Sharing the Load of Parenthood – A Vomit Soaked Love Letter to my Husband
Written by Kaci Smith
Childcare arranged. Dress rented. Suit dry cleaned. Bags packed. Pump equipment packed. Cooler and ice pack (for breastmilk), packed.
It was Friday night around midnight. The house was quiet and finally put back together from the usual disarray of a busy week. Everything was ready so that first thing in the morning we could hit the road — just Eric and I — and head to my friend’s wedding in Chicago. Eric’s brother and sister in law were set to arrive at 7:00 am to take over kid watch so that we could leave by 7:30 and arrive by 11:30am for a 1pm ceremony. The kids’ routines, doctor’s office number, and medicine doses, all carefully typed in the notes section of my phone ready to be sent as a back up blueprint for success if needed. 🙂
Logistics, logistics, logistics. Mamas – you know alllll about the logistics.
I dozed off. I was so excited to see my college girlfriends, especially the bride, whom I hadn’t seen in well over a year, maybe two, due to COVID and just life.
Around 2:00am I was awoken by Shep’s monitor. He was whining for me – something that wasn’t necessarily a new thing. Every few nights, he’ll wake up from a bad dream or something and either Eric or I go in, lay with him for a while, and he falls right back asleep. I stumbled out of bed and told Eric I was going in and that he was in charge of Scottie if she woke up and started crying. When I opened Shep’s door, the smell hit me almost instantly and my heart dropped. He’d vomited everywhere. He was starting to panic, especially when the light of the hallway shone on his bed and he could see what had happened. This was the first time he’d ever really thrown up, so he was very confused. “Mommy, something happened, something happened” he started saying over and over while trying to hold back his tears. “It’s okay buddy,” I said, my brain trying to catch up to my instincts. “It’s okay, you’re safe, I’ll be right back…” as I ran back into our bedroom and shook Eric awake. I had a teeny tiny moment of “Should I let Eric sleep?” before I got to him and then thought – hell no, don’t be a hero, you need help. Eric sprung up when I told him and we both rushed back into Shep’s room. I picked him up and got him to the bathroom. I could tell he didn’t feel good and that he was nervous, as he just clung to me and wouldn’t let me set him down to get him cleaned up. I tried repeating over and over that it was okay, that he had gotten sick, and sometimes if we’re sick or our tummy hurts we throw up to get it out so we can feel better. As he was processing this new information, I was pulling his pajamas off and started running the water so we could get him rinsed off and cleaned up.
As we finished cleaning up and brushing teeth, Eric came in with clean pajamas and all the bedding that he had just stripped from his room. Without going into too much detail, he was tasked with rinsing the sheets, Shep’s four (yes four) blankies, and his comforter in the bathtub before taking it down to the laundry room to go in the washing machine. I brought Shep down to the kitchen to get some water, he was so perplexed at seeing the house in the middle of the night when it was completely dark and all the lights were out. He spotted a new toy I had ordered for him and unboxed after he went to bed (a toy leaf blower) and all his worries seemingly went out the door. “Mommy! A leaf blower, a leaf blower!” he exclaimed. I just love the innocence of little kids. He’d completely forgotten all his troubles. I told him the leaf blower would be ready for him tomorrow to play with, we got the water, and went back upstairs. I found Eric still in the bathroom cleaning bedding, gagging, and trying not to throw up himself. The smell was still laying in the air like a thick blanket.
“What do we do?” I asked Eric. This is when you wish parenting came with a handbook. Should he sleep in our bed? Should we make him a bed on our floor? What if he gets sick again? The kid has never been able to sleep or even nap in our bed- he’s a creature of habit, and gets totally thrown off the couple of times we’ve tried to have him sleep with us. My brain was still only working at about 50% capacity and I was running through all the scenarios. Do we want to contaminate two bedrooms? What if he got sick in our room – do we even have enough backup sheets/bedding? Would he sleep? What if he didn’t sleep with us and was scared? etc. etc. etc. I concluded that the best thing would be for me to sleep in his room with him after we got his bed re-made (he sleeps in a queen bed so it’s easy – as that was our guest room prior to him being born and we wanted to use the furniture we already had). The smell was still God awful, but this was going to be the best option.
I was also trying to coach Shep on what to do if he felt sick again – options being either going to the potty or doing it in the bowl I’d brought up from the kitchen. He seemed to understand. A few times he asked to go back to the toilet and thought he was going to get sick again, but didn’t. The poor kid’s stomach really seemed to be hurting still, so I assumed it would happen again – I just didn’t know when or if we’d be up all night going back and forth. Finally, around 2:30-2:45am, we got everything settled and him laid back down. He abruptly sat up, grabbed the bowl, and ended up vomiting again – but this time it was thankfully confined. I rubbed his back, held his hand, and looked up at Eric as he was coming back in (looking like he’d just gotten back from war). We both knew. Wedding probably wasn’t happening. I felt a pang of total defeat.
We texted our family set to watch the kids that they could sleep in in the morning – and that we would sadly no longer be needing them. I was really disappointed, worried about Shep, and also really tired, so I tried to fall back asleep (it was around 2:45/3am at this point). After a very restless 3-4 hours of sleep next to a toddler, Shep woke me up around 7:45. He hadn’t gotten sick again. He seemed to be feeling 10x better. “Mommy, mommy, my tummy doesn’t hurt anymore!” he exclaimed. I started texting my mom (who is a nurse) and told her what happened. “We aren’t going to the wedding,” I told her. “I can’t in good conscience leave him.” She prodded for more details, and I told her he hadn’t gotten sick again. “I will come and take care of him,” she told me. “He will be fine.” “No, no, no, we can’t leave him.” I went to get Scottie up shortly after and was feeding her in the rocking chair in her room. Eric came in and looked me dead in the eye – “You should go, Kace,” he said. “I’ll stay here with the kids.” Shep did seem to be feeling better. We weren’t sure if maybe he just ate something weird, or if it was a quick bug he’d already fought off, but he was acting like himself, eating, drinking, and hadn’t gotten sick again.
My extrovert husband, who was really looking forward to seeing our friends too, who had cleaned up vomit for an hour that night, had volunteered as tribute. This is where I say — your partner / support system matters, people. I considered it for a few minutes. The mom guilt was setting in, but I knew in my heart the kids would be fine and that Eric was 100% capable of taking care of them by himself. “Kace, go!” he re-stated after he could see my eyes glazing over with all the thoughts swirling in my brain. “We’ll be fine!” “Okay!” I said. I jumped up, showered and got dressed. I started rushing – as I was now about an hour behind when I wanted to leave originally.
I got to Chicago in the nick of time. It was a gorgeous, black tie affair at the beautiful Drake Hotel. I got to see my friend marry the love of her life, and see other friends I hadn’t seen in a very long time. Shepard thankfully didn’t get sick again. I’m sure Eric didn’t have the most glamorous day, but what he did for me without even skipping a beat will forever be etched in my brain. It’s part of the reason I married him, and why I’m so grateful, every day, to share the load of parenthood with him.
My girlfriends and I at the wedding
Dad of the year!
Shepard and Eric a couple weeks ago
Eric and Scottie
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