Lessons in Misery
It was week 2 of muddling through fantastically shiteous below-zero weather. I thought I would lose my mind, being cooped up all day every day. I wallowed in self-pity and lamented my boredom and the walls that surrounded me.
Myself-absorbed moping was a cue for the universe to chuckle, and throw me a curveball.
I thought I knew misery.
I knew something was wrong when Maggie wanted to snuggle. She planted herself on my lap, draped her arms around my shoulders, and didn’t move (not that I wanted her to – I enjoy my rare moments of snuggling because she rarely sits still for such things).
With her head dangling over my shoulder, her stomach spontaneously erupted for the first time. It was the first of approximately 42 vomiting episodes. . Warm. Vomit. Down my back and into the couch cushions.
What followed was a blur or panic and sleep deprivation, but I vaguely recall washing 6 pairs of pajamas, 5 sets of sheets and washing and drying her vomit-soaked blanket 7 times. Jim followed us from room to room, scrubbing the floor with carpet cleaner while I tried to soothe Maggie, who seemed utterly baffled by the entire scene.
The first day, she took it like a champ. She offered up a sweet, tired “thank you mommy” and a warm, weak smile every time I handed her a cup of pedialite or a cracker.
Frankly, I was impressed by her ability to stay in good spirits as long as she did. I marveled at her diminutive strength.
Until the following night when she hit her limit.
I leapt out of bed and raced to her room every time the coughing started, and tried to soothe her through the dry heaves that racked her exhausted little body. She convulsed and choked for what seemed like torturous excruciating eternities. When she finally caught her breath, she wailed miserable tears of surrender. She sobbed as though the universe had betrayed her. This scenario repeated itself twice an hour until 3:00 a.m.
It just about killed me.
I wanted to sit on the floor and cry. I wanted to take each microbe or viral cell or whathaveyou, and beat the life out of every one of them. I wanted to shout “She’s just a little girl! Leave her alone! Let her sleep, you miserable assholes! She’s just a baby!” I cursed the germs of the world, and swore to not let her play with another germ infested child until she hit puberty. Screw kindergarten.
She started coughing up dark green bile.
I thought about parents whose children have cancer, and terminal illness, and my heart bled for them. Watching your child suffer is the worst thing imaginable.
All the next day, we doggedly watched for signs of dehydration. She sat in a chair and dozed all day. She wouldn’t speak. She wouldn’t smile. I had to hold her down while she cried, to force water into her mouth, because she refused everything we offered her.
We put her to bed, still lethargic and combative. I checked on her compulsively through the night.
In the dark of the wee hours the next morning, I woke to hear her small footsteps. They stopped by the side of my bed.
“Good morning Mommy.” She beamed her signature bright-eyed greeting. “It’s time to wake up!”
Relief washed over my entire being. My heart sang with joy. I couldn’t have kept the smile from spreading across my face if I had tried. I got up, and went to the kitchen with Maggie trotting behind me. I poured milk for her in the grey of the early morning.
Welcome back, baby girl. It's good to see you again.
The shiteous weather will continue through the weekend, but suddenly it doesn’t seem quite so bad.
Weather be damned, I am grateful to have a very limited understanding of true misery.