Health

My Mother, Myself

It’s 3 a.m.

I’m lying on the floor of our bathroom. The cold tiles feel good against my skin and if I stay prone I can almost fool myself into believing that the worst might be over, that I may have finally flushed this flu/food poisoning/whatever-this-thing-is out of my system.

No dice.

My stomach rebels, again. I’ve lost count now of how many times I’ve been sick, but still it keeps coming, until I’m left gasping for air in between empty retching.

I’m in tears, and as I choke back sobs, I have to bite down hard against a word, a call, a summons, that almost slips out instinctively.

“Mummy!”

I am thirty-four years old. I am, by every definition of the word, an adult. Most days I am even a functioning one. I have a spouse and a house and pets and a mortgage and a driver’s license and retirement investments and knowledge of the cold hard truth that when you grow up you don’t get to do everything you like but in fact have to do lots of things you don’t like at all. Yet in that moment I am a child again, longing for a cool cloth against my forehead, the soft hands and softer voice of my mother, her reassurance that she is there, and that all will be well in time.

But I am an adult now, so I swallow the cry unspoken and I make sure I cry quietly, so as not to wake my husband.

Finally it passes, and I lie back down on the cold floor again. The past two hours have taught me that it is likely to be only a brief reprieve.

From the room next door I hear a stirring and then a whimper. The whimper becomes a soft cry, the cry a word:

“Mum-my!”

It is my son, laid low by whatever has also hit me.

I quell my nausea and banish it deep within my abdomen. I stand up, shaky and weak, but I do it quickly, because his cry is getting louder and I can hear the rising fear in his voice. I wash my hands and stumble in to his room.

He is sitting up in his crib, but isn’t really awake. I murmur his name, and he flops back down on to his side immediately. I smooth his hair from his forehead, checking as I do that he is still free of fever, that he has not been sick again. I tuck his bunny back under his arm, give his back a rub, sit in the rocking chair and sing a few more verses of “The Wheels on the Giant Tow Truck Go Round and Round” until I can hear from his breathing that he has fallen back into sleep.

I stand up and creep to the side of his crib. In the darkness I can see his sweet face, peaceful, full of trust, confident that I will always be there to make things better.

I am given only a moment to watch before my stomach begins to churn. I give his hair once last stroke and turn away from his crib.

“Sleep well, my little love,” I say as I close the door.

I square my shoulders. I clutch my stomach. I grit my teeth and go back to the bathroom.

Even in the middle of my own misery, I will always hear him.

I’m Mummy now.

(Featured image credit: kronerda)

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Angela

Angela

Angela spent her early thirties trying to keep her head above water while raising her son and finishing her doctorate. With the PhD in hand and her son about to head off to school, she now has to figure out what comes next. She lives in a southern part of the Great White North with her husband, her son, and two Antipodean cats.

6 Comments

  1. January 20, 2014 at 3:50 pm —

    You have my sympathies.
    I hope you get better soon.
    We were hit by a nasty belly bug (more than 20 out of 50 kids in kindergarten!) last week and thankfully I didn’t catch it.
    That’s the thing: Suddenly you’re no longer allowed to simply curl up and have somebody bring you tea, suddenly you still need to bring somebody tea.

    • January 20, 2014 at 7:39 pm —

      You need to share your outbreak prevention stratgies with us all! You did well not to come down with it!

      • January 21, 2014 at 9:00 am —

        I think I was simply lucky. Because somehow NOT snuggling a sick kid is not an option…
        I remember the time it first got my eldest, then me, and then my husband managed to break his finger in the car door and I wanted to kill him because instead of having a little help he was now hardly able to take care of himself and the little one was still a newborn.
        I think that day I wanted to die. or kill. Or both of it.

        When i wrote a college instructor an email telling him I can’t come to class because puking kids his reply was “My sympathies, I hope you don’t catch it.” You can tell he has small kids, too.

  2. January 20, 2014 at 4:38 pm —

    This is such a beautiful piece! I’m home from work tending my little one (we are on our 10th cold this year), so I definitely relate. She has taken like 4-5 naps since waking up with a 103F fever, and the day isn’t over.

    • January 20, 2014 at 7:38 pm —

      Thank you! I hope she feels better soon. Our E. wasn’t in any form of daycare/nursery school until he was 28 months, so the coming of The Sick really caught us off guard.

  3. Another Mary
    January 20, 2014 at 8:11 pm —

    You hit the nail on the head. I am fortunate enough that when I am laid low with a really bad migraine, my Mummy comes to the rescue so I don’t have to be Mummy also. But I remember many a day from childhood where she pulled over to the side of the road to be sick in a bag while driving me somewhere. We are fortunate at both ends of the spectrum.

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