The never-ending cycle of pestilence & our shitty flight

Will this never-ending cycle of pestilence ever end?!

Our boy is just past the 11 month mark and I’ve asked friends how old their kids were when they stopped being sick ALL THE TIME…

“Two years” replied one.
“It never ends” replied another.
“Ha” snorted a third cynically.


From our time as doctors in training, we have been used to the on-calls, and approached them with vigour, subsisting on a diet of peanut M&M’s and hospital canteen tea (which was so strong you could stand the spoon up in it). You knew you would make it through the day’s work, the night on call AND the following day at work with no sleep. You knew this because even if you had a bad call, you would eventually have an off night. And when you survived your call (and more importantly, all your patients did as well!) you felt like you had gone to war and won. You’d award yourself an imaginary gold star before zombie-driving home to shower and collapse.

Parenthood is different. It is a cruel variation of being on-call with NO OFF NIGHT. You have no beeper; instead you have a non-communicable small person with a nerve-grating cry who has no off switch, and batteries that never run flat, despite extreme tiredness. You are never guaranteed time for meals (and certainly never meals sitting down), in fact the only guarantee is the violent projection of emissions at inopportune moments, the most common being:

1. Urine: when the nappy is off and his bits are pointing in the general direction of your face; experienced parents will always change a nappy with their mouth shut;

2. Vomit: when you are wearing clean clothes not of the mottled-white-and-grey variety ESPECIALLY when you’re heading out the door late for work OR when you have just completely changed all the bed sheets due to previous episode of urine/ vomit/ faeces event;

3. Faeces: usually passed when you have (1) Just changed the nappy (2) Just bathed the child (3) When you are some place with limited access to change facilities (4) When you have forgotten to take a spare set of clothing for said child.

I will share events from the other day in the hope that it will remove some of the trauma from my psyche.

Our happy little family were flying domestically from Canberra to Melbourne. Child is suffering from some kind of gastroenteritis, husband is suffering from an extreme version of man-flu, and I have a sore throat but am otherwise fine (and in any case, even if I were missing all my limbs I would soldier on because we all know that man-flu is much, much worse…)

We begin our descent into Melbourne when child graces us with a large fart. So begins the discussion about whether it was really a fart or not (yes, parents actually discuss this…)

Me “The boy just did a fart.”
Husband “Are you sure it’s just a fart?”
Me (sniffing my son’s nappy… seriously I was beyond having any shame) “I dunno, it’s really stinky…”
Husband “Well, we can change him when we land.”
Me (sniffing again) “The smell is intensifying…”
Husband (trying not to smell because man-flu has severely weakened his constitution and he could die at any time)
Me “OK, this can’t wait, I’m going to change him now.”

(Attempt to squeeze past fellow passenger who gives me a look of extreme annoyance – then he smells our kid… the look of extreme annoyance gives way to a look of extreme nausea.)

(In turn I flash him a look that says “Whatever dude, because I saw you press the bikini model documentary and then try to turn it off like it was an accident when this massive pair of boobs flashed on your in-flight entertainment screen…. “I KNOW YOUR SECRET”.)

A woman can hold a lot of meaning in one look.

Child and I make it to the plane bathroom, oh the spacious room that it is…
I start peeling off the layers of clothing (it is winter, there are lots), and realise that…

There. Is. Shit. Everywhere.

We’re talking from the socks to the neck. Great.

One hand holding the child on the (joke of a) “changing table”
Other hand unlocking door and calling to the cabin crew.

Cabin crew lady #1 (perfectly coiffed, rather snottily) “Yeeees, how can I help?”
Me (fighting the urge to say “Hey take my shit-covered kid and clean him up for me while I have a few canapés…”) “Can you please tell my husband in row 11 that he needs to bring the extra clothes.”
Cabin crew lady #1 (perfectly coiffed, snottily, looking confused) “Extra clothes?”
Me (gesturing to shit-child) “Yes, extra clothes.”
Cabin crew lady #1 (trying to wrinkle her nose but failing because (1) She didn’t want to crack her make-up or (2) She was Botoxed to the max or (3) All of the above.)

Cabin crew speedily departs
I wonder if she’s ever coming back…
Child has realised he’s covered in shit and starts protesting “Mum! I’m covered in shit!”
I understand his baby words, but to everyone else it just sounds like screaming…

Cabin crew lady returns with clothes, then dumps and runs (no pun intended).
I go to ask for plastic bags but she is nowhere to be seen (actually I don’t blame her).
I call again for help.

Cabin crew lady #2 arrives, significantly older and wearing an expression of “I’ve seen everything daaaahling.”
She has rather spaced out, exaggerated speech that suggests she’s been going a bit heavy on the prescription meds.

Cabin crew lady #2 “Oh DEAR, what a MESS, what can I do?”
Me (rather relieved, and feeling confident that this lady will stick around and help) “Can we please have some LARGE bags to clean this up?”
Cabin crew lady #2: “Of COURSE dear, I’ll be right back”

She comes back with, (I kid you not), a small Ziploc bag.

You. Have. To. Be. Profanity. Joking.

Me (having rapidly approached the point of I HAVE NO MORE PHARKING PATIENCE): “That’s not going to cut it” (starts lifting up the individual pieces of shit-covered clothing one by one). “I need A LARGE BAG FOR ALL OF THIS.”
Cabin crew lady #2 (speaking to me like I’m a few crumbs short of a biscuit): “Oh, you should have SAID… WE’RE going to need a large bag.”

Me (at a loss for words) (a rare event).

Cabin crew lady #2 returns with a large extra strong bag similar to those used for disposing of bio-nuclear-waste (which is essentially what we’re dealing with here).
I load everything into the bag, resisting the urge to drop the child in there as well, dress him in the spare clothes and clean up the bathroom.

It turns out that cabin crew lady #2 is lurking around the corner, and when I come out she peers into the bathroom and, like I’ve just passed a test or something, proclaims “You’ve done such a WONDERFUL job of cleaning everything up dear!”
Me (just wanting to get back to my seat, mumbles): “Must be the doctor in me” or something equally nonsensical.

Cabin crew lady #2 (not letting me pass, obviously now my BFF) “Well, in THAT case I suggest we get a little BUBBLY from business class to help you get through this HORRIBLE business.”

I pause. My eyes glisten with unshed tears. Finally, my reward.

I race back to my seat with clean child in my arms, and triumphantly announce to my husband “We’re getting bubbly!”

In his man-flu-induced haze, he looks somewhat confused, trying to figure out how a shit-covered-kid gets you alcohol, then realises that he doesn’t care.
Cabin crew lady #2 does not disappoint and presents us with a mini-bottle of bubbly with great flourish. Only to tell us that we’re landing imminently and that we need to hurry. We reluctantly oblige, quickly downing the delicious, refreshing champagne*

* Reality check: it was Australian sparkling wine but seriously, who’s complaining…

Things I’ve learnt:
– In case of snotty flight attendants, consider accidentally smearing them with child faeces as you brush past them. When they make a fuss, point at the male passenger who was complaining when your kid was screaming and say loud and clear “For Pete’s sake man, wash your hands after going to the toilet!”
– Consider carrying your own HAZMAT bags and clothing
– A whole host of other things that I can’t remember because my sore throat has progressed to full-on-child-pestilence-illness and sapped all my brain energy.

Until next time.

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