This is part of my “How I do what I do” series. Now, please know, I’m not telling you how to do anything in your own life. And if what I tell you leads to some unfortunate series of events then know that I’m not liable for your life. I’m just telling you what works for me. Having said all of the stuff that I have to say, I’ll go on to say what I want to say.
As you all know last week the virus hit us hard and all at once. And I realized I handled it so much better than I did when I only had two kiddos. And that’s because I have a plan, that’s well used now.
The first battle is one of the mind.
When the first child starts throwing up I prepare my mind for war. I realize all plans I had are now off. Period. On the way to the movies? Let it go. Planning for the zoo? Nope, no chance. A shopping trip alone? Forget it. Sleeping? Through. Now that you’ve gotten yourself happy about serving others and knowing that getting your plans cancelled is not the end of the world you can move on to the action part of your plan.
Put the child first.
Get your child into the bath. Put the clothes in the floor of the bathroom. At this stage it’s all about the child. Get them clean, settled, reassured. If they’re little and you got covered too, then get right in the shower with them. You usually have a small window of peace before the next wave of vomit. In this window – get busy. Start the laundry. And start a pile in the laundry room that will be reserved as a puke pile. This is where you revisit the mind battle. Just know that at some point you won’t be wading through throw up, but while there are more than one person going at it and especially if you’re one of the ones, you’re just gonna have puke piles.
We don’t have lots of trash cans. In fact, we only have 2 in the house, which is not nearly enough. And my experience with very small ones all puking at once, they rarely hit the target and you don’t have time to sit with each child. Put a towel in the floor closest to them. Lay them on one of those waterproof mattress pads (you know, the flat ones that are crib size?) then put a couple of large towels on top of this. Drape them all over the side of the bed, couch, wherever you put them. Now, in theory, they have a fairly protected area to cover.
When there are 2 you just handle the most immediate issue and move to the next. Keep that laundry going – the puke piles should be building by now. Turn on the tv and park them there. For the duration. I don’t care if you normally don’t watch much tv – now is the time, people. And drop all schedules. Nobody naps? Oh well. They’re napping at 7pm? It’ll be all right.
At this point, cut all food and liquids. You’re in survival mode. Just hunker down and take the attacks. And enjoy the relative calm, because you probably only have one throwing up right now. Get all your towels in one spot, find all the quilts and blankets you have – you’ll probably go through more than you can imagine. Gather your wits about you and get ready for round 2.
Round 2 - Ready for Battle
You and/or others are probably ill by now. Handle each as it hits. Clean the child, put stuff in puke piles, clean yourself, ready for the next round. Over and over and over. Keep the laundry going best you can. Find a clean spot that no one can get to (again, in theory!) like a table, dresser, you get the idea, to put the clean laundry as it comes out. Not the time to worry about folding or putting away. Just piles. And only wash what you’ll need: blankets, towels, underwear.
You’ll also probably still have some little people that are not sick and are amazingly asking to be fed. Pull out your easiest meals and go easy on yourself. Viennie weanies, bread, fruit, poptarts, chips, whatever you don’t have to actually fix – you probably won’t have the time for prep or cleanup for awhile.
What and When to Eat
Still no food or drink for the sickies. As soon as the puke stops and between puking incidents – ice chips. We don’t have anyway to chip it so I pulled out a ziplock and a hammer the other day. My 6 year old thought I’d lost my mind! The idea behind this is keeping them hydrated and making them not drink a bunch at once – they have no self-control. And when they’re still sick when anything hits their stomach – up it comes. If you have a well adult to help – send them for pedia pops, usually sold unfrozen in the baby food section. If you can’t get these, get pedia-lyte and freeze it – I’ve not seen a kid yet that will actually drink the stuff. If you can’t get these – get regular pop-ice popsicles. While that adult is at the store get: sprite or 7-up, chicken noodle soup, saltine crackers, mashed potatoes, applesauce, bananas, bread, and white rice. These things constitute the B.R.A.T. diet. (Banana, Rice, Applesauce, Toast). The idea is white. Easy on the tummy. They won’t actually eat these yet, but you want them on hand when the war is over. my kiddos won’t eat plain toast, but jelly isn’t a great idea yet, so I smear applesauce on it and it works like a charm.
You’re now in the wait and see mode. Ice chips, a teaspoon of the previously mentioned fluids every 10-20 minutes. Even if they’re still puking. Hydration is the key and even if they’re dry heaving, their little bodies are absorbing more than you might think. When they stop puking and ask for drinks then you can graduate to about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of sprite or 7 up at a time. 20 minutes and no puke? More. Eventually you’ll graduate to the more solids of the above group. If at any point they puke again – start over. Nothing, and then ice chips, then popsicles, sodas, up to solids.
Okay, this where it gets even grosser. If you have a weak stomach – consider yourself warned. If their lower stomach begins its own war then you get to change your battle plan a bit. If you have a potty training toddler or just potty-trained – don’t stress out. Just put that pull-up or diaper back on them. You haven’t ruined everything you’ve taught. You haven’t blown it. They’ll go right back to where they were when it hit. You’re just being smart. Heck, if I had a diaper I’d put one on too when I’m in that condition. (too much info? yeah, I thought so too. sorry.) I even offered one to my 4 year old the other day. He declined, but the offer was on the table. when they have to do both at the same time and you have the dilemma of which one to clean up – set their be-hind on the potty and give them something to be sick into. As I said before I don’t have enough trash cans. but I have a million of these empty jumbo plastic coffee and chocolate milk mix containers around. It’s wide enough to hit, easy enough for little ones to hold. And a handle for you when you need to dump it into the potty. Put some bleach in it, swirl it, dump it again, and set that gross little thing by the potty for the next sick kid. When the war is completely over just throw it out with the trash. Ah, no clean up.
