In Sickness and in Health

Well, it has just been the season of seven plagues around here. Thursday evening both Robin and Davy came down with sudden bouts of vomiting. We suspected food poisoning at first, because they seemed to improve with a day of rest on Friday, but on Saturday Robin developed sores on his tongue. That makes hand, foot, and mouth disease the leading culprit: it’s very common among kids, and despite the somewhat-alarming name it’s not a scary illness. It just takes about a week to run its course, and the only treatment is the standard rest-and-fluids.

The interesting thing about hand, foot, and mouth disease is that healthy adults almost never get it. I got it hard.

The immune system is suppressed during pregnancy, to prevent the mom’s body from attacking the baby as a foreign parasite, and I’m still feeling the lingering effects of our last round of viruses, so I’m very immunocompromised right now. Essentially I’m a sitting duck for any hostile organisms floating around. Last night I spent absolutely the worst ten hours I can remember in a long, long time, running for the bathroom every 10-15 minutes, unable to hold anything down despite what developed into a tormenting thirst. On top of all that the constant vomiting triggered another bout of contractions, which thankfully didn’t turn into actual labor because I don’t know how I could’ve possibly handled it. Meanwhile Sam slept in a sleeping bag on the floor of the boy’s room so that he could be right there to help them when they woke up sick in the night.

This morning is better. Sam went out for ginger ale and fresh ginger when the grocery stores opened, and by nibbling on a ginger slice whenever a wave of nausea presents, I’ve been able to guzzle the ginger ale and keep it down. Robin and Davy are holding down solid food at this point. I’m running a bit of a fever and I’ve spent most of the day in bed, while Sam, in all-out superhero mode, has fully taken over meeting the various needs of the household. He seems a little embarrassed every time I sniffle at him about how much it means to me that he’s taking such good care of us.

It doesn’t happen often, but every now and then something comes along that just completely outmatches and overwhelms me, and in those moments Sam always, always has my back. And while these displays of competence and compassion on his part aren’t truly gendered—I mean, if anything, an ability to step up and tend a household of invalids would seem a particularly feminine form of badassery—my response to him in these times is very gendered indeed. I feel exactly like a damsel in distress whose knight in shining armor has just come charging to the rescue. I’m overwhelmed not just with gratitude but with a doe-eyed admiration of Sam’s vast masculine strength. He’s washing the dishes as I type these words, pausing every now and then to fix toast for the boys or bring me more ginger ale, and I think it’s the manliest thing I’ve ever seen because I barely have the reserves to hit “post” and totter back to bed. These are the Big Damn Hero moments of real life.

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