Farewell to Nausea? Out with a Bang Not with a Whimper

Last Thursday we were struck by one of those terrible stomach bugs that takes no prisoners. The only saving grace was that we didn’t all get it at once but it staggered itself over the course of several days.

Thursday morning started off wonderfully. My sister-in-law and nieces came to visit and it felt like a holiday to have an adult to talk to and to entertain the children while I finished baking my banana bread. But the signs were already there if I could only have read them. Poor Anthony threw up once while they were here and then once right after they left; but other than a little listlessness—sitting on Auntie Pattie’s lap for half an hour is not really like him—he seemed fine, running and playing. But as the afternoon wore on it became clear that he had a stomach bug as he began to vomit profusely every time I tried to nurse him.

Fortunately the bug was short lived. Anthony was back to his normal self by Friday morning so we went grocery shopping and all seemed well except that suddenly at dinnertime Bella wasn’t hungry and wanted to go lie down in bed and I suddenly realized she hadn’t eaten much that day. Oh I knew that was a bad sign and fully expected where it was going to lead. At bedtime she became violently ill all over the laundry room floor and then proceeded to vomit every twenty to thirty minutes until about 1 am. By that time Dom and I were both exhausted and poor Bella was sobbing miserably and desperate for sleep. We put her on a pallet on the floor by my bed and crawled into bed ourselves.

Just a few short hours of sleep were granted, however. At 4:30 Saturday morning Sophie woke us up vomiting. I was exhausted and could hardly stay awake to care for her so poor Dom had to bear the brunt of it. I tried to get up every time she was sick but had to crawl back to bed in between to try to catch more sleep. But Sophie didn’t get it nearly as bad as Bella or even Anthony. She was sick until about 8:30 or so and then seemed to feel fine and ran outside to play with Ben. Ben threw up once midmorning but after that he too seemed fine except that he had diarrhea for the next couple of days.

By Saturday night everyone seemed to feel better but poor Bella, who had spent the entire day on the couch and had eaten almost nothing. On Sunday morning, however, she seemed fine except that she was a little afraid to eat (the poor thing had never vomited in her life before this and was very traumatized by the whole experience.) and everyone else seemed fine so we went to Mass and then came home for our usual pancake brunch. I spent the rest of the day feeling listless; but figured that was due to the lack of sleep Friday night plus the usual pregnancy exhaustion and nausea. On Monday Dom went to work but came home feeling awful and didn’t even eat dinner. He stayed home from work on Tuesday and we both spent the day dragging ourselves about only when the children demanded our attention. Tuesday night I was violently ill at bedtime but I couldn’t tell if it was the stomach bug or pregnancy related nausea.

On Wednesday morning I felt weak and feeble. But after a sound breakfast—hot tea with cream and a toasted whole wheat bagel with lox and cream cheese—I felt quite human again. I roused myself to make chicken stock, which I’d been meaning to do for more than a week. I also caught up on laundry from the weekend’s sick fest. And then I made soup for dinner with the homemade stock and put the kids to bed by myself since Dom was going to the Red Sox game with a bunch of people from work. I did leave the sink full of dirty dishes, though. Even Dom wouldn’t have had enough energy to deal with making dinner, putting four kids to bed and then do dishes.

On Thursday we went grocery shopping, which usually wipes me out. Thursday afternoon found me full of energy and helping Bella make maps of the continents and fetching finger paints for Sophie and Ben and then puzzles. Just last week I’d have said no to the paints and puzzles because I’d have been too tired to get of the couch to fetch them off the shelves and supervise the inevitable mess and cleanup. Friday I baked bread and then vacuumed and cleaned the kitchen and dining room floors and made meatloaf and roasted Brussels sprouts for dinner.

It’s like after I was so sick on Tuesday a switch was thrown and suddenly the nausea and exhaustion are almost completely vanished. Suddenly the acedia is gone and I care about cooking and cleaning and activities with the kids. I have energy to do more than one thing where before I might have managed to do laundry or bake bread or make meatloaf but not all in the same day. So was it acedia at all? Is it acedia when you can trace back numbness and not caring to a physical debility? In retrospect I wonder if I hadn’t been fighting the stomach flue since Friday and the extreme lethargy I was feeling wasn’t that instead of pregnancy. Or that on top of pregnancy. Now I feel I can conquer the world. Oh I do hope this feeling lasts.

