The Mystery of Puke

Warning: if barf stories make you want to, well, barf…avert your eyes from this post.

Last night I, for stupid reasons, stayed up far too late for a school night. It was nearly midnight when I went to bed. I usually fall asleep almost instantly but last night it took a long time for my brain to wind itself down.

When I woke up to the feeling of my daughter patting my face an hour later, I was sleepy and disoriented. Ev was in my bed but my husband wasn’t and it was dark and late and I was so very sleepy.

And then she coughed a very gaggy cough. And instantly, I was wide awake, instinctively cupping my hands under her mouth as she gagged and heaved. I fumbled to get the trash can as she let loose and barfed all over our bed and my husband’s nightstand and the carpet.

I turned on the light and started to wipe her mouth off. As my girl sagged against me and mumbled about having a yucky tongue, I felt the twin feelings of every parent dealing with the middle of the night pukes: Oh my poor baby and oh, man, this is going to be a long night.

(I should be very honest here and note that these are often much longer nights for my husband than for me).

Ev seemed to catch her breath and seemed like her normal self for a few moments and then she started the dry heaving, accompanied by frantic looks of “um, what the HELL is going on here, Mother?” that come with being two and sick and not having a clue what your body is doing and why.

Mr. Monkey came back upstairs and wondered aloud what on earth was going on. I broke the news “She puked” and saw his shoulders sag in the realization that he was about to get a shitty night’s sleep. And then we did the clean up: new sheets, new pajamas, new diaper, scrub the carpet. I took Ev and a bowl down to her bed and tried to get her back to sleep but she was squirmy and only wanted her Dada. The two of them ended up on the couch for the rest of the night, where Mr. Monkey tried to sleep sitting up so that Ev could lay on his shoulder and have gravity on her side (we think the barfing was mucous related). There was more puking and some sleeping.

This morning she woke up her normal, playful self. Her parents were basically zombies.

This small night of unpleasantness, a mere blip on the parenting radar, really, reminded me of a conversation I had with a therapist once. I was talking about parenting young children and how you love them so much and put so effort into planning what they’ll eat and do. You take trips to the park and read Night Night Little Pookie 5000 times and they’ll have no memory of it. It seemed in that therapist’s office kind of sad or futile (I was in a bit of an anxiety spiral at the time) until she started talking about how the parenting done in the early years gives babies and toddlers answers to if/then questions. If I cry, then they pick me up. If I get hurt, then they comfort me. If I laugh, then they do that again. If they leave, then they come back. This is your chance, the therapist said, to make sure that she is getting the right answers to those questions.

So maybe last night was just a normal night of parenting. Or maybe it was that plus a moment for Ev to learn that if she is sick, then she’ll be cared for. If she is tired, then we’ll hold her until she sleeps. If she is Ev, then she’ll be loved, no matter how tired we are.


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