[Editor’s Note: This post is today’s featured entry in the Journey to Motherhood with Ricki Lake story contest. Find out how to submit your story and see the video message from Ricki here -- you could win a wonderful prize package! -- Jenna]
While I was pregnant with my oldest son, DJ, my friend Jenn told me, “You’ll know you’re really a mom when you try to catch his vomit in your hands.”
I laughed as Jenn explained, grossed out by her statement. The previous week one of her children had been ill and her first instinct had been to try to catch the vomit before it hit the floor.
“It’s not something I mean to do; it’s just something that happens. A child of mine throws up and my first instinct is to try to help,” Jenn went on as I snickered.
I would never do something so disgusting. Only a crazy person would try to catch vomit in their hands. It's useless. It doesn't work. There's always more vomit than what you can catch. So, you've made yourself dirty AND you've done nothing to solve the problem. There’s nothing logical about that response.
I told Jenn all this.
"You’re right … But you'll see," she said as she shrugged and smiled.
A year later, I struggled to feel like a mom to my eight-month old son. He had severe food allergies, eczema, and asthma almost from birth and all the conditions were still unmanaged. His only sources of nutrition, the only things we were sure he could safely eat, were a special, hypoallergenic formula, a handful of fruits and vegetables, and rice. In a typical day we helped him consume or apply four to six prescription medications. But nothing was helping. DJ wasn’t gaining weight. He was frequently on antibiotics and oral steroids, and he rarely slept more than three or four hours at a time.
I wasn’t sure if this was motherhood. I certainly didn’t feel like I had expected to. Mostly, I would say, I felt like a caregiver, doing the best she could. This baby boy, my son, had claimed my heart, but I was sleep deprived and worried. I felt isolated from my friends and family, adrift in this atypical mothering experience. My conversation with Jenn, like all my experiences before DJ’s birth, felt like a million years ago.
Then one day, DJ woke up with a fever, but no sign of infection. He sat in his high chair, looking a little green around the edges and refused to touch his bowl of applesauce.
I saw it coming. I knew what was about to happen.
My infant son threw up.
And you know what I did, right?
Without even thinking about it I stuck my open hands directly under his mouth to catch it.
I got my hands all dirty and had done nothing to solve the problem. Logically there wasn’t even anything to protect by catching the vomit. It all went straight onto his high chair tray, easily cleaned.
I’d followed an instinct to help. I was crazy. Illogical.
I looked down at my hands and all I could do was laugh.
This was motherhood. It wasn’t always clean or predictable or logical. But DJ was my son and I was his mom and I never felt so certain of that bond during his first year of life than when my hands were covered in his vomit.
I called Jenn after I had everything all cleaned up and DJ snuggled in his swing. As soon as she picked up the phone I laughingly announced, “Well, I’m officially a mom.”
And, without missing a beat, she responded, “You tried to catch vomit didn’t you? Welcome to the club.”
Missy Rose blogs about her family, food allergies and transitioning from military to civilian life at Roving Rose.
Photo Credit: basykes.
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