Three-fifths of our family came down with the dreaded Norovirus last week. You know the one – uncontrollable vomiting, absolute gastrointestinal distress. The one you fear. The one you dread. The one you’re bound to get each winter if you have young kids.
My parents, who’d been visiting from Wisconsin, flew home early Wednesday morning. I was feeding the baby and trying not to feel overwhelmed now that we were officially on our own with three kids and no sleep–my parents are rockstars of postpartum help, and I cried when they left–when I heard it. That sound. You know the one. I ran to the toddler’s room and saw Wilson sitting there in a pile of barf, distraught and confused.
“Daryl!” I called. “Wilson threw up!” He ran in and scooped up the toddler, sending me to the bedroom with Felicity to keep her out of Germtopia, population us.
That was the beginning. I’ll spare you the details, but went downhill from there.
Since the baby was just a month old, we elected to keep her out of the fray, which meant keeping me out of the fray, too. She and I retreated to the master bedroom, bathroom, and backyard, while Daryl bravely faced down the virus in the front of the house with the boys.
“Can I help?” I’d call through the door, hearing the bathtub run for the fifth, ninth, twelfth time.
“Stay in there,” he’d call back. “You’re helping by keeping the baby safe.” We shuddered to think what would happen if she caught it – both dehydration and fevers can be devastating to babies this tiny, and often result in a hospital stay.
Thus began several days of life as a family quarantined to different parts of the house. I lived off water from the bathroom tap, snacks from my purse, dinner brought by a friend, and a couple sacks of groceries dropped off at our back door by another Good Samaritan. [A Good Samaritan who knew to put a bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups in, even though we hadn’t asked for them. Bless.]
While the newborn care was all on me–beyond the normal feeding, changing, burping, etc., she currently needs to be held and bounced from 6pm-midnight or she cries uncontrollably–the really nasty stuff was all on Daryl. I heard bits and snatches through the walls, and our texts were absolute comedy.
Daryl: Ok if I throw away a couple of pillows?
Me: Please. And by the way, cleaning up all the barf is worse than natural childbirth. You win.
As the days wore on–and it was days, since every time things seemed to get better someone else started throwing up–slowly the feelings of being overwhelmed settled. There was no room to feel stressed, we both simply had to get through the day. I nursed, changed, swaddled, rocked, and burped the baby around the clock. He comforted the boys, cleaned their unending messes, and suffered through his own bout with the virus.
We also both nerded out by learning everything we could possibly learn on the Internet about this bad bug. [People are contagious before symptoms begin! Germs can live on hard surfaces for up to 42 days! Regular Clorox spray, which kills 99.9% of viruses, doesn’t kill this one. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers only make it laugh!]
This is why we now also own a professional steam upholstery cleaner and a small river’s worth of bleach.
Daryl: Did you know you can be a professor who studies vomit and fecal clean-up? She’s quoted in the New York Times!
Rather than collapsing at the end of each night – though we eventually did that, too, alone in our own separate parts of the house – we texted about all that we were grateful for: hot water and beautiful kids and parental leave time from church and a marriage that could withstand a Barfpocalypse with humor and even joy.
We texted about all the things we longed for – to simply be in the same room again. To enjoy a normal meal together. Daryl yearned to rock the baby; I couldn’t wait to snuggle with the boys. We both longed to curl up on the couch and hold one another.
Alone in the master bedroom late one night, with a baby who couldn’t quite figure out how to sleep, I started thinking about the beatitudes from Matthew 5. I’ve always struggled with them–blessed are those who mourn, really? Blessed are the poor in spirit, really?
Then it hit me. This miserable, miserable week was teaching me about the topsy-turvy upside-down blessings of the God who came down to live among the people. The God whose power shines in weakness, whose frailty is strength, whose love triumphs over death.
I began pondering our own beatitudes.
Blessed are we when the kids are throwing up, for it is teaching us to rely on Jesus minute by minute for strength.
Blessed are we when dinner is peanut butter and celery, for this nourishment will suffice for today. It will also remind us to celebrate the feasts we often get to enjoy.
Blessed am I when I’m the sole caregiver for a needy newborn, for her frailty is not unlike my own, and Jesus cares for me tenderly in my weakness.
Blessed are we when we long to be embraced, for God is drawing near.
Blessed are we when we are forced to rely on a village of friends for help, for it reminds us that we are all receivers first.
Where have you found an unexpected blessing in this season?
Also: wash your hands. Just sayin’.