Being a mother (or a father or any other variety of parent … because, lord knows, we need to be inclusive) brings with it a lot of things. It means unconditional love—you love them unconditionally, and they love you back. (As my 4-year-old puts it: “I love you all the days and all the nights, Mama.”) It means putting someone else before yourself. Always. It means wanting to become a better person so you can help them become better people. It means carrying diapers and wipes and toys and tissues and snacks with you everywhere you go. It means knowing where everything is at all times—shoes, toys, clothing, blankets, random pieces of garbage that your 4-year-old insists you keep, so he can use them to make jets. It means hugs and kisses and snuggles. It means fits and temper tantrums. It means smiles and tears, laughter and sadness. It means the good and the bad and everything in between. It also means that you are primarily responsible (at least in the early years of motherhood) for the variety of substances that exist in the child’s many orifices. The one we’re most concerned with today is vomit.
And I’m not talking about newborn puke that’s made up of nothing but breast milk (or formula … because, again, inclusion) and doesn’t even really smell bad. I’m talking about big, chunky, wet, disgusting, partially digested solid food vomit.
Once you’re a mom, you will find yourself (along with your husband and three children) on an airplane, on your way to the opposite coast to enjoy a 10-day vacation, culminating in a family wedding. You’ve been looking forward to the trip for a year. You all manage to get on to the plane and situated in your seats. The 1-year-old will sit near the window in her car seat (because ain’t nobody got time to sit for seven hours with a wiggly 17-month-old on your lap, so you fork over the cash for her to have her own seat). You’ll be in the middle seat next to her with your 5-year-old on the aisle. Your husband and 4-year-old will be across the aisle, reveling in the fact that they don’t have to share the middle seat with anyone. The two older kids will be in their glory because they’ve been promised as much iPad time as their little eyeballs can handle on this cross-country sojourn.
Vacation is off to a smashing start.
The plane will then take off. Up, up, up it goes. You glance over to make sure the 5-year-old is enjoying “Mary Poppins,” and when you turn back to gaze out the window to watch the valley floor disappear beneath you, that’s when you’ll see it. It’s just there, on top of the 1-year-old. A big, wet pile of puke. Your brain will be trying to process the situation when more puke comes out. And then more. It’s a seemingly endless geyser of puke! It’s all lumpy and wet; partially digested pineapple and mandarin oranges mixed in with some peanut butter and jelly for good measure. And as the pile grows, some of it slides down her sides like an overflowing volcano of what should still be inside the body.
You need a barf bag! You frantically search the seat pocket in front of you but there are no barf bags. Wipes! You need wipes! Or a towel! OR SOMETHING. ANYTHING! But everything is in the overhead bin. And the seatbelt sign is illuminated.
You shout-whisper to your husband that the 1-year-old has barfed and that he should help. Only what’s he supposed to do? He doesn’t have anything. And the seatbelt sign also applies to him. Meanwhile, the 1-year-old is still heaving chunks onto herself, and now she’s starting to paw at it with her hands.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MAKE IT STOP.
Your husband will break the rules, completely ignoring the seatbelt sign, and stand to get the wipes out of the backpack in the overhead bin. He will frantically start dumping things out of the gallon Ziploc bags that you’ve used to carefully organize the trip’s necessities. The man across the aisle hands you his barf bag.
You then proceed to mop up your 1-year-old using nothing but individual Pampers Sensitive wipes. You change her clothes (and try hard not to fling puke all over the unsuspecting passengers nearby) and then pass her to your husband so that you can work on cleaning the chunks of partially digested breakfast out of the car seat crevices. You hadn’t realized before just how many crevices there are on a car seat. You do your best but given the situation, it’s pretty bad.
Because the trip has only just begun, you spend the next 5 and a half hours snuggled in close with the puke baby, her puke car seat and your own puke-smelling hands.
Your 5-year-old will remind you on several occasions during the trip that she doesn’t enjoy the smell of vomit. Isn’t there something you can do about it? Because it’s really bothering her. And it’s not that you don’t gag at the smell of stale vomit, it’s just that you’re a mom, and puke is just part of the deal.