You know what my favorite ever Christmas present was? The flu. Which is what I got this year. A mutant flu bug had a Christmas party with my immune system and got it drunk, basically. Then, my hungover immune system was like, "oooh. On vacation over here. You just keep sweating and hacking your lungs up. Until I feel like saving you." Which was NEVER. I'm still coughing.
Obviously, the moment I woke up feeling like an extra in Contagion, I hopped into a car, locked the doors and windows, and spent seven hours breathing on my parents and brother while we made our way to my sister's hunting lodge yurt house in the woods of central Virginia. I spent the next six days curled up on the only couch in the place, coughing and sweating and drooling into her couch cushions. The holidays are a time for sharing.
Nobody caught my Mayan Apocalypse flu bug, miraculously (except possibly my brother in law. But he's only been married into this family for a year. He's still in the hazing period, so it's okay to get him sick). I was especially worried that the fat and tiny Niecus Obesus (say it: KNEE-SUSS O-BEE-SUSS) would get her first flu from me, but she did not. Let me tell you what she got, instead.
The thing about infant babies is that they aren't real humans yet. They can't talk. They can't text. They can't get their own Cheetos from the kitchen, dammit, and leave mine alone. And their intestines are, um, testy (haha!).
It's true. Babies don't poop on a normal schedule, and this can make their parents hyper stressed. During the first three days that I lay dying on my sister's couch, 90% of the conversation happening around me went like this:
"Did she poop yet? No? Is she farting a lot? How does her tummy feel? Does it feel bloated? Oh, she just grunted! Check her diaper! Any poop? Not even a skid mark? Huh. Here, give her some organic pumped Mom milk which I've mixed with prune juice. Give her some mushed peas. Give her a pizza crust. Anything! Give her a warm bath. Rub her belly. Squeeze her belly. DON'T SQUEEZE HER SO HARD! You'll give her brain damage! She farted again. Did that sound different from normal? Is her skin a healthy color? Let me call the nurse. The nurse said she's probably fine. What does "probably" mean??? Did she poop yet?"
Meanwhile, Niecus Obesus was being treated like a veritable WMD. At any moment, there were approximately seven adults present to take control of a squirrely Niecus warhead. Between Christmas and the new year, she didn't touch the ground.
Niecus persisted in her strike. I guess she likes having a clean diaper. This was unfortunate for her parents firstly, because they had to worry. It was unfortunate for the rest of the family second, because we had to feel nervous about whether or not Niecus had pooped, even though we had a small inkling in our brains that it was very likely okay that the Niecus had not pooped. If you've ever spent time with new parents, you quickly learn that "logic" and "probability" and "range of normal [insert noun here]" lose all meaning. Everything is an emergency, ESPECIALLY A BAD BABY WHO WON'T POOP.
Thirdly, it was very bad for the unfortunate Niecus Obesus, whose mother very suddenly had had enough.
First, some Flu Facts and Context: there are a lot of things about having the flu that make you feel like taking ALL of the Nyquil and being done with it: Cold sweats. Cactus throat. The odd feeling of imminent spontaneous atomic dispersal you feel every time you dare to rise up and stand on your feet. Honestly, though, the absolute worst thing is that your sleep schedule is no longer a "schedule". You sleep until 2 p.m. because if you get up any earlier, the ache inside your ear will make you smash your head through the bathroom mirror. But then you can't get to sleep until 4 a.m.
It was in the midst of this sort of upside-down sleep cycle that I found myself slouched on the sofa, Zombiefied from dextromethorphan at 12:30 a.m. on a Saturday, robotically scrolling through the internet and wondering how hard you have to cough to burst a blood vessel in your brain and die.
I heard a door open. My sister marched into the living room and literally tossed the Niecus into my nest of blankets and plague. I caught her and started to explain why some websites are funny and others are not. She was quickly seized from my grasp again and placed onto a makeshift changing station on the floor. I watched, woozy, as the Niecus was de-diapered. Then, before I could process what was happening, the Niecus' mother, my small sister who has always been much shorter than me and who I had always deemed non-threatening, administered to my Niecus...A SUPPOSITORY! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I couldn't even react to this treachery before my sister gathered up the suppositoried Niecus and handed her back to me. Then left the room.
There we were. Me and Niecus, on the couch of doom and mucous. I was holding the Niecus aloft and staring at her, and she was staring, placidly, right back at me. She squawked a tiny squawk. I took this for a volley of battle and replied, "don't you dare!" She kicked her little feet in the air. She drew her nubby little knees up to her chest.
Me: "Niecus O-BEE-sus! Do not!"
Niecus: [kick kick]
PANIC! My arms shot out as I locked my elbows and moved Niecus as far away from my person as possible. I had heard stories of Niecus' previous bowel movements, which included details like "poop seeped up her back, it was so explosive." I was sick, so sick that I felt like someone had dug my dead body up out of the ground, and Niecus was just hanging out in mid-air, diaper full of baby poop, looking at me like, "what's wrong, Auntie? I think it's time for a cuddle."
No, baby, it was not time for a cuddle.
If it had been left to me, Niecus and I would have remained in our respective positions until the rest of the house woke up at 7 a.m. I was almost literally paralyzed with illness and fear of what would come out the sides of Niecus' diaper if I even twitched. Fortunately, my sister eventually remembered that she'd left her child dangling from the clutch of someone who can barely be bothered to buy toilet paper. She returned, collected Niecus, and changed what turned out to be an only slightly dirty diaper.
So much for explosive baby diarrhea. Moral of the story: whatever new parents tell you about the business of tending to infants, just divide that by a Truth Factor of half. New parents are very dramatic sorts of people. They spout wild tales, and all you can do is pat them on the head and tell them to go take a nap.
Second moral of the story: some of the best gifts are memories, and I am very grateful for this particularly warm and squishy Christmas memory.
Some of you haven't seen the Niecus in a while. Here are a few photos of her, fronting major attitude:
And here's a video of me trying to feed her peas, and her being unimpressed, and her dad trying to teach me The Rules about when and how a Niecus Obesus may be fed: