Much as with a battle, any time illness strikes a family, the family goes into bunker mode, and prepares for the bombs. The house is closed to visitors, supplies are laid in for the afflicted, and the parents learn or relearn their roles in the battle against the intruder. The days of siege are a heightened time, when everything seems to slow down or stop all together.
We've been under fire since Friday evening, when M woke up covered in vomit. He threw up almost continually from 8 p.m. until about 1 a.m. when he fell asleep until morning. We settled in and prepared for the bombs. It was unlikely that anyone was going to escape unscathed, as our pediatrician informed us that the current stomach virus making the rounds lasts three days, and once the vomiting is done, the lower GI symptoms take over. Super. She was concerned about my five-month old daughter, who, in addition to being only five months old, has a chronic condition and is a bit sickly as a result. She could dehydrate extremely quickly, and we needed to try and quarantine the sick.
My husband and I relearned our battle positions. My role was to clean up and comfort the afflicted, and his role was to arm himself with a roll of papertowels and a spray bottle of diluted bleach to clean up whatever didn't make it into a receptacle. My husband ran out to the 24 hour CVS and stocked up on pedialyte, peaches in heavy syrup (our pediatrician told us to give the syrup after vomiting as a way to boost blood sugar), chicken stock, and saltines. In the morning, I made sure the washing machine stayed occupied, and he made sure that M stayed quarantined from the rest of the family in the morning. By Saturday night, E was vomiting, and by Sunday, my husband was down for the count. This morning (Monday), H threw up three times before breakfast, and so stayed home from school. I'm still standing (at least for the moment), but expect to go down sometime in the next 24 hours.
My cooking plans for the week have flown out the window, and I'm trying to decide to whether to reschedule a planned trip to New York on Wednesday to see my allergist and EE specialist. It was hard to coordinate with both doctors for the same day, plus arrange child care, so I'm hesitant to make the call right now while I still feel fine (exhausted, but fine).
The thing about sieges in battle is that eventually they end. At some point battle fatigue sets in and there is a lull in the action. Battalions retreat to a different location to regroup and renew. The war isn't won, but there is a break in the intensity of the action. But what happens when you can't retreat much behind the front line?
Since E's birth in late August, I have the sense that we live just beyond the front line at all times, and as such, have developed a kind of long term bunker mentality. My elder son has some delays and health issues, and needs more help than a normal child his age, and my daughter has ongoing health problems that look unlikely to resolve until she is over a year old. Combine that with the veritable petri dish that is preschool, and you have a recipe for disaster. It is very wearing, all this illness. I don't have much space in my head to think. I'm extremely introverted (in the technical, rather than popular sense of that word), and the constant caring for sick people (and being sick myself on and off) is difficult for me. I never have a chance to regroup and recharge. I keep thinking that it has to get better, it can't just keep going like this, but we are five months in, and there seems to be no sign of a let-up. It is all very discouraging for me. I eat too much sugar and consume way too much caffeine in order to stay on my feet far longer than any sane person should be expected to, because every night is an adventure in extreme sleep deprivation and many afternoons are a scream-fest. I expect to be interrupted at night by my daughter, but my middle son has been the source of most of our night wakings, and frankly, it is getting old. I spend much of my babysitting hours ferrying children to various therapy and doctor's appointments, and have given up entirely on taking the bus to get my elder son from preschool every day (we take a cab instead). I keep telling myself that I'll get back on the bus when we all get better, but it just never seems to happen. (Especially now that I have a stress fracture in my right foot, probably from all the double baby carrying). I'm cooking brainless meals most of the time, and resorting to things that can be put on the table in 15 minutes if possible. Until this most recent battle, I was enjoying playing around with my daily look, but since Friday have lived in yoga pants and whatever shirts can be washed easily if vomited on. Since I'm nursing around the clock again (after nearly weaning a week or two ago), I need easy access, and some of my retro-ish outfits aren't super nursing friendly. I'm pretty sure even Lauren Bacall wore sweats during a household outbreak of stomach flu.
I really wanted this post to have a point, or to have some deeper meaning about being in bunker mode, but as I'm still in the midst of it, it is hard for me to have some perspective. Perhaps once the siege is over and the battle is won (if not the war). I write this if only to assure you that I don't in fact live up to my own standards, and that extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. Battle Stations!!