I knew we shouldn’t have left the house today- I just KNEW it. With the eclipse coming and all that pressure to not look up at the sky- I should have known better. In fact, after lunch, I even sat silent in contemplation, sipping my third cup of coffee trying to convince myself to get out and go, but my ‘Mom Gut’ (not to be confused with the belly I’ve developed from birthing babies and too much chips and salsa, but rather the space BEHIND all of that, otherwise known as ‘Mother’s Intuition’) told me in her most firm and unequivocal way, “NO. Stay home, let the kids binge on goldfish and Netflix. They will be ok. Today is not your day.” But then two shrieking creatures took over my living room killing any inner monologue or stream of consciousness that ever was, with all that screaming (what is UP WITH ALL THAT SCREAMING?) over a dumb game of ‘bird memory’ and I was like: HELL NO.
We gotta get out of here.
All is good and well- we’re splashing around, waiting for the eclipse, hanging in the sun. I kick the kids back into the pool and zone out, the two-foot depth just high enough to cover my butt and thighs, so you know, I’m feeling ok. My Girly Girl and I bob together in the water- it is hot out, but this moment right here, is as good as its going to get. Big Brother is off with his friends, ottering around, having presumably, a great time. I make a joke with another mom next to me, we cheer on the little guy who has just learned to swim. I’m congratulating myself for having the gumption to get out and go when I turn, and see him. He is frantically swimming toward me, lips pursed into a peculiar, yet somewhat familiar line. I vaguely recognize his movements and think, ‘I’ve seen that look before….???’ It takes me just the splash of a second, but I realize very quickly, with horror, as he hurls himself toward me, hands clasped over his mouth, freaked out eyes unblinking, dripping with tears:
Oh MY God. He’s gonna completely puke in the freaking pool.
As he gets to the edge and hurls his torso onto the concrete, I put little sis back down into the water and do the only thing that comes naturally.
I catch it.
I freaking catch it.
All of it.
In both of my hands.
And as I’m holding his lunch, I am simultaneously picturing all of these mothers who have planned their afternoons eclipse watching, snack serving and splashing with their tiny tots, slashing my tires as they are forced to drag their kids out of the pool, screaming and kicking, missing the historical solar event-a perfectly planned afternoon in shambles- pool closed because it’s policy, all because my kid choked on chlorine water.
I know, I know, it all sounds rather dramatic. And let me assure you, we swim with very nice people, even though I am imagining them to be total A holes. But that’s what embarrassment does to you, and well, let me just say, you weren’t there.
And I’ve got to be honest- the thought that people are seeing you and your mom bod in a swimsuit is always disconcerting. Just like many of you, I’ve read all those ‘mommy blogs’ that send out statements of righteous indignation and declare the only sensible thing we can do is to Put on your damn swimsuit but I KNOW I’m not the only one who takes off my wrap, and refuses to make eye contact until I have made it thigh deep into the water. But, I can now tell you through today’s experience, that there are actually worse things than someone staring at you and judging you about your taste in a maternal one piece- and that would be you and your kid, at the center of everyone’s attention, top hanging out of your ill fitting swimsuit, standing on the edge of the pool, hands full of puke, trying desperately not to let it drip into the water, unable to adjust yourself, because…..OH MY GOSH. WHY???
Why didn’t we JUST STAY HOME?
WHY did I even get out of bed this morning?
I finally get him out of the pool and see my friend across the water. “Erin, can you please help me?” I call out in the calmest of desperation.
THIS IS THE BEAUTY THAT BINDS US TOGETHER IN MOTHERHOOD.
She immediately goes on to conduct a 30 second assessment, sees my hands full of barf, my top half-exposed, and without blinking a sun-glass covered eye, swings right into action. Before I know it, Auggie is situated with a garbage can over in the shade, another mom has been located to watch Ebba Jane and a life guard has been alerted and is on his way, garden hose in hand.
Meanwhile, I’m like a hawk, guarding my son’s pile. No one better step in this and then get into the pool.
After all of this- the damn thing had better stay open.
“He just choked on some water…” I feebly offer an apology to him as he comes toward me with a hose.
‘Ugh.’ He says, gagging. ‘These things happen.’ He manages to let me off the hook.
Barf running down my arms, I awkwardly manage to haul myself over edge onto a clean part of the concrete.
As I walk the gauntlet of shame, ALL THE WAY TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PROPERTY, to the restroom, The Puker in tow- I feel my face burning, and I know, it’s not from the sun.
I can’t manage eye contact with anyone. They can’t manage eye contact with me. The collective sigh that is amongst them all breathes out one thought, and one thought only: ‘Oh, THANK GOD, that wasn’t my kid.’
As I stare at myself in the mirror over the sink, scrubbing the stink off my arms and hands, I briefly wonder if anyone will notice if I don’t come out to claim my children and just stay in the bathroom and hide.
Realizing this is not a viable option, I figure it’s now or never and I fix my swimsuit top, finally, make sure Auggie is ok, and attempt to invisibly walk back to my chair by the side of the pool.
A mom I’ve only chatted with on occasion leans over to me quietly and relays their puking fiasco a few weeks earlier. It sounds like it was horrible, but OH… the relief! We chuckle a little, and I thank her for telling me- it helps to know I’m not alone.
It takes a few more cleansing breaths, but I realize:
I’m not alone in the embarrassment.
I’m not alone in the work.
I’m not alone in the problem solving and the ‘crisis management.’
I’m not alone when I want to cry but need to laugh.
I’m not alone when my hands are full and I need someone to be another set for me.
As I watch Auggie sitting with all of his friends, post-puke, munching on a chocolate ice-cream cone, laughing in delight, the whole ordeal rightfully forgotten, I remind myself that catching every single part of him is what I signed up for. I’m a mom. I’m HIS mama. And although today it all felt really hard, I recognize the privilege of it all.
And as I look around and feel the support in friendship, the mutual understanding of this sometimes very literally messy thing called motherhood, I finally am brave enough to make eye contact.
I pull my swimsuit up, just a little higher…
And then, I begin to laugh.