It started with a restless sleep and a vivid dream about a gigantic boa constrictor.
The hail began to clatter just as we were about to head out, but I managed to fumble my way through the usual difficulties of herding small children into the vehicle.
I arrived at the hospital in record time and even managed to find a free parking space across the road. I had quickly detoured back home to pick up my jacket as the wind’s icy fingers were searching for bodies to grip onto. Ivy smiled up at me as I placed her into the pram and we leisurely strolled to wait at the crossing lights. I wasn’t in a rush for once and took my time starting across the road to the rhythm of the ticking light. A bus was idling to my right and I was gazing at Ivy in the pram. Then, as we were about to step out past the bus, a speeding car hurtled through the red light, inches away from Ivy’s head.
The hunched lady in black to my left immediately crossed herself and I swore under my breath as the magnitude of what we had all just avoided began to sink in. Hot tears pricked beneath stubborn lids, as Ivy gazed at my quizzically, wondering at my change in demeanour. It was as if the velvet facade of safety, health and security had been ripped away and the ugliness of death and pain stared me down, refusing to let me look away from those black horrific eyes. I couldn’t even erect the careless driver as my scapegoat, as I stared down and found myself wearing those very same shoes after my oblivious moment
in December the year before last.
The tears were obedient to my weakened will until after I had checked in at the Outpatients Clinic and shakily taken my seat against the window. I had a lot of thinking time after that as patient after patient went in before me, eventually leaving me lingering alone in the empty room, rocking the pram back and forth as I kept hoping I would be the next one called. Over an hour and a half later, we were finally summoned. The good news that Ivy’s hips are improving and we don’t have to return for another six months was somewhat smothered by my frustration at the inexplicable delays and the barely processed encounter on that crossing.
I was in tears again by the time Dave arrived home. In the chaos of the multiple transferals, Ivy had hardly managed to have one decent sleep and I was running on emotionally empty. We managed to plough through the night until bedtime and planned for a relaxed evening recovering from the emotional rigours of the day.
Then, at 8pm, I turned down the volume on Pitch Perfect 2 to confirm my suspicions- someone was crying. The stench hit my nose before I had even completely opened his door and Eli was moaning, covered from head to toe in the remnants of his dinner. I quickly called for reinforcements and Dave got him into the bath while I began peeling back bedsheets, quilt covers and pillow cases, the heap of soiled laundry piling higher and higher. I scrubbed walls and bedheads and cleaned the carpet, eventually getting new sheets and a pillow for the bed (and a cupboard full of towels draped over everything).
We had just tucked Eli back into bed and placed the trusty bucket by his side, when two minutes later it happened again. We realised it was going to be a long one and set him up on a camping bed in our room. ‘Divide and Conquer’ became our mantra and I sent Dave out to sleep in the living room. I put myself to bed as well, knowing it would be a marathon of sorts.
Eli woke every half hour to an hour, and I hauled him up by the back of his pajamas, holding the bucket under his chin every time. By midnight we had a routine going and he would go quickly back to sleep every time. For me, usually the moaning signifying the next wave would hit just as I was finally entering dreamland so it was a broken and restless night. By 4:30am the last eruption had ceased and the 6am wake up was only false alarm. We had made it!
Mum sacrificially came over to help with the mountains of washing and to stem the tide of pre-schoolers enthusiastically sharing germs. We made it without anyone else falling… until 5am the next morning. Dave was down.
I chased the kids around all day with ‘quick soap’ (hand sanitiser) and frantically sprayed at the air with my disinfectant bottle. The slightest hint of unsanitary behaviour would send me off my rocker and by 5pm all semblance of sanity had disappeared. A brief respite appeared in the form of Pat at the door with everything one could possibly need to stave off a gastro attack, including thoughtful toys for the cooped up kids. Poor Dead-Eyed Dave hauled himself out of bed to assist with the post dinner insanity and by 6:30pm I had unwittingly dropped off into a deep sleep while giving Ivy her bottle.
The events of this week have relentlessly tugged at that illusionary facade that I have constructed around myself that I can protect and defend my family. The anxiety that results from realising what little real control I do have, absolutely terrifies me. Had I been walking my usual brisk pace at the hospital crossing, Ivy may not be with us right now. Even within the walls of my own home, insidious germs sneak through my every line of defence and attack my family.
And for one who predominantly demonstrates her love for others in various forms of food, gastro is the worst possible situation. Food is at best awkward and at worst, heave-inducing. Needless to say, I found myself at a loss.
It doesn’t help that I am in two minds over exactly how much help prayer can provide in these circumstances. I implored God like a desperate woman to keep me from catching the virus on that restless night with Eli, and I did feel a ‘sense’ to go slow at that crossing, but the fact that I can’t quantify these results maintains my lack of certainty. I can’t get away from the ‘but why should I receive help, when others may not’ conundrum. Yet these moments when everything appears to be spinning and nothing ,can be mastered or controlled, force me to confront the reality of my faith. I live under such an illusion in this Western, luxurious world that it becomes more of an optional accessory rather than the hard drive that is programming my life.
I feel like I have so much to learn… and that scares the hell out of me.