Kids will test many things about you. Your patience. Your ability to function without sleep. Your knowledge of dinosaurs. Your ability (or lack thereof) to braid hair. Your knowledge of basic math. These are things you have to expect going into parenthood. To a certain extent, you’ll also expect that kids will test your marriage. Kids bring a whole new kind of stress for people to deal with, and layering that stress on top of all the other everyday stress of life can be tough for a couple to navigate. However, the one thing that will test your marriage the most is something I wouldn’t have ever thought of before it happens – a kid throwing up in bed.
Responding to this regurgitative emergency is an ultimate test of spousal compatibility. I’ve never been on a dating app, but if “Would you be more willing to clean up a vomit splashed child or vomit covered sheets?” isn’t a question on there – it ought to be. Before my wife and I got married we took course and did a work book that talked a lot about habits around the house and money management, but not one mention of if the smell of somebody else’s puke is going to make you want to hurl. What a wasted opportunity. Pizza topping preference, big spoon or little spoon, opinions on Hugh Grant – sure, these things matter in how well two people fit together. But you can change your habits, you can’t change your gag reflex.
The ultimate test for my wife and I came at quite possibly the worst time imaginable – Thanksgiving. No, I didn’t under-cook the turkey, we were all hit by a stomach bug. All the food we could eat, and none of it was successfully digested. From the first time the one-year old threw up in his crib to the first time two days later than some crackers were held down, we were a well oiled puke cleaning machine. My wife gets the kid, I get the sheets. Her calming, motherly nature comforts the sick little kiddo, and my ability to rinse chunks of partially digested sweet potatoes off of a pillow case without blowing chunks allowed us to pass the stress test with flying colors.
Over two nights our three kids probably threw up at least twice each. It could have been more, but once you run out of sheets and have to put beach towels on your their beds, you stop counting. By the third or fourth clean up, we had the kid cleaned up and back in a clean bed in under five minutes. We were like a pit crew. Except we were in our pajamas and not matching jumpsuits. Which, come to think of it is a fantastic idea – parental jumpsuits. Suitable for pukey sheets, poopy diapers, and all manner of spills. Could even cover it on all those sponsor patches too. I’m sure the good people at Huggies wouldn’t mind getting their logo covered in spit up. Anyway, compatibility was on full display.
Last week was Spring Break, and a stomach bug struck again. The kids were home from school and the puke was aplenty. Sure, puke and Spring Break go hand in hand, but its a little different when its on the floor in your kid’s bedroom and not on the floor of Daytona’s finest Motel 6. But we fretted not. We comforted, we cleaned, we were back in bed in ten minutes.
I can’t fathom what it would be like if neither of us could stomach cleaning the bed. If we both insisted on wiping down the kid, would we just throw the sheets away? Suppose that would be a better option than constantly fighting back your own spew in the name of laundry. What if neither one of us wanted to put up with a crying, smelly little person? Hosing them down from a far in the back yard would work in the summer, but that’s not really a sustainable strategy. Plus imagine what the neighbors might think if they see you in the yard spraying the puke off your toddler. First, they’d think “what the hell?” Second, they’d think “Sweet jumpsuit.”