My son is an urper. This is how we refer to his propensity to vomit any time he is in a moving vehicle, every time he has a cold or allergies or worse, and sometimes, just for no reason at all. At 12, the kid is so good at managing puking that he carries a plastic bag in his backpack, and has occasionally randomly popped out of a bathroom with a “Well, I barfed!” (We’ve had him thoroughly tested by pediatricians and gastroenterologists and he’s healthy, I promise. He’s just an urper.)
Back in the early days, when he was a tiny baby secured backward in a car seat and I was the one managing the urp, it was not so easy. Particularly on road trips. That I took with him alone. If there’s a gas station bathroom along I-65, I’ve likely stopped in it to change out my t-shirt and his onesie and swipe a stack of paper towels.
On what should have been a three-hour trip with my mother along this very stretch of highway, my baby boy, who was then about nine months old, vomited so many times that it took us nearly seven hours to make our way from rest stop to McDonald’s bathroom to any shoulder we could pull off on to clean up the baby. On stop number four, when I was using the last of the Costco-sized box of baby wipes I’d brought with me to clean the gunk from all the crevices of the baby, the car seat and the window (oh, yes), I said earnestly to my mom, “You know, a lot of the people I know who aren’t parents are so grossed out by this kind of thing. But the reality is, it happens, you clean it up—you just do it.”
She nodded, handed me a wadded-up Dunkin’ Donuts napkin for myself, and we continued on.
Two stops later, I rescinded. This time I was crying. And laughing.
“I LIED,” I admitted. “This is effing disgusting.” (My language may have been a bit more colorful than that. You’ve been there in some way or another, you know.)
She started laughing and even my beautiful boy giggled, and then I took a plastic tablecloth that was, for some unknown reason, stashed in the trunk of my mom’s car, and made a tent that stretched from my baby’s neck across the whole back seat. I was out of wipes, baby clothes, my own clothes, scavenged napkins and towels. And, so, dammit, this puke trapeze was going to have to work.
The mama (and papa) milestone
This, mama friends, is when I earned my Urp Mastery Badge, one of many milestones I have passed on the highway of having my first child.
And it was followed up about nine months later when my boy unleashed his breakfast all over me as well as inside the sling he was wrapped in just as our plane landed. By then, though, my mom (who was #blessed to be sitting next to me) and I were far more adept at this gross stuff. By the time the plane pulled into the gate, I’d skillfully pulled him out of the sling, yanked off all his clothes, bathed him and my own hair in baby wipes and a bottle of travel-size hand cream from my purse, re-dressed him in size 18-month jeans and denim jacket I’d stashed in the carry-on, pulled off my top while baring my nursing bra to nary a soul, put on my mom’s zip-up sweater and chomped 1-1/2 mints from my mom’s pocket to keep me from gagging. We walked into the airport as if we were professional travelers. (Except for a faint stench of pureed peaches.)
Being skilled at air sickness recovery and car sickness survival served me well, though. A couple years later, when my son’s dad dropped him off at our home and casually mentioned, “He doesn’t look well,” I knew—I KNEW—he was going to lose it, and on me, and I was okay with it. And I was. Well, okay with the vomit in my hair and all down my dress. Just not so okay with its filling my new and rather expensive purse. (A new level of gross.)
Today, when I see the familiar more-than-nausea look cross his face, I know we (and even he alone) can get him to a safe place to be sick just fine. I know I have the supplies at the ready in the car (including that same tablecloth), and I know I have more than a decade of experience to rely upon if (and when) the stomach bug takes this urping thing all up ten or twenty notches.
Hey, maybe urp-management will serve him well in college. Or when he’s cleaning up after his own kids one day far down that crazy milestone highway.
Those milestones have certainly been important for me. They are a part of my mothering, and they have given me the opportunity to laugh, cry, gagand then pull together all my wits and resources to handle the situation and care for my kid.
Those mama milestones keep coming. I made another motherhood memory last spring when, after five full months of trading sickness around our family of now-four, we had a big finale of getting a horrendous stomach flu all at once. And hey, I’d never been so violently sick while cleaning up after a barfing tween, a barfing toddler and a barfing boyfriend before! So that was a new one. (Slow clap for that achievement.)
We are in this together
I share all of this not because I wish to conjure a long roadway of car sickness for you, but because I think we have to tell the truth of these moments of parenting that feel simultaneously harrowing and honorable. We have to be able to weep and nod in agreement and make a mental note to line our designer handbags in plastic grocery bags, together. We have to say, “Yes, mama, I get it. I’ve been there. I feel you.”
That is why we at WeeSchool are bringing you Mom Milestones, to mark those moments of wonder, disgust, and how-the-hell-did-I-survive skills only the cast members of “Naked and Afraid” can relate to. It is our little space to mark each rest stop on the exhilarating, exhausting, very messy parenting trip.
What have been your greatest Mom Milestones? Share them here or at email@example.com and you might see us mention your story on Facebook, Instagram on right here on the blog.