Wednesday, August 25, 2010


I am so very sick. Within seven hours today, I vomited at least seven times and had an equivalent number of episodes of diarrhea. I ate nothing but a few slices of banana bread in the morning. That all came up with episode number one. So all the rest were wrenching, convulsing upheavals of whatever could be found in my innards. At times, I thought I’d puke up the baby. It felt like childbirth in the sense of not having any control – of being in pain and at the mercy of what my body was doing. But there was no reward at the end.

I have a stomach of steel and for me, puking is a once every several year event. The last time it happened was when I got major food poisoning while in first trimester with River – over three years ago. The only thing worse than having my insides come out both ends is having something beat me from within the stomach in between episodes.

Right now, I’m feeling grateful because I haven’t puked in three hours and I’ve got a cup of herbal tea and a glass of diet ginger ale that I’ve been able to keep inside me. But I’m still delicate. Even typing at the computer feels challenging. Mostly, I’ve done nothing but lie around and stare at the wall, hoping to forestall another episode.

As I was going through this, I thought of all the people who have it worse. How in the world do people go through something like this if they have a couple of little kids in the house? There were only about 15 minutes where I had to care for River, and in that time, he joined me next to the toilet. Not exactly quality care. He knew something was wrong and I thought of all the kids whose parents are not just going through a rough spell, but are deteriorating due to serious diseases. How frightening for the children. How heart-rendering for the parent, to only be able to look on from the sidelines and not be able to give what their heart wants to. I thought about the immigrants who came over on ships, dealing with horrible illnesses that had similar effects – but they were in cramped, unhygienic conditions and had the additional nausea-inspiring effect of ocean waves to deal with.

I feel like there isn’t a lot of information out there about coping with serious illness and/or death, from the perspective of the person going through it. I always had the idea that when that time comes for me, I would try to share what I learn. But I forgot how completely one can be incapacitated. Of course there are incredible exceptions, like the Diving Bell and the Butterfly. But when even sitting up without spewing, or successfully taking in a glass of water becomes an accomplishment, writing is not very feasible.

River was a doll. It’s the first time he’s seen me this sick and he knew something was wrong. When he tried to move my head, I thought he was going to take my pillow, as he often does, to bury himself under. Instead, he placed the last remaining pillow under my head to give me extra support. He pinched my cheeks and gave me kisses. When I told him I was sick, he inquired if my head hurt. That was far more concern and consideration than I expected from a two year old.

At the ultrasound, they said the fetus weighs 15 ounces. I think of that in terms of a box of four sticks of butter. That’s a fairly solid and sizeable weight. Mark is amazed by how tiny and fragile babies are and how tenuous is their grip on the world. I tend to see them as remarkably strong, successfully fighting to stay alive through many difficult circumstances. River made it through food poisoning and exposure to tear gas as a fetus. When the ultrasound technician prodded against my belly yesterday, trying to get the fetus to move, it kicked and punched back, as if to say, “F—off. Leave me alone in here.”

I’m guessing everything will be OK. But today’s experience reminded me that at 15 ounces, she would most likely not be able to survive outside the womb. At least several more weeks are still needed – and even that would be so early as to present challenges. She has pretty much had zero sustenance today and has had to live off of what is already there, or what she may have in reserves.

I think this is a virus that went around the family event River and Mark attended, causing several people there to experience puking spells. I think of how I eat foods that aren’t recommended for pregnant women because the odds of falling ill are so incredibly low. But I was reminded today that if you are the one in a million or so, the effects can be serious.

For anyone who cares for multiple children, how in the world do you do it when you get really sick?

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