Last night it happened. We heard that all-too-familiar whimper from the three-year-old’s bedroom, followed by the guttural sounds of a stomach about to turn itself inside-out. It had returned.
It had been a mere two months since a heinous gastric bug had ravaged our house and picked off each of us, one by one. We had gotten through six years of creches, play-dates and activity centres without allowing any sort of virus to permeate the entire household and we had been feeling quite bad-ass. We were fools.
I won’t go into the sordid details or describe the abject misery it created because we’ve all been there. But I vowed that it wouldn’t happen again; that it wouldn’t cross my threshold on infected little hands and breeze its way through my home like a sinister cartoon germ on a TV ad, annihilating each of us. It would be stopped in its tracks. And this time, I was ready.
The harsh reality is that the first child to contract the virus will be defeated. That’s the nature of the beast. Don’t beat yourself up about it. There’s nothing you could have done. That child is lost. But there’s still hope for the others and you may even be able to save yourself. Don’t despair in the dead of night. OK do. Despair is allowed. But also follow my step-by-step guide to containing the bug and dealing with the chaos.
- Place two bin-bags in your bathtub. The bathroom will become the official headquarters of the operation. One will be for soiled bed linen, towels and clothing; the other for used paper towels and unsalvageable items. Feel free to deem everything unsalvageable, if needs be.
- Invest in a box of disposable rubber gloves. I’m not talking about Marigolds; they can’t help you here. I’m talking about those white, powdered, latex ones that doctors snap menacingly onto their hands before medical examinations. Bring the entire box of 200. We don’t know what we are dealing with yet and best to be prepared. I know that we are not doing the planet any favours but we will resolve to be more green when the children are less so.
- Tend to the sick child who is now spreadeagled on the floor, sobbing; her face ashen; her hair thick with regurgitated pasta. Remove clothing to HQ. A quick rinse with the shower hose may be in order but a baby wipe works wonders.
- Suppress the urge to gag and/or swear and/or eye-roll.
- Wake your partner. Whimper-to-hurl time is approximately 1.5 seconds and your child will probably have at least four further ‘episodes’, so he/she needs to remain in your bed. Cover one side of your memory foam mattress and your sateen weave sheets with two large towels, place a large plastic bin beside the bed (the more commonly-used basin will result in unwanted splash-back) and cross your fingers.
- Return to the scene of the crime, remove the bedclothes and and write off the pillow. Replace the bed linen, but not from the freshly-laundered, neatly-folded pile at the front of the hot press shelf. This is a rookie mistake. You haven’t been able to fully assess the scale of the pandemic. Go all the way into the back of the top shelf and fish out the crumpled, faded, slightly fusty duvet cover that you knew you were right to save from the clothes bank pile. Take a moment to relish the vindication and file the example for future discussions on hoarding.
- Examine the surrounding areas with the care and precision of a CSI. Search every crevice. Using a mixture of bleach, disinfectant and water – preferably in a gun – blitz the environs. You will be following your child around with this gun and antibacterial hand gel for the next 48 hours. You will become a maniac about hand-washing and towel-sharing. Such levels of obsessive compulsion are entirely acceptable. In fact you would be remiss if you didn’t carefully monitor the hygiene practices of your children for the next fortnight.
- Banish your partner to the child’s bed where he will sleep for the remainder of the night; feet dangling, under a princess canopy.
- Ride the night out with your little one in the knowledge that a) the worst will be over by morning and b) you can allow her to binge-watch Team Umizoomi all day, guilt-free, while she is in recovery.
- Instruct your partner to steam-clean the bathroom and do the laundry. He has been sleeping like a princess all night, after all.