Children ought to arrive with a manual that dedicates at least three lengthy chapters to vomit.
If the site of vomit, the smell of vomit, or even the mere mention of the word "vomit" makes your stomach queasy, then I've got some bad news for expectant parents. For the first couple of months, babies are little more than adorably cute containers of drool, poop and vomit. Squeeze them too tightly or bounce them on your knee a minute too long and you'll see how quickly all that drool, poop and vomit can magically overflow, sometimes simultaneously.
And if your wife is anything like mine, you won't even have to wait for the baby to arrive before you become proficient at handling vomit. At first, I carried her morning sickness bucket like it was filled with radioactive waste. I walked it to a remote section of the neighboring wooded lot and dumped it, then stood a good distance away and sprayed it with the hose. By the time Our Daughter arrived, all the bucket got was a quick swish of water from the spigot and a spritz of Lysol. If any got on my shoes, pants, or in my hair, I no longer cared. Vomit and I had made our peace with each other. Ours was a live-and-let-live relationship.
But that tiny bit of morning sickness vomit is nothing compared to the mass quantities produced by a late-night-breast-milk-binging baby with the upset stomach and an inability to walk to the bathroom toilet. Ever try cleaning vomit from the intricate spindles of a baby crib? Don't worry, you will.
Or how about toddler vomit? When Our Daughter was two years old, she spent much of one visit with relatives circling a coffee table slowly devouring almost an entire bowl of gold fish crackers. A couple hours later, she stood in the crib provided to us and projectile vomited a direct hit at her mother's chest from a distance of five feet. Let me assure you, you know it's a quality vomit when one parent spends two hours cleaning undigested gold fish crackers out of a shag rug and the other has to bathe the baby, take a shower and run a load of laundry.
Or how about the first time they get sick on their bedroom floor? My mother used to tell us to throw up on our beds if we were going to get sick. "I can put your sheets in the wash," she'd say. "I can't put the carpet in the wash."
But there's something counter-intuitive to vomiting on your bed and, in effect, all over yourself. Your body understands vomit is a thing to be shared, so it makes every attempt to spread it out as far and wide as possible.
For instance, were we to go back and visit the house we lived in when our children were born, I would not be surprised to find a barely discernible pink stain on the floor of the back bedroom where, one evening, Our Daughter released a torrent of Raviolio-tinged vomit. It was a monumental achievement, really, and proved too tough a match for any chemicals and carpet cleaning machines money could rent. We were somehow spared the joy of finding out what happens when a boy sleeping on the top bunk throws up in the middle of the night, but that doesn't mean our sons haven't had their share of incidents.
The German once decimated our van with a wave of nausea, again possibly inspired by gold fish crackers. I missed that one and have always felt a bit left out. By all accounts, it was mighty impressive and required some extreme detailing of the leather seats.
And the Italian, well it's been only a few days since his last performance. You would think by age twelve he would have figured out where vomit belongs. Only minutes after he agreed it would be a good idea for us to get him a bucket, but before we were able to get it to him, he sat up on his bed, hurriedly proclaimed "I think I'm going to need that bucket," and immediately proceeded to puke all over the floor. Also hit in the onslaught were his bed, his brother's bed, a bookshelf, three Lego sets, and the storage bins under both their beds. Best of all, I had just given him bubble gum flavored Ibuprofen and the only food he'd eaten in the previous hours were Twizzlers.
Some day I'm going to find out who the genius is who decided it would be a good idea to pack the medicine parents administer to sick children with enough red dye to stain clear through to the floorboards and give him a good, swift kick in the pants.
© 2013 Mark Feggeler