The other night, as my husband was setting his alarm for the next morning, I casually quipped: “Be sure to set it for 11pm, 1am, 3am and 5am in case the children forget to wake us.” My, how we laughed.
Of course, Mr Justice then proceeded to vomit at 10:30pm, 12:30pm, 2pm, 4am and 4:45am, with a couple of crying interruptions in between by Tiddles McGee thrown in for good measure. And each time, after the sick bowl had been rinsed out and disinfected, the sheets and towels had been changed and fresh water had been administered to the little patient, I would crawl back into bed and pray that this time it would be the last time and that sleep would be my reward.
Really, I should have known better than to make such an amusing quip about the alarm clock. After all, I had already jinxed us badly enough by confidently declaring our Gastro-Free status that very afternoon to a friend we were visiting, only to have Mr Justice coat the toilet with the contents of his stomach an hour later. So I had known that the night ahead was going to be a bad one. But I didn’t think for a moment it would be that bad. Perhaps if I had, I might have never gone to bed in the first place. I might have stayed up all night watching back-to-back Barbie’s Fairytopia movies whilst simultaneously sticking Bionicle armoury in my fleshy bits instead because, quite frankly, that might have proved more restful and relaxing.
I mean, let’s be honest here: sometimes broken sleep (or in this case, sleep which has been dropped from a great height and shattered into a thousand million pieces and then ground firmly underfoot by a thousand angry feet) is worse than no sleep at all. For one thing, there’s all that damn pressure to get back to sleep as quickly as possible and grab as many Zs as you can before being woken again and then there’s the bitter disappointment of being woken up far sooner than you’d hoped. In the confusion of it all, I began to think of Mr Justice as a newborn baby and, at the first sound of a new vomiting episode, I’d look at the clock blearily and think “But he’s not due to vomit yet!”
Of course all the time I also had that extra pressure of knowing that the morning would bring two extra charges to feed and water, in the form of Master J and Cyclone Bella. And much worse still, that I couldn’t just declare the day a Doonah Day where we spent the whole day slothing about in front of the television in our pyjamas, eating food out of a tin. You see, the next day was The Pixie’s birthday and there were Big Expectations. She was already utterly devastated that I’d canceled her Fairy Morning Tea at the first sign of vomit and I was going to have to pull something pretty special out of the hat to make up for it – all whilst entertaining five children in quarantine conditions on next-to-no-sleep.
Now, I don’t know how I did it, but I managed to get through the whole day with a smile on my face. Don’t ask me how: it’s all a pink-streamered blur. I don’t even think The Pixie noticed for a moment that her mother was a mere caffeinated-shadow of her former self. As I tucked her into bed that night, she said “Thank you for the bestest birthday ever”.
Of course, it wasn’t until the next day that I found myself shouting a lot and then sitting on my bed, in self-imposed Time Out, holding a wad of home-made green playdough in my hands and sobbing my little heart out. But that? That’s a story for another day.