In just the past 24 hours my mother-in-law, Alison, earned Grandma of the Year status complete with angel wings. But let me back up a few days to Tuesday at 3:30 a.m.
Gracie’s video monitor is always turned up to a volume that I can hear her breathing if I am still enough. So I jolted awake when I heard her gagging in the middle of the night. The first time I ignored it because she had had a stuffy nose for a few days and I thought maybe it was just drainage bothering her. But a little while later, I heard it again. I tapped Scott on the shoulder, feeling a knot forming in my stomach. “I think she’s throwing up.” I said convulsing with fear.
“Settle down,” he snapped. Scott is never one to be woken in the middle of the night. He gets immediately cranky. With great annoyance, I jumped out of bed and bolted up the stairs trying to ignore the sick feeling that was taking over me. I scooped Gracie up. She had been crying then. She rested her head on me as I felt around her crib for anything wet. I didn’t feel anything. But I knew what I’d heard…
A little while later, Scott and I were taking turns holding her little body over a bowl. I cried. In the five and a half years that we have had kids, we have never been hit with the stomach flu. Call it a miracle. Maybe it’s just God taking mercy on me for my severe emetophobia. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a small part of me that had secretly hoped and believed that we would never be affected by the stomach flu. Scott immediately started to rationalize why she’d have been getting sick and I bought into his logical suggestions that it was probably just drainage- maybe even her ears. Let’s take her to the doctor in the morning to have them looked at. She did just have a cold…etc.
So I did take her to the doctor who examined her ears and found she did have a double ear infection and possibly a sinus infection, but then, she wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a stomach bug completely. It was enough of a sliver of hope for me to cling to. I filled her prescription for amoxicillin and said rosaries every night this week after.
The impending doom was compounded by the fact that Scott was leaving Wednesday night to go to St. Louis for work until Friday night. So if the bug were to hit again, chances were good he’d be out of town when it did. It was enough to send me into a full-blown panic attack every minute of the day this week when I thought about it. Wednesday went by without any more illness, Thursday, we enjoyed a beautiful Michigan spring day with temperatures in the 80s, the kids ran around outside and got too much sun, we played with bubbles. I started to breathe easy thinking, “I think we’re in the clear! Maybe it was just Grace’s ear infection causing her to get sick like that.”
About 4:00 p.m. Thursday, I got three frantic phone calls in a row from Scott. I called him back when I saw I had missed him. “I’m sick,” he moaned into the phone. “I can’t keep anything down. I feel awful.” I soothed him as best as I could over the phone feeling gut-wrenching anxiety settle in again and knowing I was completely helpless. Then he hung up on me, probably to run to the bathroom again.
How could this be? We were almost in the clear! No, No, NO! “Maybe the kids won’t get it. Maybe God wanted it this way so that Scott would be gone and no one else would get it.” I went out to the sandbox where my mother-in-law was playing with the kids. “Scott is sick.” I said quietly trying to keep the fear out of my voice.
“What kind of sick?” she asked sounding hopeful. Even she knew this was the worst of my fears; the stomach flu AND with Scott being gone.
I gave her a worried look, “Stomach,” was all I could manage.
“Oh no!” she said and I nodded. “I will come here if you need ANYTHING. Even if it’s three in the morning,” she didn’t hesitate.
“I do not even want to do that to you,” I said already knowing I couldn’t do this alone, not if she was so willing to be my life-line. But it was partly true. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, let alone Alison who is so helpful with my kids all the time.
“It’s fine,” she insisted sensing my wavering. “That’s what I am here for.”
I prayed like a crazy person before I went to bed. For Scott, for the kids, for myself, for Alison. For Alison’s mom who had just been admitted to the hospital for a blood clot in her leg and who deserved Alison’s presence far more than her neurotic daughter-in-law.
At 3:24 a.m. I heard Noah coming down the stairs. “Mom, I just barf-ted,” he announced. “But don’t worry, it’s in the garbage can.” My belly started churning with panic. I started shivering uncontrollably as I laid towels all over my bed and grabbed a big bowl for him to get sick in. I tried as best as I could to stay calm. “I can handle this. It’s one kid.” I told myself.
Then I heard Luke coming down the stairs. “Mommy,” he whined, “Where’s Noah?” As he got closer to me he started gagging. I cupped my hand under his mouth and carried him to the bathroom where he continued to get sick and cry and my heart nearly split in two. I covered the other half of my bed with towels and set out a second bowl for Luke. Then I picked up my cell phone… “Alison?”
She was over in forty minutes with a giant bag of ice chips and promised me she would do anything I needed. I just asked her to listen for Gracie and to please take care of her for me so I could do everything for the boys. She did exactly that. She fed Gracie her bottle in the morning, she played with her while my sweet little boys went through the miserable phases of that nasty virus. She changed countless dirty diapers that Grace continued to produce, took her to the store for Jell-O and saltines then took her to the park and the library and stayed at our house until 7:15 p.m. while I disinfected every surface of our house.
Do you know what was more crazy than my ability to stay calm during what could easily be described as my version of hell? I felt thankful as I lie at the foot of my bed, not sleeping, and tending to my babies who had never been through anything so awful.
I felt thankful that I was able to be the cool hands on their foreheads; that I was the one to hold the bowl; that I hadn’t been sick at the same time so I could better function. But mostly, I was thankful for Alison. I kept feeling the urge to cry all day today in pure gratitude and reverence for her love and selflessness. She put herself in harm’s way to help me and my babies get through this. That is the definition of a great mom.
From the bottom of my heart, Happiest Mother’s Day, Alison. You are a blessing every day and you really earned your wings today. Thank you for being my second set of hands.
Moms are the ones who provide comfort and keep us grounded when we are scared. Moms are the rocks we can cling to when we are filled with doubt and worry. Moms, imperfect and genuine, are the beauty in this messed-up world.
To ALL moms, my own included and to anyone who has played the role of a mother to children who weren’t their own. I wish you all a very Happy Mother’s Day.