Puke

In February of 2012, I took a 72 hour trip to Taipei (including the approximately 26 hours of flying) to attend my cousin’s funeral after her unexpected death. Of the dozen or so times I’d been to Taipei, this was the first time I was going in the wintertime. Coincidentally, Little V’s name constitutes the first four letters of my cousin’s name; I did not realize this until she was born and an old friend pointed it out to me. That’s what childhood friends are for; they remember details, facts, and stories about yourself, your family, your friends, and are able to have insights and see connections where others may not.

Surprisingly, EVA tickets were cheaper than China Airlines, and I took a window spot on a forest-green colored seat next to a three-year-old child and her mother. Throughout the flight, the three-year-old girl was quiet, pleasant, and drank from a bottle. About 5 hours into the flight, she projectile vomited all the milk in an impressive spray, all over the seats (fortunately missing me), and her mother literally tried to catch her puke in her cupped hands as she frantically called for assistance from a flight attendant.

Of course, the EVA attendant was gracious and helpful; she brought towels and changed out the puke seats (it had not occurred to me that airlines keep extra seat cushions around for such occasions). My feeling at the time was simultaneously of horror and humor. I horrified because it was gross and I felt terrible for the mother, but part of me also wanted to laugh (a little) at the unfortunate occurrence.

Five and a half years later, now that I am a mother myself, and am pretty much constantly wiping and cleaning spit-up and puke, and frequently getting spit-up all over my body, my clothes, my sheets, and my furniture, the EVA air experience in retrospect seems a little less funny, and also a little less gross.

I Am A Character In A Greek Myth

Taking care of a newborn calls to mind many a Greek or Roman mythology allusion. The number of rags and receiving blankets we tear through is obscene; the moment I put on clean sheets, and tunnel my way into clean, soft, bliss, they are christened with sprays of breast milk (my fault) or spit up (Little V’s fault). Sometimes, during a diaper change, Little V will pee and/or poo right as we are putting on the new diaper. On one particularly egregious occasion, I went through 4 diapers before I was able to finally take leave of the changing table. On another, after putting away 3 loads of laundry today, I realized another entire (almost full) load had accumulated in the meantime.

The time she spends feeding is not per se an unmanageable amount of time, but it seems that with the feeding, burping, feeding again, changing, burping again, then possibly changing again, a 40 minute process turns quickly into a two-hour ordeal. Or I finish the process, sit down for 10 minutes to start something, and it’s time to go again. I’m usually an extremely efficient person, and it’s difficult to suddenly realize 4 hours has passed, and not really be able to identify what I’ve accomplished, aside from feeding Little V. Today, I finished putting away 2 loads of laundry – by the way, I didn’t even do the laundry, my dad did – wrote a thank you note, cleaned the cat litter boxes, Googled symptoms of newborn constipation and acid reflux, and called an online boutique to bitch about the fact my order was placed 19 days ago and still has not been shipped. It’s now 1:45 p.m. Next up on the agenda include a call to lactation support, working out, and bath for baby. Let’s see how we fare.

This certainly harks back to the story of Sisyphus, who was doomed to roll a gigantic boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back to the bottom, repeatedly, for all of eternity. My mother once told me cleaning up after us was a Sisyphean task, except she was referring to me as a teenager, not a newborn, so I guess this will continue for many years.

I also frequently describe leaving the house with a newborn (to do practically anything) as a Herculean task. Even a quick trip to the grocery store has required a concerted effort. We’ve had to learn how to make her comfortable in the car seat, time the outings when she is sleeping, and make sure there’s an exit plan in case she starts crying or gets hungry while we’re out. I like to think we’ve actually done quite well. We usually take no more than 15 minutes getting everything together on our way out, which I think is an accomplishment in and of itself. Yet, the planning and supplies that go with any outing do feel a bit daunting.

I’ve also always said that reproduction is an act of narcissism, in that people’s self-love drives them to replicate themselves. I do look at Little V sometimes and think she bears quite a bit of similarity to me as a baby. On the other hand, I saw a picture of her the other day and hoped she had not inherited my asymmetrical eyelids and that it was merely the angle of the photo.

We used to receive extra credit in Latin class for discussing daily references to Greek or Roman mythology, and I’m pretty sure this post would have pleased Ms. Altieri.

Yet, despite my complaints and ridiculous comparisons to mythology, I am incredibly grateful to be able to have a child in my particular circumstances, with the aid of a wonderful husband, parents, friends, advanced medicine, and Google.