I half rolled, half slid out of bed, pushing myself up with my arms so as not to aggravate an already-sore back. I had no idea what time it was. When your 9-month-old infant is still waking up three times a night, you stop checking the clock.
And she was awake now.
When I got to her room, I could see her in the dark, sitting up in her crib with arms extended, reaching for me. My back breathed a sigh of relief, grateful that I had slightly less far to bend to pick her up. I exited her room with a sharp turn to the right. Stumbling slightly around the corner, I was reminded that I needed to close the gate at the top of the stairs, fearful that one night, in my sleepy stupor, I’d miss that sharp turn. Climbing back into my bed with baby in arms, we settled down to nurse. I don’t know how long she drank, both of us dozing as she fed and we cuddled.
We began to roll to the other side.
I’m not sure if I heard her wretch first or felt her tiny body tense with effort, but I braced myself for the flood of milk that was on its way back up. I half rolled, half slid out of bed, pushing myself up with one arm and holding on to her with the other. Now, in the light, I could see that she’d already thrown up. She’d been sleeping in it, without making a peep, for who knows how long.
The cleanup began — her clothes, her face, her hair, and her crib.
My husband woke up for this part; he excels at the cleaning. I cursed myself silently for not buying the waterproof, wipe-clean mattress. It would have to be our bed for the night, and we’d deal with the stain tomorrow. Of course she was wearing her last pair of clean pajamas. Under our down comforter, a long-sleeved onesie would suffice. Then I changed my own T-shirt. It was Saturday, so I could forego the shower and not worry if there was baby vomit in my hair. I was grateful that no work tomorrow meant I could do the bare minimum tonight.
We got back into bed, doing our best to avoid the damp spot.
“Are you OK laying here for a few hours, and we’ll change the sheets tomorrow?” my husband asked. Yes. This type of thing barely phases me anymore. And anyway, the baby had thrown up so quickly that it was still basically just breast milk. What nursing mother hasn’t slept in a puddle of her own milk?
The lights were off, but my daughter began to yell out, joyously, as if it were time for play. She grabbed her bare feet — usually clad in the double layer of footie pajamas and sleep sack and inaccessible to her at night — in a classic “happy baby” yoga pose.
Laying next to her, trying to soothe her back to sleep, I was struck by, and thankful for, the resilience of these babies: growing teeth, taking knocks to the head as they learn to walk, struggling to separate from their mommies. And sleeping, without complaint, in a puddle of their own vomit when a stomach virus takes them down. In so many ways, they teach us how to be resilient, too.