Guess what showed up at our house tonight. Yep, the good old fashioned stomach flu. Well, maybe I shouldn't call it old fashioned. This is the super-powered, amped up, Stomach Flu of the century. It didn't just creep into the house under a basement window. It marched right in through the front door and started rampaging through the house. The neighbors had warned us that it had been stalking the neighborhood while we were away for Thanksgiving. Parents and children alike were hugging toilets instead of downing turkey.
When Sarah crawled into our bed at 4:00 this morning (as she is known to do) she was feeling just fine. The next thing I heard from her was around 8:00 when she called out that she had thrown up on my sheets. I'd been meaning to change those sheets anyway. Here we go. I had a doctors appointment this morning so John stayed home with Sarah (I got to hear the baby's heartbeat and he/she is doing great). When I got back John reported that Sarah had emptied her stomach over and over and was too exhausted to get in the tub. I went into her room to find on the floor a pale, soiled, sleeping, little girl, sucking her finger and clinging to her toy clown. She slept most of the day and, with the help of Emetrol, didn't get sick much more.
The others didn't start into it until this evening. Soso was first, poor baby. Now, what I was really amazed by was not the power of the flu but the willingness of the healthy kids to help out. Rebekah, Elisa, Anna, and Josh ran around fetching towels and blankets, cleaning up the living room, doing the dishes, and anything else I asked. Within 30 mins Elisa started feeling sick. Anna ran to get her a pillow and blankets and made a comfy bed for her on the living room floor. When Soso soiled too many towels and we were almost running out. Josh and Anna changed the laundry and put in a batch of towels---the first time they'd done laundry on their own. Reah was cheerfully helping as well until her tummy started to rumble. She quickly turned from a helper to a couch warmer. Josh and Anna fought over who got to make up her bed. Because of those two I was able to sit and hold Sophia and make her comfortable. Our living room became a very busy sick ward.
Around 10:00 I told the oldest 2 they needed to hit the sack. They cried that they wanted to keep helping. I was hesitant to send them to bed because they really were so much help. Josh was afraid to go to sleep, fearing that he would wake up sick. He did. John took the night shift and I headed to bed. At 1:00 AM Josh headed to the toilet.
It's 5:30 and I've been on duty since about 4:00. One child or another wakes up sick every 15 or 20 minutes. Anna is the sole evader so far. She is still in her bed, but the other children are all in the sick ward, sleeping off and on under the Christmas lights. After a long shift John is sleeping sound and healthy...so far.
My heart is full of gratitude, not for the children being sick, but for the chance to serve them. I am grateful for John jumping right in and letting my pregnant body sleep for a while. I think I am mostly grateful for the opportunity my children had to serve one other---they did it with such willing hearts, even knowing that they would probably be sick soon too. Interesting that when everyone is healthy I can go to bed exhausted from breaking up squabbles and playing referee all day. But a little stomach flu changed our house into a peaceful, happy, loving environment.
I guess I am understanding better why Heavenly Father allows us to suffer. Without suffering, we could not learn compassion. Our hearts would become prideful and He would have to play referee all the time. I am amazed at how happy the children were tonight as they bustled around taking care of the sick ones. I have not seen them that full of joy, even on Christmas morning. There's been no grumbling, no complaining that they aren't getting what they want, no selfishness at all---only thinking of the comfort and the needs of others.