I awoke to the sound of crying and glanced at my clock: 4 AM. What could be wrong? I jumped out of bed and opened up the door of my bedroom. A foul stench rushed in through the door, and there in a pool of diarrhea stood my littlest one, sobbing. "Poop on my bed!" he wailed. "Poop on my jammies!"
"Shhh, shhh," I told him, guiding him into the bathroom, where I carefully rolled off his spoiled clothing and helped him climb onto the toilet. "Poop on my legs!" he wept, gesturing from his throne, still heartbroken over waking up in such an undignified and uncomfortable way.
"It's okay," I told him, kissing his cheeks, and ran warm water onto a washcloth to wipe off his legs. I scrubbed the floor, the toilet, his jammies, some blankets. I ran downstairs and started a load of wash. By now he had calmed down. I finished helping him get cleaned up, changed him into one of my t-shirts, and made him a little bed on the recliner. I wrapped him up in a blanket and rocked him for a while, burying my nose into the fuzzy hair on his head. It smelled of warm skin and wind. "I wuv you, Mommy," he said, his head resting under my chin. "I love you, too, angel," I told him. We rocked until he was nearly asleep, then I slid him onto the chair, put a metal bowl next to him (just in case), and headed back to bed.
I hadn't relaxed enough to fall back to sleep when he started to cry again. I climbed back out of bed and ran to the front room, where he was throwing up on his blankies. I put the bowl under his face and rubbed his back while he gagged and retched and cried. When it was over, I warmed another wash cloth to wipe his face, got him a small drink of water, added the blanket to the laundry. "I wuv you, Mommy," he said again, standing in the bathroom doorway as I bleached the bowl. "I love you too, precious." We rocked and cuddled some more and by then it was 5:30. There was no point in going back to bed now, so I commenced my morning routines. There was more vomiting and back rubbing and bleaching and diarrhea and a half dozen loads of laundry, but by mid-afternoon, he was all better, better enough to be running around outside, climbing on piles of dirt, proudly declaring, "I'm a big boy."
The next morning, before the sun rose, Soren woke me up. "Mommy, I'm going to throw up," he told me. I rolled out of bed and found the metal bowl. I settled him onto the couch and curled myself into the recliner. But soon I was rubbing his narrow, bony back while his body violently expelled its contents. Soon there was another load of laundry spinning in the washing machine. Soon he was wrapped in a blanket, curled up on my lap.
I was tired. But in the middle of my fatigue was a profound calm, and a swelling gratitude for the privilege of caring for these two little human beings, for the blessing of being able to be a comfort to them, of bearing the name they call when they are afraid, of being the warmth that comforts them when they are hurt, of owning the hands that quietly wipe away the stains of their suffering. I am so thankful that these moments allow me to show them how loved they are, how precious they are. I am so thankful for my motherhood. In no other vocation does one have a more perfect opportunity to "lift up the hands which hang down" and to experience the overwhelming love comes from doing so.