Emetophobia: an intense, irrational fear or anxiety pertaining to vomiting (Wikipedia).
Yup, that's me.
So you can imagine my stress levels when Abby got sick on Tuesday. But even I couldn't have predicted the height of my stress levels now, after both Tom and Michael came down with the same bug, and I became the last man standing. What a joke that has been, though, in the end. Tom, who legitimately caught and recovered from the virus, has been on his feet and taking charge of things to a vastly greater degree than I have (including taking the time to write a guest blog post for me last night while I lay in bed, feeling half-dead from the day I'd just had). He's been amazing, as always, and I still feel horribly guilty about the fact that he found it necessary to take a moment and make me feel better about the fact that he was about to go run to the bathroom and be sick, when he was about to go run to the bathroom and be sick. But I love him so much for it, all the same. He's so good to me, and so good for me. And because I adore him, and owe so much to him, I even managed to sneak into the bathroom with him once the worst of his bout was over, bring him a glass of water, and rub his lower back (while staying well out of the line of sight).
For my part, for the last two days, on top of trying to deal with drastic levels of sleep deprivation, a sick baby, and tremendous amounts of physical discomfort, I've been feeling like a ticking time bomb, and wondering when the other shoe will drop.
At this point, it seems likely that I've dodged the virus, and yet my stomach is still an undecided mess, torturing me with incredibly painful and unrelenting hunger pains (that was my entire night last night), and then rejecting my efforts to eat to relieve the agony. Much of my day today involved periods feeling close enough to normalcy that I got the courage to take in some small meals, only to find myself rotating between curling up in a ball on the sofa or bed, and leaning forward in my seat every few minutes for the next hour or so afterwards, wondering if my moment had finally come.
In the meantime, the smell of puke seems to follow me everywhere, since poor little Michael is having the hardest time of us all, and is still sick with the darned thing. Whereas Tom and Abby were "one and done" deals, Michael has had hours-long periods of improvement, followed by bouts of vomiting, since Thursday afternoon. He finished up this evening by puking twice, and now, from his once sweet-smelling head (freshly cleaned in the shower this morning after he retched his first bottle all over himself and Tom) wafts the sickly smell of vomit, once again.
Looks like I'll be calling the doctor again tomorrow morning.
From the day that I first became a parent, I've known that vomit was unavoidable, and I've often wondered how I was going to learn to deal with this inane fear of mine. It was always my hope that I would find it within me to spring to action, without thought, and whatever needed doing would simply get done, despite my conflicted feelings. To some degree, that has been true. While I handed over the cleaning duties to Tom after Abby's unfortunate incident, I imagine that I would have found a way to get through it on my own if he hadn't been around (even if it meant I had to do things in stages), and I've managed to handle Michael's smaller incidents without assistance.
What I had not counted on, however, was the staggering amount of anxiety that the situation would create for me in the long-term. Beyond the more immediate worries of when a particular child of mine might get sick next, I've gotten steeped in worries about my own chances of falling prey to the madness. The fact that I appear to have an immune system that is fine-tuned to shut these bugs out appears to be both a blessing and a curse (though I seriously doubted its efficacy this time around, being pregnant and literally, near-constantly, surrounded by unpleasant bodily fluids). While I can't feel anything but extreme thankfulness over the fact that I've remained stomach-bug free since I was six years old, I feel that the absence of the experience in my formative years has helped create the neurosis that I have now. The handful of times that I have thrown up since then were in circumstances that did not exactly lend themselves to a clear memory of what exactly happened to me (I must admit with some embarrassment), so half of my fear revolves around the Unknown. Being on my third pregnancy, I've come incredibly close to living the reality any number of times, and even tried to force it once or twice, unsuccessfully, but it never actually happened (possibly because I fight against it so hard), and while I know it to be an unpleasant experience, I imagine I've built it up in my head to something far worse than it actually is, when all is said and done.
The other half of my fear? Well, puke is gross, and it makes me feel- well- pukey. But most of all, I can't stand the waiting game. Will they, won't they, when will they, where will they? Though, of course, at the age my kids are, it's not like I'll be getting any warnings beforehand, anytime soon.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I've just realized that Michael must have passed some puke essence on to my shirt, because he's been in bed for twenty minutes, and I can't stop smelling it.
Please, God, let this all be over soon. And it would be amazing if I could somehow, miraculously, find a way to deal with it a little bit better the next time.