So much so that Grace’s mother actually asked if she could come back tomorrow, if there were no further incidents that evening.
No. The rule is 24 hours at home following vomitting or diarrhea. (I’ve been known to make some exceptions for events that were very obviously a non-contagious one-off caused by something they ate, but Grace? Is SICK.)
I’m sure mummy agreed with me six minutes later, when she came bombing back into the house to grab a pile of kleenex. Grace was busy puking in her bike trailer.
And now we watch the others, and wait…