I could tell this wasn’t a normal cry from Emma. There was something to her voice that spoke of urgency. When I opened the door to her room, Emma was sitting up. She turned to me. Before she could get out, “My belly hurts”, she started throwing up (actually it was right around ‘belly hu…’ when her dinner came back up).
If there were a survey for parents to fill out asking for the top ten reasons ‘why’ you are a parent, you might have, in no particular order, ‘hugs from my baby’, ‘kisses from my baby’, ‘their first steps’, ‘the way they smile at me’, ‘I can make a cute answering machine message’, even ‘someone else who can cut the grass’ might make the list. But chances are nowhere on that list would any of us jot down “Cleaning up vomit” (it would be like having a list of top ten Sylvester Stallone movies with Judge Dredd in it). I can tell you that on my hypothetical top ten list, as an expectant father, the word ‘vomit’ was nowhere to be found (but I was the one who put down ‘grass cutter’).
Regardless of this omission, you can be certain, you’re going to be subjected to it (like TNT showing Judge Dredd). In fact, most parents are probably hiding a vomit stain somewhere on a carpet or rug in their house (You moved the coffee table over didn’t you?).
In our house, I was christened as the one to handle vomiting children from the beginning. The first time our oldest threw up (which happened to be 3 seconds after walking in to the house after Christmas dinner at my in-laws), my wife and I both leapt to her aid. That is until the smell hit Alicia. When the regurgitated smell of Hannah’s dinner hit Alicia’s olfactory like a left hook from the dumpster at a meat-packing plant, I was crowned the cleaner of vomit (I can’t complain, my wife could be nicknamed the Diarrhea Diva)
Since that moment, any time our children throw up, in between their heaves; it’s my name they call. I’ve been thrown up on, sprayed off blankets with chunks of whatever it was my kids ate, slept on the floor next to a bucket and my kids, had the smell of stomach bile on my hands for days, and disinfected rooms by spraying Lysol like I was fighting a chemical fire. I’ve done all of this and more because my kids needed me.
So at 2am, I was catching Emma’s vomit in one hand (trying to keep it off the carpet) and pushing her towards her comforter with the other (much easier cleaning a comforter than scrubbing a carpet). I get the “throw-up blanket” (that one blanket in your house you don’t care what happens to) and put it on my side of my bed. Emma will be sleeping in bed next to her mom, until she’s ready to throw up again, then she’ll be calling for me (until then I’ll be on the floor with the dog). But that’s fatherhood. Its sleeping on the floor, trying to catch vomit in your hand at 2am, and its holding your little girl while she is ears deep in a bucket calling “I want Daddy!” in between heaves.
The hugs, kisses, first steps, and cute answering machine messages may rank in the top ten but when your baby calls out for you, even if it is to clean up vomit, that has to be put on a list. Maybe not in the top ten but at least as reason number 11.