Parenting with a phobia is hard. Parenting with a phobia that is almost directly related to kids is really hard.
I have suffered from the “irrational” fear of vomiting, emetophobia, since before I can even remember. (I can call it irrational because by definition, that is what a phobia is.) In my mind, it is anything but that.
Neither I, nor my therapist can pinpoint exactly when it started, but my parents believe it stems from my brothers’ leukemia diagnosis and the results of him receiving chemotherapy. Chemo makes you vomit, kids tend to vomit a lot, so combine chemo and a little kid and you have a perfect equation for lots of yuckiness. Pair all of that with an anxious personality and you have created the perfect storm.
My hatred for all things vomiting runs deep. I’ve tried therapy, medication, exposure, hypnosis, more medication and more therapy. I treated adolescents with anxiety disorders and studied CBT, yet, I can’t escape it. Heck, I even play therapist and force myself to clean up after our dogs when they are sick to try and desensitize myself but to no avail.
I avoided college majors that involved working with people who may vomit including all professions dealing with kids. I ironically ended up in inpatient medicine as a social worker, but managed to run out of the room the second someone looked pale or reached for the emesis basin.
I have lived thirty years with this phobia. THIRTY YEARS.
Having kids has somewhat helped me and somewhat completely ruined me.
You may question why I decided to have kids, but the truth is, it was never a question for me. I knew it would amplify my phobia and I knew it would involve a lot of vomit, but I never questioned whether or not I wanted them. I knew I was meant to be a mother and whatever came along with it, I would face it. Or so I thought.
So what does parenting with Emetaphobia look like?
I will ask lots of questions
If you mention your stomach hurts you better believe I will follow-up with 100 questions. “‘Are you nauseous?’ ‘Do you feel sick?’ ‘Are you going to throw up?’ ‘Do you need to leave?’ ‘Do you need zofran?’ ‘Why don’t you leave?’ ‘Please leave.'”
I will avoid you and your family for weeks if you’ve had the stomach bug
If I hear you or a family member recently had as stomach bug, I will avoid you for a minimum of two weeks, and if I might have touched something that you breathed on, I will scrub my hands profusely. Want my kid to come over and play? No way jose. Pukey-pants McGee is NOT getting anywhere near my child.
I hate holidays
I know, Thanksgiving and Christmas are supposed to be the happiest time of the year, but you know what else they are? The pukiest time of the year. You better believe that Aunt Sally’s “food poisoning” is going to spread like wildfire when we all sit around and hug and share food all night.
I avoid public transportation
Want to travel with me? Think again. My husband actually has said that he used to enjoy traveling until he married me. I suck the life out of traveling. Airplanes? nope. Buses? nope. Cruise ships? HEEECCK nope.
I avoid amusement parks
Thinking about asking my family to your summer vacation to sixth flags? Think again. I’ll ruin that also.
I drive my children & husband crazy
If my child won’t eat his favorite meal, sleeps too long, doesn’t sleep enough, wakes up in the middle of the night, asks for a drink, grabs his stomach, looks pale, etc., I’ll assume he is sick and break out in a cold sweat and panic. I check the monitor religiously throughout the night, making sure no one has vomited. When I wake up and go to my toddler’s room, I turn on the lights and pray I don’t smell or see anything resembling his dinner. I consider it a success when they wake up unscathed. Same goes for my husband. Stomach ache? Pale? Not eating dinner? Tired? I’ll assume he’s caught the latest stomach bug and stay up all night listening to his digestion.
The decision to have kids was not one I made over night. I knew that it would be a challenge. Kids vomit. A lot. And usually without warning. But you know what I’ve learned? Your love for your kids is stronger than any fear. You will go to the ends of the earth for those sweet faces, even if they are covered in the contents of their stomach. And you know what? If I can do it, you definitely can. Just close your eyes, say a prayer, and remember, they won’t always need you.
What is your biggest challenge in your Motherhood journey?