Barf Boy

January 8, 2007 at 1:28 pm (Uncategorized)

“There are two kind of children,” one of my two older brothers told me when Andrew was just an infant. “Good pukers and bad pukers.” He went on to elaborate that good pukers, when they wake up in the middle of the night with a stomach flu or a mild case of food poisoning, will head to the bathroom, find the toilet, and puke until they’re finished. Bad pukers, on the other hand, fight the act of vomiting. They stall, they try to make the urge go away, they complain about the entire process. As a result, they end up barfing on your bed, or in a hallway, or in front of the toilet. They’ll keep you up for most of the night, prolonging the whole ordeal of being sick. “Let’s hope Andrew is a good puker,” my brother Larry said, with all the wisdom that having three children can bring.

I let his warning wash over me. “Hah. Hah,” I said, feeling vaguely uncomfortable that, like most other veteran parents, my brother seemed far too comfortable talking about barf and other bodily functions like poop and pee and lactation. Yuck. I would certainly never discuss Andrew’s puking – good or bad. In fact, I was pretty sure my sweet little boy would never puke. Right?

Hah. Hah.

Andrew just turned three, but I can assure you that we know what kind of puker he is. A bad one. For the past two nights, for instance, Andrew has awakened in the middle of the night, making the sort of sounds a cat does when it is working out a hairball. He denies needing to vomit, though, and refuses to go into the bathroom or put his head over a pot. He insists on being cuddled in our bed. Once his head hits our pillows, he promptly begins barfing. He only gets a little bit out before he tries to stop the whole ordeal by swallowing his vomit back down. Double yuck. (As a good puker, I can not convey exactly how much this bothers me.) “I don’t like this,” he squeals, as more barf comes out. Since he refuses to put his head over any kind of receptacle, we have to have him throw up into a towel. Being Andrew, not just any towel will do. He wants a particular green hand towel to catch his barf. In case you’ve ever wondered how much puke the average hand towel can absorb, let me assure you, it’s not much. Which means that in addition to stripping the bedding at 3AM, we also get to change three sets of puke-soaked pajamas. In the middle of his next round of vomiting – when he’s actually mid-puke – Andrew demands a drink of water to “wash the taste” out of his mouth.

“What a lot of disgusting details,” I can hear you thinking. “I’m not sure I want to read this blog anymore. It’s supposed to be about sarcoidosis and motherhood, but she’s spending far too much time on hand towels and puke.” Here’s the point. Right now, I want my life to be about hand towels and puke. I am the mother of a pre-schooler, and this is supposed to be the terrain – stomach flu and whether my kid can make it to the toilet in time; how many letters he can recognize in the alphabet; the degree of potty training his achieved; his fine motor skills; what kind of cake to bake for his third birthday party this weekend.

Unfortunately, when I am in the throes of a chronic disease that seems intent on manifesting itself acutely, I forget that Andrew and his puke style are my priority. Instead, I run the risk of turning his life into a subset of mine. Take this weekend. On Friday, I had to go to the emergency room because I was vomiting blood and was having intense abdominal pain. It turns out that having an enlarged spleen can cause a heck of a lot of pain and puking (which, I can assure you, I did not fight). Since the sarcoidosis is causing my spleen to get bigger, there’s not much to do except wait for the higher dose of prednisone to knock out the sarcoidosis. Come Saturday night, though, when Andrew developed this flu, I was exhausted, and the last thing I wanted was to have a feverish little boy upchucking in my bed. “Why is all this crap happening to me?” I caught myself thinking, as I held the trusty green hand towel in front of Andrew’s mouth and winced from the pain in my own gut.

“This” isn’t happening to me. I have chronic and multi-systemic sarcoidosis. But the travails of my son should not become fodder for my own personal pity party. He gets sick – badly, I might add – but Saturday night was about him, not me. If I’m not careful, he’ll grow up with my illness consuming the air he needs. He’ll worry that every time he gets the flu, it’s contributing to my great snowball of woe. And that will not do.

So I caught myself and returned to the here and now, to the sick little fellow in my lap, fighting his sickness with every fiber of his body. That I admire. He’s not such a bad puker, after all. Well, maybe he could aim for a bucket.

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