I typed a cryptic message to my family on WhatsApp: “Writing in from the RED alert zone.” It started.
Then I detailed how my son had bravely thrown up six times in five hours overnight.
I knew from experience that I was next. I just didn’t know when. “It’s been two years since I last threw up,” I typed grimly. “Wish me luck.”
My aunts wisely canceled our family brunch scheduled for that weekend. I canceled a dinner with my friends and their kids, too, afraid to infect anyone else. My son complained about having to drink Pedialyte instead of milk and bounced right back to his chipper, active self.
Meanwhile, I kept our family in quarantine, and waited. I took a plaintive sip of Pedialyte, too, steeling myself for what was to come.
“No puke yet!” I wrote in my journal the first night. But I didn’t let hope creep in.
On the second day, I felt a little less sorry for myself and began to strategize.
5-step plan for waiting out the inevitable
Step 1: Cleaning
Why not pre-clean the toilets? I wondered. If by some miracle, I was immune to this bug, I’d still have clean toilets. If I ended up hugging said toilets, at least they’d smell comfortingly sterile.
I got out the “heavy duty” cleaner – not the natural stuff – and went to work scrubbing and vacuuming around the bases. I will not pretend that this would have happened under friendlier circumstances.
Step 2: Nesting
I placed piles of folded towels down at the base of each now-pristine toilet, added a selection of favorite magazines, and even made the phone chargers handy for what promised to be my “home” of several hours in the near future. I knew my dog would be by my side when the time came, so I made sure to grab a towel for her to lay on, too.
Step 3: Carbo-loading
I tried starving myself the first day, not wanting to taint any food with the potential disgust that I would associate with it, after it came back up. By day two, this was no longer an option. Weak with hunger, I changed my approach to one of “least resistance.”
I would focus on eating only soft, starchy foods that would not be too hard on my system on the way out. Enter yummy warm rolls, oatmeal, soggy cereal, and lots of other things I normally balance with protein and vegetables.
Step 4: Entertainment planning
What, I asked myself, would I not mind watching between horrible, foreboding, episodes of retching? Between Netflix and YouTube, the options are endless, but it has to be something comforting that you don’t mind missing little bits of if you’re…busy. I decided on Season 2 of the Tom Hanks classic series, “Bosom Buddies”, and bookmarked the YouTube page on my phone.
Step 5: Researching vomit
I Googled “What is the most efficient position for vomiting” hoping to find some precise, yoga-like instructions on the quickest possible way to get it over with. Instead I found polite forums where people traded their best suggestions on vomiting techniques and wished each other the best.
I also found this great article from Wikihow: “How to Throw Up as Comfortably as Possible”. Just knowing that enough people are searching this to warrant a whole illustrated guide made me feel weirdly less isolated. Also, reading somewhat obvious tips like, “If you’re going to vomit, lean forward and take deep breaths. Try not to panic as you won’t be comfortable,” had the same soothing effect.
Finally, on the fourth night, it happened. I was relieved to watch six episodes of “Bosom Buddies”, huddled under a towel, next to my dog and my recently-cleaned toilet.