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Dante's Seventh Circle

If there’s one thing worse than being sick the same time your child is, it’s being sick when your child is not. I recently went through 24 hours that once again highlighted how nothing in your life is the same after your child is born. Be forewarned – TMI coming up.

Late one night I began to experience what I’ll call Speedy Intestinal Problems, or SIP. This got me up several times during the night, and somehow Madeleine decided to piggyback on that and get me up in the intervening half-hours. Here’s a fun activity: awake to the sound of your daughter screaming at 2:30 a.m. Check her diaper, which will turn out to be dry but will aggravate her mightily. Nurse her for a bit, then realize you need to run to the bathroom. Put her back in her crib so she can scream while you deal with your SIP. Then nurse her some more, same as before except now she’s truly ticked off by your abandonment. Good times.

After a largely sleepless night, I was exhausted and dehydrated. Maddie, however, was fine.

The SIP continued during the day, making me very leery of eating, well, anything. Which, because I’m hypoglycemic, had an unintended side effect:

SIP= dehydration=not eating=hypoglycemic migraine. 

Yes, I got a rip-roaring, full-on migraine halfway through the day. You know, the kind where you puke a lot and can’t stand the light.

And if there’s one thing worse than puking, it’s puking while your baby girl is pounding on the other side of the bathroom door, crying, “Mama! Mama? Mama? MAMA!”

The rest of the day was spent with most of the house shut off, me lying on the couch, and Maddie bouncing around what she could of the apartment. She alternated between anger that I wasn’t playing with her and fear that Mommy didn’t love her anymore. When I’d give in and allow her to climb on my lap with a book, I was unable to focus on the words and had to make up a story. Apparently the Runaway Bunny actually went to Paris and became a fashion designer, and the Ten Rubber Ducks got lost at sea and voted each other off the raft. And when we got to the part where Maddie points at things and I tell her what they are, I didn’t even bother to guess what she was pointing at. “Eh?” she’d ask. “Eye shade.” “Eh?” “Toilet.” Eh?” “Morphine drip.” I fear that may come back to bite me in the butt come SAT test time, but sufficient unto the day.

The low point of our afternoon: I heard silence and saw, with one eye reluctantly pried open, my daughter sitting dejectedly with her back against the wall, a poster child for neglect. Yes, rip my heart out and stomp on it, then tattoo “Bad Mommy” on my forehead.

What could I do? I fully realized, perhaps for the first time, how little I belong to myself any more. My doctor told me that if the puking didn’t stop soon, I’d need to get to an ER for some fluids and pain medication. All I could say was, “I can’t go until my childcare(Gamma taking off work to help out) shows up in an hour.” What was I supposed to do? Have Maddie run around the emergency room while I was hooked to an IV?

Fortunately, the vomiting stopped right under the doctor’s deadline, my mommy showed up to give me some relief, and I spent a (comparatively) blissful couple of hours lying motionless in a dark room with shades over my eyes. The few times I emerged to try to take more drugs or drink more water, my daughter looked at me with eyes big as saucers. I know that for the first time, I saw uncertainty in her eyes about me – about my always being there, about my devotion to her. It killed me.

Put that in your book, Dante.


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