On Monday night, my mom, the kids and I went to dinner to celebrate my sister’s birthday. We hit the local Chinese restaurant, where we were all happily chomping on rice noodles when my seven year old son took a sip of his lukewarm tea and started to cough.
I remember when I would cough like that as a kid and my mom would make me put my arms in the air. I do that with my son too. I also make him look me in the eye as I slowly count to five, then tell him to take a breath. I do anything I can to get his attention off of coughing because, with him, coughing almost always leads to vomiting.
I held my napkin under his chin, as if that would contain his bellyful of Lo Mein and mushrooms. He began to gag as his sister firmly shut her eyes and plugged her ears, as she frequently does. Then my son threw up about a tablespoon of liquid before calming himself down.
I was thrilled! I was so proud of him! His grandmother even gave him a dollar.
He didn’t vomit, and vomit, and vomit some more as he did on the first day of Christmas break. He had a cold and started coughing in the car as we were leaving the school, which is where he started throwing up. He coated his jacket and his booster seat, then leaned out the window and threw up some more. He finished on the ground in the parking lot where I had hurriedly pulled into a spot. I undressed my son next to the car in the frigid temperatures before driving him home to do laundry and bathe him.
That scene, or one like it, plays out about once a week. If we’re lucky. Sometimes it’s more. You might think this is disgusting. But, these are the moments that define the mother I am.
I am the mother of a sick kid. I am the mother of a boy who weighs 38 pounds and will soon be eight years old, who is hard to understand when he speaks and who hears everything as if he is holding his hands over his ears.
I am the mother of a child with OCD tendencies, who easily gags, and chokes, and has horrible reflux, heart defects, hearing loss, a missing tear duct and stubby ear canals. I work as a lunch lady so I can be there to watch over him when he eats. I give him stomach and allergy medicine, sinus rinses, eye drops and ear drops. And, I carry special bags in my car to catch his vomit (when I can).
I am the mother who helps my kids with homework as I am making a dinner that I know my son can eat. Nothing stringy, nothing too spicy, nothing pasty or with an odd texture. Bites need to be dime-sized.
I am the mother who drives her daughter to basketball practice and makes sure to bring a blanket to keep her son warm, because his heart problems make him extra cold.
I am the mother whose son sees not only a pediatrician, but a cardiologist, gastroenterologist, opthamologist, geneticist, allergist, ENT…oh, and we were just told to consult with an orthodontist too. I am the mother who is a pharmacist’s dream and a health insurer’s nightmare.
I am also the mother who cheers when her son doesn’t throw up in the middle of a restaurant during her sister’s birthday dinner.
I am the mother who takes her victories whenever she can.