House of Horrors, Part III

I imagine this is how the Ogre felt upon arrival.

We spent that night, the first night of the Ogre’s arrival, on a mattress in the play room. The play room has wood floors, making cleaning up the vomit easier than in any other room. The girls were beside us on camp mattresses, and between them was a thoroughly lined trash can.

By 11 o’clock, I was beat. You’ll remember that I had spend the entire night previous throwing up myself, the whole day tending to puking toddler, and then the last hour cleaning up a veritable lake of vomit, and the child who was underneath it all. I was done.

And the wonderful thing was that I could be done. My husband was here. I could look at him, and he could look back, notice my exhaustion, my utter lack of energy, and my total emotional fragility and say, “Go get some sleep. I’ll take the first watch.”

Which he did. He stayed up with girls until 4 am, holding back their hair, rubbing their backs, giving them  sips of water, and trying to get Charlotte to at least aim in the general direction of the trash can.

At 4 he finally fell into bed and I managed to pull myself out of a deep sleep and into a light doze, which was interrupted three times by Sienna. Charlotte, it seemed, had at last stopped throwing up.

The next morning, the kids were pale but not puking. I was pale but not puking. I held my breath, watching Liam and the Ogre, waiting to see who would get it next, extremely grateful that at least the worst (Charlotte) was over with.

By early afternoon the kids were eating crackers. In the late afternoon, my sister-in-law and I went to Ikea to get some things. We brought back Chick-fil-a, which the girls nibbled at. I was eating normally by this time too, still not feeling great but certainly no longer nauseous.

We all went to bed early that night, exhausted by the last few days.

I woke up suddenly at 6 am, and before I was even really conscious I remember thinking, “Oh you have got to be freaking kidding.” Five seconds later I was sprinting across the house.

I spent the whole morning puking, again. Yes, my friends. 24 hours after I had seemingly gotten over the stomach flu, I was knocked down all over again. I felt horrible. The Ogre insisted that I spend the majority of the morning when I wasn’t throwing up sleeping, which I did, and man, I was so glad to not have to spend this part of the stomach flu warding off an overly curious baby.

By late afternoon I felt better. I wasn’t about to risk eating, though, so I stuck with Gatorade and misery. At dinner Sienna, who had been eating normally and bouncing around all day, threw up on the table. At that point I glanced longingly at the wine bottle I had bought for the Ogre and I to share and wondered just how much I would regret it if I started slamming back glasses.

 Reason won the day though, and I went to bed early once again, hoping to at least make it through the night.

I did. Charlotte didn’t.

It was barely even eleven o’clock when the Ogre and I heard screaming coming from the girl’s room. We ran in to see Charlotte puking across her pillow, still laying down.

The usual chaos ensued, and we stayed up with the girls (as Sienna was rudely awoken when her sister puked on her, and then complained that she didn’t feel well either) until well after 2 a.m. All parental discretion seemed to have melted in the face of this hideous flu, because we put on The Unit and didn’t even cover the girls’ eyes when the terrorists got blown up.

Someone should give us an award for presence of mind in the face of insanity and vomit.

The kids finally went to sleep, and so did we. At about 8 a.m. on Sunday (and please, please keep in mind that this started on Thursday night) I woke up, rolled over and noticed the Ogre laying stiffly in bed, his eyes wide open and staring at the ceiling.

“Uh, babe?” I said warily. “Are you okay?”

He responded by launching himself out of bed, across the house, and to his knees in front of the toilet, where he remained for most of the morning.

I began to repeat the routine I had developed in the past few days, which was to immediately begin washing all the sheets and pillowcases, spraying down all surfaces, door handles, and everything with anti-bacterial spray, and generally busy myself with futile attempts to stop the repetition of this hideous mutant stomach flu.

I realized, on that morning, why it was that mothers during the Black Plague insisted that their children carry certain herbs and flowers in their pockets and made wild accusations about witches poisoning water wells.

In the face of illness, we are helpless. It is an enemy we cannot fight, an enemy we cannot conquer, and all we can do is wash the sheets, rub shoulders, and pray that we don’t actually have some new strain of plague.

The Ogre was better by the afternoon. At four p.m. he walked slowly out of the bedroom, made his way to the kitchen, and ate a sugar cookie.

“You have got to be joking,” I said. “You’ve been puking all day, and your first solid food is a sugar cookie?”

The Ogre nodded, and then washed his cookie down with several hand-fulls of Reese’s Pieces. “Hey, it all tastes the same coming back up. It might as well taste good going down.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the man I married.

After that day, things seemed to settle down. The Ogre left the next afternoon, we all cried, then we went back home to start a new week.

I was still holding my breath around Liam, just waiting for signs that he was going to get it. He was fussier than normal, but his appetite seemed unchanged.

Monday night was uneventful. I actually slept. We all actually slept.

Tuesday night, Sienna wandered into my bedroom at around 12:30. I sprang out of bed and rushed her out of the room, whispering that she can’t just come in for no reason because she’ll wake Liam up.

She said, “Mommy, I don’t feel good.” I was annoyed. There was no way she was still sick, two days after the last round. “Sienna, get back in bed,” I said.

She nodded, but instead of going to bed she ran into the bathroom, where she began to puke. Again.

At this point, I decided that we were all going to die throwing up. This would just continue, in an every-two-day pattern, until at last all the vomiting ate our esophageal lining away and the coroner concluded that we suffered from some sort of collective bulimia.

As I held Sienna’s hair back, I began wondering whether or not, if I continued to throw up every two days, I would die thin enough to be buried in that dress the Ogre bought me four Christmases ago which I have never fit into.

Because that color would probably go really well with rigor mortis.

But alas, that was the end of it. Sienna was the last of us to vomit, and that was the last time it happened. I still have no idea what kind of hideous, evil strain of stomach plague we had, but it was not a normal one. It was like the stomach flu from hell, that waits until you feel better just to knock your first solid meal right back up the way it went down.

And I have begun praying nightly that we never, ever, ever encounter that strain again. I don’t think we would prevail in Round 2.

One good thing did come out of all this horror, though. On Tuesday, the day after the Ogre left, he called and said, “You know, babe, I know this weekend was rough. But to be honest, I’m glad it was this way. I don’t come to see you guys for a vacation, I come to be a husband and father. This time I got to come and actually be a husband and father when you guys needed me the most.”

I love my husband

This concludeth the tale of the House of Horrors.

I’m not sure whether I should say “You’re welcome” or “I’m sorry.”

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