Dear Jo: Playground Meet-Cute

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March 22, 3 years A.B. (after-baby)

Dear Jo,

Today you cried in public. Worse than that, you cried on the shoulder of a stranger. You shouldn’t have been at the park.

You should’ve been with Iris. You had plans. But they all went out the window when Emerson threw up all over the living room floor moments before your parents were leaving to take him on his sleepover Saturday night. Needless to say, the sleepover was canceled, as was any hope that you would be sleeping that night. If you weren’t caring for a sick Emerson, you were breastfeeding Lyla or bleaching the house. You want to blame it on the fast food that your parents once again pumped him full of, while you were at the airport with Paul, which by the way is so ironic since they NEVER gave you that sort of food growing up. But, if it had been the food, surely he would’ve been over it quickly. Instead, he spent Saturday night, all of Sunday and a few times on Monday regurgitating any bit of food or beverage he consumed.

Dear Jo: Playground Meet-Cute

So, instead of sleepovers, meals at your parents and hanging out with Iris, you have been quarantined within your home. Your hands are bleeding from washing them so often. You made Emerson cry because you snapped at him for trying to touch his sister. Let’s forget (and hope that Emerson’s three-year-old mind doesn’t retain for long) your reaction when he attempted to kiss her….

This is not what you had signed up for. Even before Paul proposed, you had a deal with him. You told him that you did not handle vomit well (just typing the word is difficult enough). You made it clear that if you should have kids in the future, and if they should get sick at some point, it would be your husband’s responsibility to clean and care for the child, while you donned a HAZMAT suit and disinfected. Failure to do otherwise would be a deal breaker with any guy. This was your own prenuptial agreement. He consented. He agreed. He proposed. He signed the certificate. You knew you should’ve written that stipulation into the marriage vows…for better, for worse, for vomit duty, while your wife has a mini-freak out and vacates the premises for a few weeks until the coast is clear.

And, yet, here you are faced with a stomach bug with no partner in crime. And it’s not one of those 24-hour deals either. Emerson decided to go big. Why not stretch it out over 72 hours?

Today you’d had enough. Well, enough was the moment your parents walked out the door without Emerson and you were left holding the bucket. But today you needed out of the house. Everyone did. You needed some fresh air. Emerson was on the mend, Lyla showed no signs (yet) of being sick. You wondered if you felt a bit nauseous, but you figured it was more psychosomatic than real. But, just in case, you put Lyla in the stroller instead of in the sling where she might put pressure on your stomach.

You didn’t think about how you would have to constantly remind Emerson to take it easy and not overdo it at the playground. It was good that he wanted to run and play, but you didn’t want his exuberance to bring on another episode. As you reminded him to slow it down and take it easy, you sat on the bench and breastfed Lyla. It was when you burped her that it became too much. With the burp rag in place, you put her on your shoulder and began to pat her back, as usual. She soon produced a few good burps and with the final one came more than you’d expected. She has always spit up, but this time there seemed to be more. Or was it just your imagination? Your heart skipped a beat. You turned her around and looked at her. She smiled and cooed. She seemed fine. Was she fine? Or was she going to throw up again? Or was it just spit up and not really throw up?

That’s when you lost it. She giggled and you began to cry. The hot tears streamed down your cheeks without your control. Your exhausted body released them without your consent. And that’s when you saw her.

She moved into the neighborhood last fall. You meant to say hi. You meant to bake something for her as a welcome-to-the-neighborhood treat. At least you’ve seen people do that on TV and thought it would be a good idea. But, you were near the end of pregnancy and you never quite got around to it. You’d seen her around. You’d waved to her from a distance when you were out walking or getting the mail. You had meant to say hi, but before you could, she found you crying in the park.

“Are you okay?”

You looked up embarrassed. You had thought you had the playground to yourself. You wiped away your tears and tried to say, “yes” through the hiccups.

“Can I help?”

“My,” hiccup “husband,” hiccup “is,” hiccup “out-of-town.”

“I’m so sorry,” she said.

You went on to hiccup through Emerson’s virus and the scare with Lyla. You tried to laugh at your overreaction.

“I get it,” she said. “Trust me. I get it.”

And then she hugged you. You thought you had stopped crying, but it started all over again, but this time onto her shoulder.

“I’m so sorry,” you whispered.

“Don’t be.”

“I’m so embarrassed,” you said as you finally released the embrace and wiped away your tears.

“Oh, I’ve cried over much less. Don’t be embarrassed,” she said as she handed you a handkerchief (not a tissue). “You know, I can’t stand stomach bugs either. In fact, I can’t even say the word…well, you know what word…the ‘v’ word. Before we got married, I made my husband swear he’d take care of the kids when they were sick.”

“Seriously?”

“I know. I’m that phobic about it.”

“No. I get it. I did the same thing with my husband.”

“Who knew I wasn’t the only one?”

You both laughed.

“I’m Emily,” she said.

“I’m Jo.”

You talked, the kids played and then you walked home together, regretting not having taken her a baked good when you first thought of it and vowing to make up for that once the virus had fully vacated the house.

Dear Jo: A {fictional} Diary of a Modern Mom“Dear Jo: A Diary of a Modern Mom” is a serial fiction story written by Meagan Church. Stay tuned for the next diary entry of one mom’s attempt to chronicle what she has been told are the days she shouldn’t forget…spit-up, tantrums, milestones and all. Visit the Dear Jo page to catch up on the already-published entries. And, be sure to subscribe today, so you don’t miss a single installment:


 

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Motherhood Doesn't Come with Sick Days

{Photo credit: ©Meagan Church.}

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