Those last few nagging pregnancy pounds? Want to lose them? Simple. Just contract yourself a case of the Horrible Stomach Flu of Death, and voila! Pounds=gone. Holy crap, I never want to have an illness like that and take care of a 3-month old nursing infant again.
I woke up Wednesday feeling kind of hungover - headache, dry mouth, mild queasiness - which was odd, since I sip about one and a half drinks over an evening on a really wild night these days. This morphed into something horrific from the end of the digestive tract that afternoon, and gave way to full-on college-style lying on the tile floor moaning over the toilet by late afternoon. I gamely laid on the floor of the baby's room with her as long as I could, shaking toys, and playing silly songs on iTunes. Then I gave up, cried uncle, updated my Facebook status to "mostly dead", and called Seth and begged him to come home while I lay in bed shivering with fever and making sure Helene was in a safe place when I had to bolt to the bathroom.
Did I mention I NEVER want to do that again? Seth took the baby at all times except when she was sleeping or nursing. He'd lay her beside me to nurse - I couldn't really even pick her up. Seth did this Wednesday afternoon, Wednesday night, and all day Thursday. I almost sobbed because I wished my baby would drink from a bottle (she did for awhile, and now refuses), tried to keep down water, hoped this wouldn't make my milk dry up, and scrubbed my hands raw trying to keep the plague away from Seth and Helene and our poor houseguest Seamus who last saw a glimpse of me sometime Tuesday night and could only hear the running down the hall and the hurling (so sorry - will try to be better, biohazard free hostess next time).
I was so glad Seth was there and so afraid he would get sick too, or that I would get sicker. I was really afraid of passing out or needing IV fluids for a little while because I was so dehydrated. Then what would we do? We have no babysitters yet. Our friends all work. Closest family is in New Jersey. I guess we would have called Seth's aunt and uncle to come down here, or trolled the Capitol Hill moms listserve in desperation for any available babysitter. And if a three-month old gets a virus like this, it's hospital time. Nature, though, she knows what she's doing. As Seth pointed out, even before I knew I was sick, Helene was getting the antibodies my body was producing through my milk. Nature is smart, and shit, you know?
On Friday, Seth had to go back to work, so I had to deal. The fever had broken, the various projectile bodily fluids had ceased, liquids were staying down, but I was still the consistency of a limp, wet rag. I can't say that Helene got optimal stimulation on Friday. I'm afraid I plopped her on her play mat, collapsed on the sofa in front of a Style TV "Clean House" marathon, and made sure she was alive once in awhile. In my exhaustion, I daydreamed about the days when I lived in an English basement apartment just a few blocks from here, single, independent. No plants, no pets, no significant others. If I got sick, I just had to call into work and go to bed and sleep as long as necessary. To just be able to lie in bed sick and have no other obligations seems like pure luxury now. Then I daydreamed feverishly about daycare, about nannies, about babysitters, about my mom helping me, about Seth's mom helping me, about anyone's mom helping me. I wondered why we didn't live closer to family. Oh yeah, because we don't want to live in Idaho or New Jersey. I know I was very tired, and maybe it was the illness talking, but I suddenly felt very alone and like I didn't want to be a full-time stay at home mom anymore. I wanted to just sleep. Read an entire book. Wear heels and dressy clothes without having to consider the logistics of nursing. Shop for frivolous things. Go out for long dinners with bottomless glasses of wine which I could drink with abandon because I wasn't nursing.
Then Seth got some e-mails on Friday about our status on the many Federal daycare wait lists. Some are pipe dreams, some look promising for the fall, none look good for May, which is when I had planned to return to work. Seth mentioned that he'd run the numbers, and we probably could afford for me to not work until September. I don't know how I feel about that. Or how my office would feel. I know I can't do it that long without some help. Maybe a sitter or nanny a couple of times a week. Something. Anything. The idea of being home with Helene more is a gift, a burden, wonderful, fearful.
I told Seth that staying home with Helene on Friday while I was still sick was about the hardest thing I've done. Maybe it wasn't, but it was pretty hard. Part of it is caring so much about her, and knowing I have implicitly promised to tend to her every need, especially when she is still so tiny. It was extra-hard knowing that there wasn't really anyone to help me, other than Seth. I guess I could find someone, if I called enough and begged enough. We need a network. We need to find babysitters, because we don't have family close by. I need to get out, have Helene be a little less dependent on just me for me to survive. I know this is old refrain on the mommyblog circuit, but it doesn't feel old when it happens to you, and you are the one torn between wanting to lovingly do everything on earth for your child, and needing to hand her over to someone else to do it too.
Come Saturday, I was feeling quite a bit better, if still Bambi-wobbly on my weakened legs. I could not wait to get out of the house. I hadn't left since last Tuesday night. We went out to breakfast, to our favorite neighborhood greasy spoon, and the outside air and the sight of other people were just as tasty as my biscuits and gravy. Though I watched the twenty-something Hill staffers stumble in, bleary-eyed from their night-before, and I let myself envy their freedom for a few moments.
I've got to get out more. I've got to find that network. I've got to use my gym's babysitters, now that Helene is old enough. I've definitely hit it, that point where the shiny new baby novelty is a little bit dulled, and I just need to see some other humans and fill some hours, because as amazing and wonderful and lovely and happy as Helene is, I just can't sit around the house with her all day or I am going to chew my own foot off. I know it gets easier, right? Everyone says the baby stages go so fast, so enjoy them, and I am trying, and I do, but there has to be some better balance. Just tell me it gets easier, and that this too shall pass, and all those other cliches. Please.