I’m already slightly awake when I feel little hands on my side. This is my daughter’s way of waking me up.
I’m standing in the doorway to my parents’ bedroom, ambivalent. Do I wake Mom up? Am I sick enough to wake her up, or will I make Dad mad?
I reach over to pull her into bed with us–she sometimes joins us in bed in the wee hours of the morning–when I smell the familiar sour milk/sour tummy smell. She coughs in my face, the cough of a I-dont-feel-good baby. (At the risk of catching it myself later, I know.) I turn on the lights as she lays on the floor. She never lays on the floor. I start stripping the sheets before I realize I can’t see and can’t hear; I put in my hearing aids and put on my glasses.
My baby needs a hug. She may be too tall for high chairs in restaurants now, but she is still my baby. I fall to the floor and scoop her up gently and hold her feverish little body.
I continue standing in the doorway. I take a step forward–and a step back. I will Mom awake. Please wake up, I think. Nausea rises to the base of my throat. I whimper. Mom stirs, but is still asleep.
My hands still smell like sick, that sour smell of curdled milk, of bread chunks not yet digested. That’s all she ate last night. She whimpers. I remember the bed has a mattress protector. That can wait until morning. She needs me more than the bed does.
I run to the bathroom. I wonder which end to put on the toilet. Surely I can control my bowels, so I barf and soil my pants.
Mommy me springs into action as she cries and hurks. I cup my hands because it’s too late to run to the bathroom. I wash my hands, and then take a sheet and drape the couch in it and lie down, holding her on my tummy as she writhes, sucking on the corner of her soiled blankie. I can wash things in the morning. She needs it more, now.
Mom comes into the bathroom. I don’t have my hearing aids in. She grabs a flashlight from the closet for me to read her lips. I don’t feel good, I whine. She dampens a washcloth to wipe my mouth; the coolness feels refreshing against my feverish face. She’s disgusted I pooped my pants. I want to tell her to just throw it away, but they’re newish underwear. I think she did throw them away.
I scroll through Facebook, too keyed up to sleep. My poor baby, sleeping soundly on my tummy.
I curl up next to the toilet on the cool linoleum. The bathroom is spinning. A side effect of the cochlear implant, they said. I resolve not to tell them I blew my nose, which I wasn’t supposed to do for two months. Dad would ask why I blew my nose. I couldn’t tell him that his yelling at me made me cry and my nose full of the snot of sadness. I’d have to lie. “I don’t know, Dad.”
It’s morning. She barfs a few more times. I do laundry. I will need to do laundry again.
I barf a few more times by morning. The room can’t stop spinning. I remember what my Grammy said about her vertigo–stare at something, a fixed object. I do. Why does the clock keep swimming? But it helps.
“Yay, Clifford!” she yells at the iPad, feeling a little better.
I rest on the couch, feeling a little better. Dad asked me why I barfed. I tell the truth. He asks me why I blew my nose when the doctors said not to. I lied to protect him. He yells; the room swims and I run to the bathroom again. It’s all my fault. I shouldn’t have cried when he yelled at me the other day. I try not to cry. I can’t afford to blow my nose again.
Everything my daughter lives through, I live through again. Every time I parent her, I parent myself a little bit.
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