Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “the first wealth is health” sometime in the early 1800’s, and it is just a true today. For me, I didn’t realize how healthy and happy I was until it was temporarily taken away.
Fortunately, mine is a minor thing. My household is going through a stomach bug. It’s Friday and since Monday I have been cleaning vomit, poop, kids, toilets, and me. First it was the phone call from school on Monday afternoon to pick up Dreamer.
I wasn’t convinced he felt sick. That morning:
“Mami, my tummy hurts,” Dreamer whined at about 8:00am on the first day back to school from winter vacations after a bowl of cereal.
“Well, that’s convenient.” I thought. Dreamer, as you can read here and here, has a tendency to have stomachaches at crucial points: those moments he really doesn’t feel like doing something. So, as I have been accustomed to, I sent him to school completely ignoring his plea.
At 1:00PM the phone rang and it was Dreamer. He had thrown up. When I arrived to pick him up at the school office he looked fine and made his “I’m lying face.” My immediate gut reaction was to reprimand him.
“Are you kidding me? You don’t look like someone who just threw up.”
That’s when the school secretary said:
“Oh, he’s for real, I just had to send someone to clean up the classroom.”
Worst. Mom. Ever. Once. Again.
I apologized to him, and brought him home where he subsequently spent the next three hours with frequent trips to the bathroom for all sorts of bodily fluids exiting his body from multiple places. Poor kid was miserable.
And the following night, at around midnight it was my turn. I exiled myself to our spare room trying to contain the spread of the virus and spare Joe and Fearless from the same fate. I went to the bathroom where my journey into stomach bug hell began. I’ve gotten colds and coughs lately, but nothing derails you as completely as a stomach bug.
I couldn’t move. I was either dizzy and nauseous or forcefully vomiting. I was simultaneously sweating and shivering. At one point, I just laid down on a towel on the bathroom floor so that my commute to throwing up was just a sit up.
Even that was a monumental effort.
When my cleansing was eventually done, it was morning. Then I was just nauseous, and drained. It reminded me of my first months of pregnancy; I was incapable of getting up. I had phone calls to make, emails to answer and couldn’t do any of it.
I got it together to go pick up the boys from school, and then head right back home and into bed. The boys were latchkey kids for the day and fended for themselves all afternoon. Fearless wrote me this note:
Except I could barely speak, much less mother.
After another twelve hours of sleep I woke up ….
Feeling human again.
I’m still not 100% but I can function. Yet for that one miserable day, I was useless. And I was so sick I couldn’t even think of feeling guilty for all the work I wasn’t doing, or training that wasn’t happening. I just had to will myself to sleep so that I wouldn’t feel that awfulness.
I’m well aware, now, that I take my health for granted. I’m lucky to have it, and I think nothing of riding thirty miles on my bike, once, or twice, or even four times in one day.
But forget training, I couldn’t take care of my kids properly! I fed them whatever was microwaveable, I didn’t take them to their afternoon classes, I didn’t check homework and much less give them any sort of genuine attention. They understood; we were on survival mode. But I thought of all the moms out there that have to live with one condition or another preventing them from being the mom they want to be with their children.
I remember my sister in law telling me she would feel severely nauseous for two entire days after each chemotherapy round. How did she manage? How do you guys do it? Some moms are superhuman.
Just as I was feeling grateful, Fearless began to vomit, and I was back to cleaning and disinfecting.
Both Dreamer and I still feel queasy; Joe is praying he avoids the wrath of the porcelain Gods, while Fearless is coming up for air after his cleanse.
It’s true. The first wealth is health.
Health is everything. You can’t do anything without it.
I’m enormously grateful for mine.