In my life before I had kids, I got food poisoning three times, as well as my fair share of stomach viruses (though never at the same time, thankfully). In college, a UTI once turned into a kidney infection that had me throwing up for hours and landed me in the ER twice.
During each of those illnesses, I felt supremely sorry for myself, especially when I found myself shuffling back and forth from my bed to the bathroom while holding my sad little vomit bowl — or when the ER nurse scolded me because I couldn’t give her a sufficient urine sample due to dehydration.
Back then, I thought sick days couldn’t get much worse. Man, was I wrong.
While I was pregnant with my second child, I had horrible morning sickness and a 2-year-old. At one point, I threw up in a bowl while my son and all of his stuffed animals sat in a pile directly on top of me on the sofa. “Mommy messy,” he commented. And then he wanted a snack.
Save for fruit and smoothies, the sight of any food repulsed me throughout my entire second pregnancy. But I still had to feed my son. Thankfully, my husband took over when he was home. When he was at work, I would gag my way through cooking scrambled eggs or making sandwiches or browning ground meat. Try as I might, I couldn’t quite manage to force myself to touch raw chicken.
Later on, when my daughter was 7 months old, our whole family got a particularly nasty stomach virus. Our son got it first, and my husband was working nights, so I was the one holding the bowl during every one of the middle-of-the-night puking sessions.
Just when I thought I’d managed to avoid catching it from him, I got sick. Very, very sick. I ended up so dehydrated that I ultimately needed four liters of IV fluid. Before the IV, I was barely able to move, but my kids still needed me.
On a Friday night, with my husband still working, our daughter threw up in her bed. So there I was, unable to even keep water down, changing sheets and pajamas and bouncing and rocking and shushing my crying baby to sleep.
I managed to catch a few hours of sleep myself — before I woke up and began throwing up every 15 minutes. And naturally, my daughter woke up wanting to nurse.
So I sat there, in a rocking chair, holding my crying baby girl who was getting absolutely no milk from my dehydrated boobs, and I threw up. Repeatedly. In a bowl. While trying to calm my child. And I actually thought back, with something that felt strangely like nostalgia, to the times when I used to be able to just throw up all by myself and then go to sleep.
Before I had kids, never once did I think that I would miss anything about throwing up alone. Motherhood is so weird.
When my husband got home from work at 7:30 a.m., I was lying on the floor of our daughter’s room, dehydrated and exhausted, singing a song to our crying baby. I can only imagine how pathetic I looked.
When I’d finally begun to recover, I made a comment on Facebook about the experience, and a friend very wisely replied, “I think nothing makes you feel like a mommy martyr more than multitasking while you puke.”
It’s the same for most moms of young kids, of course. When we’re sick, we don’t get to retreat to our beds for the day. Best case scenario: we catch a few catnaps on the couch while our kids are glued to the television.
We try not to gag at the smell of the food we prepare for them and comfort ourselves with the knowledge that, while yogurt, carrots, crackers, and blueberries don’t exactly look like a traditional dinner, it’s really a reasonably healthy meal, all things considered.
After everyone is finally healthy again, the final phase of “it sucks being a sick mom” begins: It’s time to go through the entire house and systematically wash and disinfect every single thing that has been slept on, barfed in, eaten from, or touched during the past week.
This, of course, only adds insult to injury. Not only do moms not get to take time off to be sick, being sick actually creates a lot more work. The house is a disaster, everything is covered with germs, and the kids start to go stir-crazy from being cooped up in the house for so long.
When my kids are grown and out of the house, I imagine there will be many things that I will miss: morning snuggles with curly heads nestled under my chin, giggles, holding hands, and stick-figure drawings of our family to hang on the fridge.
But I will not miss this — one of the very hardest parts of motherhood. And if I never again throw up while someone is on top of me, I will be very relieved.
For more from Bethany Neumeyer visit I Was Promised More Naps, Facebook and Instagram.