Papa upstairs, Papa downstairs

At 3:20 a.m. I was startled from sleep by two realities: 1. My toddler girl was in my arms, smelling of baby lotion and vomit, and 2. I don’t deserve my saintly husband of five years…

Waking me from sleep is like trying to get my Daddy’s deaf golden retriever to get out of the back of a pickup truck. It takes lots of prodding, pulling, shaking, and dragging, and so, sadly, I suppose Mr. Gore has decided that it is easier to go upstairs alone, change the baby, clean up the vomit, wash the sheets, blankets, puzzle, books, and anything else that was tossed upon by Miss Sunday’s cookies (or, in this case, green beans and bananas). He even stripped her beloved Bitty Baby doll, stain-treated her pajamas, and threw them in the wash with the bed linens. And when I realized he had performed such a task, a task that surely belongs to the stay-at-home Mother, I laid there feeling a bit guilty, a good lot grateful, and as usual, humbled, humbled, humbled.

I couldn’t make up for what I had missed, so I set about doing what I do best when the kids throw up, planning a course of action to avoid being retched upon in our sleep, and then, cautiously curling up with the sick little one to see about getting us all back to dreamland.

I’m no pro, but I’m no amateur either, and I’ve learned with my second child that when you are dealing with babies and vomit, you need to just scrap the idea of putting fresh linens on the bed. The few times our firstborn got sick as an infant, we would change his pajamas, change the sheets and pull out fresh blankets only to have him throw up all over everything thirty minutes later. Before the night was up, we had used up every crib sheet and baby blanket in the house and he would wind up sleeping in some motley assortment of clothing. We even had to dress his pillow in a royal blue t-shirt one night as we had used up all the toddler-sized pillowcases! (That was the night he ate too many blueberries before bed and gave back each.and.every.one!).

I have since learned to bring out the towels instead. Rebekah Sunday had been in bed with us all of two minutes last night before she was lying on a towel “sheet”, tucked under a towel “blanket” with a tea towel laying nearby to use as a bib should she decide there were still a few cookies to toss (or in this case, a few more green beans and bananas!). She was veritably swaddled in terrycloth and set gingerly between our two pillows, her Mother monitoring the gurglings of her stomach, trying to predict when the next upheaval might arrive.

Next, I had Mr. Gore grab the big green plastic bowl I bought for $1 at Wal-mart back in college. Everyone needs a bowl like this. It is perfect for cutting up numerous pints of strawberries for our favorite springtime treat of strawberries and cream, it can hold a mountain of potato peelings and other scrap food to put by the back door for someone else to toss out, and it is the perfect catcher for baby vomit. (And hopefully by the time spring comes and you need to cut up your strawberries, you’ll have forgotten about the last time it was used for baby…)

And so Rebekah Sunday and I laid side by side, just staring at each other in the dim light coming from the bathroom. I murmured words of comfort to her, she made soft baby noises in return, and before I knew it, our heroic Papa and husband was there beside us. Guilty as I feel about his trips up and down the stairs, our routine works quite well (especially for me, obviously), because once I wake up and move about, I have a terrible time returning to my slumber. He, on the other hand, could wake up,  go out back in the frigid cold, chop down a tree, come back to bed, and be fast asleep before I could even ask about the weather!

But before either of us could get too comfortable, Rebekah began that telltale gagging and we both went into defense mode, Mr. Gore grabbing the big green bowl, me propping her up and sweeping the tea towel across her chest and around her little shoulders. She was such a brave girl, with just a few cookies left to be rid of (and, in this case, two green beans and a bit of banana). Our careful planning worked, with only my left index finger a victim of her stomach wrath. It got me just as I was moving my hand out of the way. But when she was finished, her pajamas were still clean, her bedding (and ours!) was still clean, and I had only to wash my finger before we were all tucked in again, ready to attempt a decent night of sleep. Seasoned parents? Perhaps…or at least getting closer every day.

Rebekah soon decided that side by side was not enough and  rolled over with her right cheek stacked on top of my left cheek, a position she assumes quite often. If you can manage to breathe, it is really quite comfortable and delightful, however, on this night, as aforementioned, the sweet smell of Johnson’s baby lotion was mingled with the faintest hint of vomit. But I am this girl’s mother, you see, and she is my baby, and so, I not only dealt with it, I even managed to enjoy it, having her breathing slowly becoming synchronized with mine, until, miracle upon miracles, she was asleep. And so was I.

It wasn’t a typical night at our house on the hill, but neither was it completely abnormal. So far, baby vomit and toddler nosebleeds are at the top of my least-favorite-things list, but to those young parents who find themselves in situations like ours, let me assure you, there is a light at the end of the tunnel – the last time our 3 year old Gideon was sick, he went straight to the toilet to dispose of his lunch, leaving nary a drop for me to clean up! This season of baby vomit is a short one, and meanwhile, there is a sweetness to be found in these moments that we come together as a family, a husband selflessly helping his wife and serving his children, a deadbeat wife finally managing to pitch in and put some good ideas to work, a son with an iron stomach who stays asleep and doesn’t throw up (thank you, Gideon!), and a baby girl, all softness, all sweetness, who needs us. We answer her call, with gratitude…Mr. Gore, right away, bounding up the stairs to rescue his baby damsel in distress…me, whenever I happen to wake up and realize the house is falling down on everyone’s head.

He IS a saint, you know.

But I get to hold the baby.

One thought on “Papa upstairs, Papa downstairs

  1. How precious to remember something as simple as a sick baby with the edifying language you use!!! I remember times when my firstborn baby boy (25 now) was sick and Daddy would go get him and I would clean him up – then my 20 yr old daughter, 12 (almost a teenager) daughter and my baby girl who will be 8 next week- my eyes are misting after reading this – I got to hold the babies too. Precious memories.

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