Friday, July 23, 2010

Gastro: The Gift That Keeps On Giving.

This is my August column for Practical Parenting Magazine. I might not be able to post these columns after next week because of a new copyright agreement, but will still post my Early Years Magazine columns. Regular readers may remember the jolly bout of gastro described here. It was less than thrilling at the time, but luckily, I was able to turn my pain into Art. Take that, bacteria!

Mothers-to-be, you should have received your government Mama Manuals by now. They cover all the usual business – sleeping, eating, and poo management; but there is a hidden section I’d like to draw your attention to. The exact wording I’m unsure of (my manual is a little stained with spinach puree and half-drunk cups of tea) but it goes something like this: Mum Cannot Get Sick.

To be clear, you can, of course, get sick. In fact, you’ll be amazed at how many little bugs and bacteria will take up residence in your system once little people start sharing your home. The actual wording, in fact – let me just wipe that spaghetti off- oh yes. It reads - subtle, but crucial: Mum Cannot Act Sick.

Recently a bout of gastro swept through the Mogantosh family. One, by one, we all went down with what I believe, in Royal households, is called ‘the squitters’. The positive spin is that a family bout of gastro can bring to mind the old saying about hitting yourself in the head with a hammer: it's almost worth it, because it feels so good when it's over. At the time, of course, it’s a big box of horrible.

Keith was working in Canberra, stuck with a deadline, hunched miserably over his laptop and a bowl in a hotel room. I was sympathetic. But I envied his quiet room, remote control and peace in which to vomit. I had two kids under four, and I was visiting my parents.

Poor Nanna and Pop. Not only were they treated to the searing logic of three-year-old Ivy: ‘So you are seventy, Pop? Will you be dead soon?’ but they also welcomed gastro (the gift that keeps on giving) into their home.

Ted went under first, then Ivy, and then me. I’ll spare you the details, but at one point I was on the bathroom floor, clutching that old porcelain telephone, waiting miserably for my rising nausea to turn into violent heaving. It could be worse, I thought to myself. At least I’m not starting into the pit of our composting dunny. Then my glasses fell in the toilet.

Dear readers, if you own a tiny violin, now is the time to produce it, and to play a mournful tune as I tell you how I tossed and turned all night in the four inches left to me by my spreadeagled, sleeping children. My back was killing. I’d been a hospital-donkey all day to the little ones. By 5am - violin crescendo, now! - I felt like I could hold down enough food to make a pill cushion for the painkillers I needed to get through the morning.

Take my advice, ladies, if while reading this; you are pregnant with your first. Make the most of your flu while you can. Commandeer the remote control. Call for toast with the crusts cut off in your weakest voice. Sleep, ladies. Sleep. Do it for every flu-ridden Mama out there who lost that option when she lost her mucous plug.

Once the kids arrive, all we have left is the ability to complain, and while I am able to publish my self-pitying whines in a nationally distributed magazine, not all mothers have this option open to them. Check your manual.


  1. Amen! Sorry you got the flu, all of you but, I do appreciate the article that has sprung from it.
    When I was pregnant, I was so sick that moving an inch to the left or right was cause for alarm. I spent days on the couch under a blanket watching bad TV and sipping bubbly water by the drop-full. Ah, those were the days!

    Thanks for your kind words on my blog, may we all have a peaceful weekend!

  2. Gastro. Most hideous of all bugs. Gastro - we hate you.

    And gastro mixed with toilet-dwelling glasses. Egads.

    I absolutely feel your pain.

    As proof, my word verification if swine.

  3. My word veri is unhun, which is exactly the nodding sound I made when I read this. I hear you.

  4. Too true! I love the humour you put into an event that when occurring could not be further from humourous. I have definitely had moments lying on the floor in agony with a toddler wondering what on earth was wrong with mama and when she was going to get up and play properly. but you just keep going! xo m.

  5. Ah, yes.

    I remember one time when E was about 2. He'd had gastro, then Shaun and I got it at the same time. Poor kid was telling us he was hungry and all we could do was weakly point at a banana.

    Great column, as always.


Thanks for talking to me. I don't got cooties. Oh, except for when I got cooties.