Monday, March 22, 2010

notes from the sick bay

Like most viruses that hit our house, the incubation on this most recent bug was three days. Elizabeth must have been exposed to something last weekend. She fell ill three days later on Tuesday and three days after that, it hit William.

And then Henry.


And then Charlie.

And then Carolyn.

Lucky for me, I haven't been effected by this virus. But it's usually the case that these stomach bugs pass me right over. It's the upper respiratory germs that knock me down and kick me around for weeks on end. Before I finally go to the doctor and am issued an antibiotic and whatever I was fighting is cleared up in 24 hours and I swear I'll never wait that long again.

(Until I do.)

Thankfully, this stomach bug only lasted about 12 hours. But oh, those 12 hours were painful. Especially when they started at 2 AM, in the case of William, or 11 PM - last night - in the case of Carolyn. All of Friday night and all of Saturday night, I was on the couch with a sick child (or children) in my arms and an abundance of towels and bowls.


Although Charlie was fine when he had left the house at 5:30 yesterday morning for his duathlon, by the time he arrived home yesterday afternoon at 1:30, he was pale and shaky. He told me that the first part of his race went great, he completed the first 5K with no problem and was blazing along on the 30K bike ride. But somewhere about 15K in to the ride, he said all of the energy drained out of his body. He hit a wall and was suddenly so sore and stiff, he could hardly ride. And when he got off his bike to run his second 5K, he had to resist the urge to lay down on the ground in the transition area.

Despite all that, the dude still finished. Which I think is a testament to just how strong my husband is. Had it been me, I'd have laid on the ground crying for my mother until the ambulance arrived.

But Charlie was still feeling pretty miserable today, so I decided to get the children out of the house so he could have some quiet. This seemed like a logical decision since William, Henry and Elizabeth were fully healed and roaring to go. Carolyn appeared to be on the upswing, so I planned to take the children out to a park. But just as I was lacing up my shoes, I glanced over at Carolyn and saw all of the color drain out of her face just as she grabbed her tummy and moaned, "OH NO! I'M GONNA FRO..."

And that's how we spent the entire weekend in the house.

Watching back to back Pixar movies.

(Thank heavens for Pixar movies.)


Now as difficult as the past few days have been, from the aspect of washing an exorbitant amount of laundry and not sleeping much at all because I'm with ailing children 'round the clock, there is something about "sick" time that I thoroughly enjoy. It's like a mini vacation for me when the house is quiet and I can clean a room and it stays that way.

But what I appreciate, even more than that, is caring for my family. It brings me unparalleled joy to comfort them. Considering I haven't had more than two hours of consecutive sleep in the past 48 hours, I don't know where exactly the unending stores of energy come from to make Jell-O and spoon feed ice chips and fluff pillows and rub backs. While I definitely don't like seeing my husband or children sick, I absolutely love taking care of them when they're down. And I absolutely love the soothing patience that radiates from me.

I'm like a maternal beacon of constant love and comfort.

(Which isn't entirely typical.)

When Elizabeth was sick on Tuesday, her siblings had very little compassion. They didn't understand just how miserable she was feeling. So whenever she would be sick, they'd drop what they were doing and run in cheering, "OH YEAH! LET ME SEE! LET ME SEE! DID YOU FROW UP?!"

More than once, I locked them in the backyard shunned them away, while sternly warning, "Very soon, you'll appreciate why it's not nice to crowd someone who is sick!"

Sure enough, when William was sick on Saturday, Elizabeth was bending over backwards to help care for her brother. And when Carolyn fell ill last night, this morning, both William and Elizabeth were very somberly standing by with ice chips and face cloths, ready to assist. There is no doubt, the compassion that my children have shown to each other over the past few days has been one of the coolest things I've ever observed as a parent.

So there were three important things I concluded this weekend: 1) The only way you can truly understand what it takes to alleviate someone else's suffering, is to have suffered yourself; 2) When the ones we love are feeling the worst, it brings out the best in us; and 3) Louis Goldenberg (inventor of the electric washing machine) should be nominated for sainthood.

I cannot even fathom what my life would look like if we didn't have a washing machine. I highly doubt I'd be the same eternal maternal beacon of constant love and comfort. And would instead be yelling, "If one more person FROWS UP, I'm LEAVING!"


Tonight everyone is feeling a whole lot better. Which means tomorrow, the chances are looking excellent that chaos and impatience will once again reign supreme.


Oh well. All this peaceful stuff sure was nice while it lasted.


  1. I love how you are able to take a positive from a negative. Compassion is a beautiful thing, all the more so when you see it in your children.

    I grew up without a washing. My mum cloth-diapered. I should really be nicer to her.

  2. "If one more person FROWS UP, I'm LEAVING!" I'm giggling.

    I'm so sorry it the illness has burned through your household. We've had a three-week run of wellness around here. I'm signing off now to go take some Vitamin C and perhaps find some wood to knock upon.

  3. Oh, that picture of William being comforted by Elizabeth is priceless. And, Gracie with her glassey eyes peeping out from under the quilt is precious.
    Now, Buzz Lightyear is another story--he just looks mad. I will have to send you an honory RN. Good Job, Jen. Hope Charlie is feeling better.

  4. Oh goodness. You ARE amazing. although I feel just TERRIBLE when my children are sick... I am far from the beacon of compassion that you are. FAR from it.

  5. They learn with what they live with and you and Charlie have taught them to be kind, compassionate and ENERGETIC! What a wonderful legacy for your children. Hope everyone is feeling 100% today...

  6. Way to go on being so gentle and kind--you deserve an award. More than one kid throwing up makes me super grouchy and my poor hubby does a lot of the clean up because I gag and throw up really easily. I hope you stay healthy--but on the bright side, you'll have five very sympathetic people to dote on you if you do ge sick.