Love In A Time Of Vomit

Three years ago, I awoke to the sound of my Dad’s voice at the bedroom door, asking if he could make me anything for breakfast. I registered his inquiry amongst the pasty sweat cementing my postpartum body to the bedsheets. I willed myself to turn on my side, but nothing happened.

What is wrong with me?

I noticed my whole body shivering, muscles aching and twitching like I had rolled down a black diamond ski course inside of a wooden log. My lips sorta moved, and a measly meowing noise escaped as I attempted to tell my Dad I was fine.

The faint sound of Puppy Dog Pals wafted in through the bottom of my door.

I guess my daughter is awake. I wonder if she needs anything?

I lose consciousness before I can answer my own question.

A few hours later, I wake again. Sunshine streaming in through the windows reveals that my Dad has come into the room to set a glass of water by my bed.

“Where’s Wesley?” I ask him.

“He went down to Grama Marilyn’s until further notice. He didn’t want to contaminate you.”

How sweet…contamination?

I then remember why I can’t move. About a week before, 30-week old twin boys were cut out of my abdomen in an emergency C-Section procedure after having been on hospitalized bedrest for four weeks prior. They were projected to stay in the NICU for 8 weeks, while my husband and I figured out how to have a marriage and family during this long recovery in two different places.

A few days after coming home to my parent’s house where we were all living at the time, my firstborn starts spewing vomit right before bedtime. My panic levels nearly hit the roof. The thought of lurching over the toilet and the ensuing chaos it would wreak on my broken midsection, brought tears to my eyes. After surviving a pregnancy that should have killed all three of us, now this? My incision had already re-opened twice, and getting out of bed took me at least fifteen minutes. No way am I getting the flu.

My mom and husband had jump into action, shooing me away so I hopefully wouldn’t get exposed. I bathed myself in essential oils, vitamin c, rest, and prayers, begging to be spared from this horrendous illness, but then I too contracted the flu. However, I didn’t get the “barfing all day and night” flu; I got the “unconscious for 24 hours with sweats, high fever, weird dreams, and shakes” flu.

I could handle an incapacitating fever and no appetite.

Eventually I regained enough consciousness to somewhat sit up. I needed to pump.

Shoot, I need to call the NICU and tell them I’m not coming.

I felt like the most terrible mom, skipping a day of reminding her premature babies that they have not been abandoned and will not spend the rest of their days hooked up to nose cannulas and antibiotic IVs.

Tears pricked the corners of my eyes as I imagined the other moms keeping watch over their babies, laying eyes on them and holding them close whenever they wanted.

My snuggles had to be scheduled.

Hooking myself up to the Medela breast pump, I stared at the empty pack’n’play in the corner of the bedroom, imagining their sweet, healthy bodies resting peacefully in trendy, muslin swaddles. I could see my 18 month old daughter making silly faces at them and clutching at their blankets, just to be close to them.

I finished pumping and sealed my milk into the plastic bottles we got from the hospital each time we showed up. Exhausted, I nestled back down into the cream colored cotton sheets. I marveled that our life had become daily journeys across town to the hospital to deliver breastmilk for our NICU warriors, visit friends we had made in the Antepartum unit, and stop by Culver’s for frozen custard and double meat double cheese burgers. Even though I could barely walk, I relished the extra time spent alone with my husband.

Feeling another long sleep approaching, I grabbed my iPad and swiped through shows on my watchlist, settling on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt when my phone rang.

“Hey Baby, I think I’m well enough to take milk to the boys. Want me to go visit?”

My husband had never been sexier.

“Oh my gosh, yes! That would be amazing. I just pumped.”

“Okay, I will stop by in a little while.”

“I love you,” I whisper as my husband hangs up.

Later that evening, flashes of light from my phone pull my attention from the book I’m reading. I unlock the screen and open the text message to see pictures of my husband proudly beaming with the twins. I ached for the day our little family would be all together under one roof, but my heart swelled at his thoughtfulness.

Kelsi Folsom is the wife of a medical school student and a mom-to-three navigating marriage and motherhood with black coffee, ink stains, Maria Callas records, and a whole lot of prayer. Her essays and poems are published in Motherly, the DC-Area Moms Blog, The Caribbean Writer, Mothers Always Write and elsewhere. Her first full-length collection of poetry, Buried In The Margins releases with Finishing Line Press in 2020. She enjoys traveling with her family, getting lost in a good novel, and occasionally putting her B.M. in Voice Performance to good use. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, and at her website.