It begins with an offhand comment from your child: “Charleighx threw up in class.”
You try to appear calm as you pull on your lab coat and interrogate your child with the help of WebMD: “Were you within a 20-foot radius of her at any point today or within the last 2 weeks?” “Were you the assigned friend to walk Charleighx to the nurse’s office after the vomiting? If so, did you give her a hug before you left?” “Did you and Charleighx share a lollipop at recess?” Did you inhale vomit particles, or step on the wet spot in the carpet after it was ‘cleaned’?” “Did you, or did you not, poke at the vomit with your gel pen?”
Regardless of your child’s answers, no matter how much grape juice you drink, or how many Clorox wipes you use, there is no need to visit a fortune teller: vomit is in your future.
You might make it 10 days from whenever Charleighx threw up, but don’t get your hopes up. Because one night, you will be woken from your slumber by your child’s voice. It will be different from the scary dream voice because along with the fear, there is that high-pitched tremble of impending doom. And before your brain even turns on, you will sprint to their bedroom to try to beat the eruption. You will fail.
You will arrive in a state of confusion, to a scene that is best described by Lil Jon: There will be vomit from the window to the wall and you’ll look around in panic till the sweat drips down your balls. Either your literal balls or the squishy sensory balls that your child left on the floor, which will also be covered in vomit.
The mixture soaking into your child’s mattress is what hell is made of: stomach acid and chunks of half-digested food. You may even find the missing Polly Pocket in the sludge! You thought you put a mattress protector on the bed, but alas, you didn’t. There is no need to Google how to clean vomit out of a mattress. Just burn it. And while you’re at it, burn everything your child touched in the past three months. It still won’t protect you from getting sick, though.
You will spend the next 24-48 hours catching vomit: in your hands, in the KitchenAid bowl, and into houseplants. (On the bright side, vomit is a great weed killer). The vomit aim of a child is atrocious, and warnings are rare. Vomit will drip down the Lego tower that took two years for your husband to build. It will become one with the car seat, binding together the fruit snacks and cheerios that reside in the corners of the seat.
Don’t get me wrong: absolutely do what you can to mitigate your likelihood of catching the virus from hell. Scrub your hands and incinerate any towels that you use to dry your hands. Give it your best shot.
The stench will haunt you. You’ll think it’s gone, but you’ll catch whiffs. You’ll wonder if you are smelling yourself, your child, or if you are being haunted by the vomit ghost. Light will appear at the end of the tunnel when the vomit turns to a shade of lemonade. But if you feel a tiny ray of hope, squash it. Because one way or another, it’s gonna get-cha.
It won’t be on the day you only ate clear liquids in case you got the pukes, nor will it be on the glorious day when your child was so sapped of energy that they napped all day. Oh no, it will be seven days later, after you’ve attended a spaghetti potluck. You’ll wake in the middle of the night, not to a child’s voice, but to the demons in your stomach. You’ll clutch the toilet and curse the day you decided to have children.
As dawn breaks, your child will appear at your bedside to inquire on the status of her eggs benedict. And for the first time in her life, she will refuse to watch TV. Instead, she’ll want to play on the trampoline with you after a Cheesy Gordita Crunch Taco Bell eating competition. Don’t say nobody warned you.
Laura Onstot writes to maintain her sanity after transitioning from a career as a research nurse to stay-at-home motherhood. In her spare time, she can be found sleeping on the couch while she lets her kids binge-watch TV. She blogs at Nomad’s Land, or you can follow her on Twitter @LauraOnstot.