puking pumpkin

The Life Changing Magic Of Cleaning Up Puke

Why did my baby’s puke smell like dog food? The only thing in it is chyme and formula, so why the smell? Shouldn’t it have smelled like formula? After I cleaned him up, changed his shirt, took the pukey sheet off his bed, and was holding him, my baby grabbed my glasses off my face and chewed on the lenses with his dog food breath. I washed his slobber off my glasses with soap and hot water. This is reason number 365B that I don’t think this pair of glasses will survive his early childhood.

During our first week of marriage, my husband and I established that I would deal with blood and he would deal with puke. (He hates blood; I hate puke.) Like most great ideas about child-rearing that one has before actually having a child (cloth diapering! nursing until age 3! never sending the child to day care! only using homemade baby food! never using a computer in front of the baby!), this agreement was painfully optimistic.

It hadn’t occurred to me that my husband might not be home when our baby would puke. So far, I’ve been the parent at home every time that our baby has puked. My husband, who minds puke way less than I do, has been at work or at shul or stuck in traffic every time our baby has done the old heave-ho. It’s no fault of his, and he did graciously empty my basin into the toilet the time when, 24 hours after eating room temperature potato burekas from a bakery that I now refer to as “Satan Himself”, I barfed for the first time in five years of marriage, and the for the first time in eight years since the Rosh Hashanah incident at seminary.

The surprising thing about a puking baby is that I love my baby so much that when he pukes, my flash instinct is to pick him up to comfort him, resulting in puke down my back, on my neck, and on the side of my face. This is unprecedented behavior in the life of Chaya Kurtz.

I have run away when other adults are puking. I get as far away from vomit as possible. One time I was waitressing and this drunk guy puked on the table, and even though it was my job to wipe it up, I panicked and ran away and begged the guys in the kitchen to deal with it. They arrived at the table with a wet rag and a bottle of disinfectant. I panicked so hard that I forgot that all I needed to deal with the issue was a wet rag and a bottle of disinfectant. To me, it was like he had deposited Adolf Eichmann’s pulsing spleen on the table — that was the extent of the revulsion.

Parenting seems to be a dynamite way to get over phobias, and fear in general. The imperative to care for my baby supercedes the fears that I have luxuriated in.

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For example: There is a creepy guy who for months I kept running into him every time I took my baby for a walk. He must have scheduled hanging out on Eastern Parkway holding a big stick and being creepy for the same time that I scheduled my daily walk with the baby. Somehow, like every day for quite a while, I stood next to him at on the green way at the intersection of Eastern Parkway and Albany while waiting to cross Albany. Every single time, he was creepy to the nth degree and stared at my baby and me. And every single time, my mother lion instincts came out on command, and I stepped away two arms distance from him and gave him the look that said, “I will personally stomp on your throat until you are dead if you step anywhere near my baby and me.” He never attempted to attack. Mother lion for the win!

Of course I was scared of him. He was creepy, bigger than I am, and holding a giant stick. So every time I saw him, I told myself, “I will rip his balls off his body if he touches my baby,” and I straightened up and looked mean, and that was that. He never crossed the boundary.

Anyway: When it’s just me, I can get away with being afraid. But when my baby is involved, it seems I have no choice but to buck up and face whatever scary happening is tormenting me.

It’s easier than I thought it would be to get puked on. It’s easier to change pukey bedsheets than I expected. That’s the life changing magic of cleaning up puke: I now can take up things that potentially involve puking, without fear. I have been considering long-distance running after watching “Finding Traction“. I’m crazy enough to do it. Nary an ultramarathoner can get through a race without puking or pooping. Now might be the time in my life to start doing the impossible. Thanks, parenting!

(Image by Ohfoohy/Flickr.)