Maintain This Routine
Keep this up for as long as it takes. You’ll watch your house fall apart around you. It’s okay. Keep telling yourself, “it’s okay.” The little people (and you, if you’re sick too) are more important. All that cereal your 2 year old dumped? It can stay right where it is and may provide a much needed snack for your almost 1 year old. I only kid a little. Quit worrying about keeping the well ones away from the sick ones. In a family of a bunch of little ones so close in age – it probably isn’t going to happen. It just isn’t. Pacis will be shared, popsicles will be passed, they will pile up with each other, grab the gross blanket… just accept that you can’t possibly wash all of their hands enough, you can’t spray every surface with lysol enough. You just can’t do what people with fewer kids or with older kids or with their kids spread out in age can do. You just can’t. Accept that it’s probably going to hit everyone and pray for the opposite. Ah, now you’re relieved of even more undue stress and guilt. Battle of the mind, people. Battle of the mind.
If there are medicines required or a fever that you’re particularly worried about this is the time to get a piece of paper and pen. Your memory will not serve you well under this much stress and lack of sleep. And if you do need to go to the doctor at some point you’ll want something concrete to give them (or at least read to them – they probably won’t want to actually touch anything you hand to them.) Each child gets a separate piece of paper. Name at the top. Know their weight (go weigh them between throw ups if you don’t know – you’ll need this for accurate medicine dosage and making sure they don’t lose too much weight, especially with tiny, more sickly ones) record the time at the left and whatever you need to remember. For instance:
BigMan – 27 pounds
11pm – threw up – 101.7 under arm – Tylenol – 2 inches of popsicle
1am – 100.8 under arm – Ibuprofen – 2 inches of popsicle – immediately threw it up
6:20am – 101.4 under arm – full popsicle
7:05am – Tylenol – 1/4 cup Sprite
It’s written in the order it happened. So you know if he kept down the medicine or not. Keep this up for as many children as you need. You’ll never remember who took what medicine when, who gets to graduate to crackers, and who threw up last.
Babies And Olders
If you have a baby that sleeps with you, can’t be put down, generally spoiled as mine is, then you have a different battle. Accept that there will be much crying. Feel the guilt being released? Put them down, handle the immediate crisis, switch the laundry (all while listening to the baby wail) and then when the sick one is settled, pick up the screamer. You’ll have to do this again and again. Even at 2 in the morning. But, remember, there is no day or night in the world of little pukers and dookers. It’s all the same. Baby pukes while crying in the swing while you’re cleaning up the last crisis? Wipe his mouth, check to make sure he’s safe, finish what you’re doing and include him in the current shower. Diaper him. Move back to the other child, settle them, and then dress and settle baby. You just juggle. Assess and juggle.
This next part is probably not going to be popular. I normally don’t call my husband home from work or get him up in the middle of the night. He needs rest and he needs to work. Most of the time you can handle it, you just don’t want to. There have been a couple of exceptions when I could barely walk to the bathroom, much less fill a sippy cup. I promise you, though, most of the time it’s a battle of the mind. You can do it. And if they work or sleep, they’ll be in a much better condition to help the way you need it most when they are able come to your rescue. See their help as an option that should not be used unless absolutely necessary. You’ll have much less anger and resentment. Really. I’ve tried it both ways and I’m always a much happier person when I don’t demand his help.
The war usually only lasts about 12 hours per kid. And just focus on the sickest at the time. Again prepare your mind for battle, because the more kids you have the longer the whole process can take. What takes a family with one or two kids 3 days, takes our family 6 – 10 days. It will end though. Keep reminding yourself of this. Hydration is the key. And the key to that is a little at a time very often. If it’s a particularly violent virus (throwing up every 20 minutes or so) start a teaspoon of water every 20 minutes or so. They’ll probably throw it up anyway, but they may absorb more than you think. If you’re breastfeeding – keep breastfeeding. If they refuse for a while, it’s okay, they’ll be back. Keep yourself hydrated and remember that your supply will probably drop for the next day and a half. Just let ‘em nurse as often as they want, they’ll pull it back in and won’t starve. The more you nurse, the more you’ll have.
As always, I must say, this is just what we do. Check with your doctor. Call your pediatrician. I’m neither of these, nor am I a lactation consultant. This is just what’s worked for us for 6 years and 4 kids now (edited: 9 years and 5 kids now!). Go with your gut, if it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not. If they’re not showing signs of stopping in a couple of hours, go to the doctor or E.R. I feel as though, i need to scream at you, “I AM NOT AN EXPERT AT ANYTHING OTHER THAN MY OWN FAMILY!” they are all that I’m responsible for, I just know I like to read how other people handle daily life with a larger family, and I thought you might be interested too.
Good luck, fellow puke warriors, you’ll need it. But I know in the end, your house will be clean, your babies will be well, and you’ll be back blogging with me soon!