A Funwell Getaway
Two parents, both alike in naivety,
In Fair North Dakota, where we lay our scene.
A pair of star-cross’d guardians find themselves,
In misadventure’s piteous overthrows…
Is that a little dramatic? Probably. But let me tell you… travelling with my toddler on the night of December 14th, 2018 certainly felt like a Shakespearean tragedy. I was fortune’s fool in a comedy of errors that seems to epitomize my life these days. A series of unfortunate events caught my husband and I completely unawares, just below the 49th parallel.
Let’s set the scene shall we. Our passports had been expired for the past six years at least. But with us both being anti-social hermit crabs, this wasn’t really an issue. We never go anywhere because there are usually people… you know, out there.
In preparation for a Disney trip in January we had our passports renewed and delivered to us well in advance of our excursion. Maybe there was something in the water. Maybe we thought we should venture out for the sake of my son’s social development. Or maybe those passports where literally singing a Siren’s song luring us to our ultimate demise. Whatever the case, my husband latched onto this crazy idea that we should drive to Fargo for the weekend ONE WEEK before Christmas. My spidey-senses were a’tingling and it was a hard no from me. But I don’t always get to be top-baller-shot-caller all the time. So, hotels were booked and bags were packed.
I was able to cash in some banked time at work so I could leave early to pack the car. Babies are not light travelers. Think of what you need for a weekend getaway and then multiply that by like 9. This will make you a Tetris Master Level 1000 at packing a hatchback. I stuffed about six sleepers for two nights into a comically small duffel bag because I am neurotic, and also, maybe clairvoyant? All the while muttering exclamations under my breath like, “What is this? A bag for ants?! The duffel bag needs to be at least… five…. times… bigger than this!”
Lifting the last of the baby’s crap into the back of the car, my husband instructed me to unpack some of the sleepers, “Six is too many, Heidi. You’re being ridiculous.” I had no words, only facial expressions. A stone cold look that, if this had been an actual Shakespearean play, would have said, “Thou sodden-witted lord! Thou hast no more brain than I have in mine elbows!”
An hour and bit later we were feasting on deep fried carbs and snapping selfies at Buffalo Wild Wings. Finn had no appetite at all but seemed to be in an uncharacteristically jovial mood. Not at all the norm for a boy who typically pageants his deep seated contempt for dinning out. Babies are great and all. But sometimes they are straight-up murderers of fun. I chalked up his lack of appetite to the entire jar of baby food and two whole Nutri-Grain bars he inhaled just before we left home. That’s cool. I didn’t want to share my onion rings with you anyway.
Fast-forward half an hour. It’s getting late. It’s dark. It’s very, very cold. We pull out of the parking on our way to the hotel. In about an hour and a half I will be soaking in a hot tub while my husband swims with the baby.
Nothing. But. Lies.
Right up there with, “I’ll sleep when the baby sleeps,” or, “I’ll just have one glass of wine.”
Instead, as we’re driving I hear the sound of running water. What is that? Where is it coming from? I look down around my feet thinking I spilled my Contigo bottle of water. There’s nothing there. Not even my water bottle. I turn around and look behind me. Maybe Finn spilled his sippy-cup…?
Oh Shit, Tj! Pull Over! Stop the car!
My sweet baby boy was pouring the contents of his stomach out onto his lap. No gag reflex. No heaving. No noise. It was gushing out of him like the Ganges River. He looked absolutely panic stricken. We were two hours away from home with about another hour and half to our hotel. We had nowhere to go. I didn’t know what to do.
Thick puke filled the car seat and pooled around his waist like the worst spa treatment ever. We pulled into a random parking lot and started scooping and wiping, scooping and wiping. As quickly as I wiped it away, there was a brand new addition hot n’ fresh out the kitchen.
We were bailing water out of a sinking ship. I had nowhere to change him. We popped open the hatchback and stripped him down in the trunk of the car. He wailed, shivered and contorted uncontrollably in the frigid winter air. My heart just broke. I fought back tears while trying to sing “I love you a bushel and peck” over his ear piercing shrieks.
I finally got him wiped down and into a fresh sleeper. Both of us were chilled to the bone. I wrapped him up in a blanket and sat with him in the front seat with the heat on full blast. We snuggled for a good twenty minutes like that until he calmed down. I gently transfer him back to his car seat. We ventured forth – a little rattled but no worse for wear.
He looked woeful and pathetic. But he fell asleep as soon as the car started moving. I sighed a deep breath of relief. My husband and I exchanged looks of equal parts shock, disgust and victory. We sat back in our heated seats, marinating in the sweet stench of Norovirus and our impressive ability to roundhouse kick our way out of certain disaster. Crisis averted. Mom: 1, Finn: 0. Motherhood - it’s not a competition but I’m winning.
Famous. Last. Words.
Finn emptied his stomach five more times before we made it to our hotel. FIVE MORE TIMES! Five times I stood on the side of the highway, up to my ankles in snow, scooping vomit out of our leased Mazda with my bare hands, changing a screaming baby in the trunk of the car in the dark while singing “I love you a bushel and a peck,” loud and off key like a bad American Idol audition. I cried because I had no idea what I was doing and I wanted my mom. My mom wasn’t there. I was left completely to my own devices. But you know who was there, like a bitchy little fairy on my shoulder? Simon Cowell with all his British pomp and sass spouting palpable truths like, “You are, without a doubt, the most incompetent mother I have ever seen. And that was absolutely the worst singing voice I have ever heard in my entire life.”
We made it to the hotel in one piece, two broken spirits and zero clean clothes. With a sleeping toddler, a puke soaked sweater and running mascara I checked us into our room. Visions of bathtubs danced in my head. We opened the door to our suite and behold… a standing shower only. A part of me died. I turned on the water, stripped us down and got in. I sat on the floor of the shower with my little boy in my arms and closed my eyes. The water was soothing as it washed away the physical evidence of our trial. But the burden of my child’s suffering revealed a sense powerlessness that marred my confidence like red wine on fine silk.
My husband is Thomas Middleton. And he is a hero without a cape. He stayed up well past midnight to wash three loads of soiled clothes, blankets, stuffies and car seat liners. After four trips up and down four flights of stairs we finally had clean pajamas and blankets. The three of us snuggled into bed for a long winter’s nap…
And that’s when the diarrhea started.