Emmaus, Pennsylvania—For one local mother, last Wednesday began much like any other day. Laura, a single mom of three children ages 2, 4, and 6, was awoken well before her alarm sounded by the youngest child patting her energetically on the face. When asked for a comment, Darbie, the two-year-old in question, replied, “I not know,” with a look of innocence on her face.
Despite the usual dragging of feet and cries of, “I do it myself!” and, “But I wanted the blue bowl,” the family got dressed, ate breakfast, and was out the door for daycare drop-off on time.
Laura says she noticed nothing unusual before or during dropoff, and returned promptly home to begin her workday as a marketing manager for a local credit union. “I’ve been working from home since spring of 2020, and it’s really been a game-changer for me in terms of flexibility and fulfilling all my roles,” she declared. “I mean, look no further than what happened today for all the proof you need,” she added with a bemused shrug.
Just an hour and half into her workday, Laura received the first indication that this day would not be the quiet day of crossing off work tasks she expected. “As soon as I saw my phone light up and daycare in the caller ID, my heart sank,” she explained, “I just knew it must be something bad for them to be calling me so soon after dropoff.”
Her instincts proved correct. The director on the phone informed the mother that her middle child, Logan, had begun to show signs of illness and needed to be picked up. Daycare staff reported that the child had a fever and was “just not himself. He didn’t want to play, didn’t want to eat … He just curled up in the quiet corner and that’s when we suspected he wasn’t feeling well and got the thermometer.”
When asked how she took this news, Laura stated, “Oh, well, it’s kind of par for the course. Kids get sick. I was surprised of course, because he had seemed fine before, but I wasn’t in a meeting or anything, so I just saved my work and made the 5-minute drive to daycare to get him.” Right away, she saw that her son was indeed not feeling well. Hoping to tempt him into eating with a treat, Laura suggested that they swing through the Dunkin’ drive-thru for donuts to which Logan heartily agreed.
“Looking back, I wish we would have just gone home, but hindsight’s 20/20 and I made the best call I could with the information I had at the time.”
It was in that drive-thru that it became clear this was no ordinary cold. Two donuts and a latte ordered, Laura held her phone up to the window for the cashier to scan her app and pay the bill. At the same time, a tell-tale heaving sound came from the back seat. The mother looked over her shoulder to see her distraught 4-year-old, vomit down his front and pooling in the car seat crevices. “It was just panic and powerlessness,” Laura elaborated, “He was asking for help, but there was almost nothing I could do. I tossed him some baby wipes and cracked the windows to help with the smell.”
Laura spent the short drive home formulating a plan. “Puke is my kryptonite as a mom. Blood, crying, sleep deprivation … all that I can handle, but vomit is a different story,” Laura told us. As soon as the car was in park, she texted her boss that she was going to be away from her desk for a little bit. Then, breath held and eyes averted, she tackled the mess.
When asked how she managed to face the vomit, Laura answered, “All I could think was I can’t do this, I can’t do this, I can’t do this, but I was the only adult there, so there just wasn’t a choice; I had to.” She eased Logan from his carseat, and stripped him down to his socks and underwear on the back deck before taking him straight to the bathtub inside. Her son settled into the bath, she returned outside to deal with the car. “The one saving grace was that all he’d had to eat so far was cereal, and I could tell he’d chewed it really well. That makes cleanup a little easier,” Laura elaborated. “I uninstalled the seat—a Diono Radian, those things are beasts let me tell you—and hosed the worst of it off before taking off the cover to chuck into the wash.”
The mother split her attention between her child upstairs and the cleanup efforts downstairs, calling up the steps for reassurance Logan was doing all right every few minutes. With the car tended to and washing machine cycle started, she switched into doctor mom mode. “I got him cleaned up and dressed, and gave him some kids’ Dramamine in the hopes of ending the puke. Obviously the fever is a concern, but my strategy was to address the vomiting first. Tylenol won’t do any good if it comes back up.”
Meds administered, she set up her son on the living room couch with a bucket in case of further episodes of vomiting. Logan fell asleep within minutes, and Laura logged back onto her computer. From the phone call to sitting down again at her desk took just over an hour. “Like I said, working from home has really been a lifesaver. If I had been in the office it would have been a much bigger deal, whereas today was barely a blip on the radar. And on the bright side, the floor mat and Logan’s car seat are super clean now. Not to mention I got to eat Logan’s donut since he’s on the bland foods protocol for the rest of the day, so there’s that.”
This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series "Breaking News."