9 Responses to Farewell to Nausea? Out with a Bang Not with a Whimper

  1. Mary July 24, 2012 at 4:44 am #

    This book sounds reminiscent of a post I just read ( I think on Patheos) that looked at a study on the effect of media on girls’ perception of themselves as ‘sexy.’ it found that girls who watched things that displayed scantily clad ladies, etc. were less likely to take these women as role models if the girls’ mothers used the media as a teaching moment about why it wasn’t good or appropriate to look like that. Those that watched without supervision and those who were forbidden were equally likely to want to dress sexy, even at the remarkably young age of 6.

  2. Jennifer Miller July 24, 2012 at 7:26 am #

    Hmmm…I guess I’d have to read his arguments. This is taking a very complicated issue and just separating one small point. I limit video games and screen time AND violence. It’s all intertwined reasons.

    I do think the reasons for the CO shooter or Columbine are manifold, not isolated by “oh, he played violent video games”.

    Does violence beget violence? Is that his basic question? I’ll again say it’s hard to separate and isolate.

    You might find it now with your boys growing older that no matter how little “violence” or gun play, the boys will seek out sticks and things and play guns and swords, even if they have never seen anything like it.

    Have you read Meg Meeker’s book “Boys Should be Boys”? I’ve read it elsewhere, but her points about what happens to the brain, especially boys, when they are inactive except through videos isn’t good. Also see this: http://www.ourmagnumopus.com/2010/03/helping-our-sons.html

    All random thoughts, sorry…

  3. Jennifer Miller July 25, 2012 at 8:11 am #

    Rats! I’m sorry, Melanie! Always looking forward to your replies. I did want to add that it sounds like we are trying to create an isolated environment, and I just had to say we do not. We monitor the violence, but we don’t remove it completely. The latest thing the boys are watching are the old reruns of Batman with Adam West.

    I agree about using all these as teaching moments. You teach your child to analyze what they are seeing (not necessarily be critical in a negative sense), and not just a sponge.

    Another connected book is Anthony Esolen “Ten Ways to Destroy a Child’s Imagination”. I REALLY enjoyed that book.

    I’ve found there needs to be a ratio to screen time, 1:5 or even more than 5 of screen time to actual activity time. My boys HAVE to act out what they are seeing or saw. I saw this with my brothers, too. Show them a sword play on TV or a battle in a war and guaranteed they will have the Tinkertoys or other building materials fashioned into guns and swords and out fighting the bad guys.

    And I’m doing random thoughts, but THAT is the KEY to the violence we allow: a child can view good fighting evil and injustice, and good always wins. That the lines are clearly drawn, black and white, bad and good.

  4. Melanie Bettinelli July 24, 2012 at 8:22 am #

    Mary, definitely. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect to be able to completely shield our children from negative images. But I think we can control to some extent at what age they are exposed to the worst stuff. And we definitely can and should be using images as teaching moments. My mom used to make comments about language and violence in movies and tv shows as we watched. It definitely made a huge difference for all of us. We learned to be critical about what we saw.

  5. Melanie Bettinelli July 24, 2012 at 8:24 am #

    Jen, Bah! I had a lovely long reply to your comment and my computer ate it. I have to go to bed now. I’ll try to reconstruct it tomorrow.

  6. Melanie Bettinelli July 25, 2012 at 10:59 am #

    Jen, I do agree that a weakness of Jones’ book is that he is looking at only a slice of what is a very complex issue. The foundation for his argument is Bruno Bettleheim’s work on fairy tales (which I haven’t read directly but I know of from other sources). Bettleheim was apparently very firm in making a distinction between fairy tales and more contemporary works; but Jones wants to do away with that distinction, arguing that the imagination does not discriminate but will use any raw material at hand in order to meet the psyche’s needs. I agree that that is true to a point but also think there is a point to be made about feeding our children good art instead of mediocre art and forming the imagination rather than allowing it to feed at will. To me that point of view taken to its logical conclusion seems to be the equivalent of letting kids eat whatever they think tastes good without making them eat their veggies.

    Now I’m not saying Jones follows it there. Indeed he does very much imply that parental direction is crucial and that parents can and should be involved in ongoing discussions about the media their children are consuming. And I agree that reacting with fear and suspicion when our children attach themselves to media we consider unsavory is an unhelpful parenting approach. It is always better to meet children where they are and to seek understanding of their viewpoint first before explaining our own.

    But where Jones doesn’t go as far as I like is in terms of seeing the parents’ pedagogical role as teachers and formers of their children. His attitude seems very secular and his primary concern is with children’s behavior and with their mental health. This is where I want to open my toolbox and apply the Catholic worldview: the parent as primary educator of the child and as spiritual director and catechist with an active role in forming virtue not just in helping a child maintain psychological health and in being properly socialized. 

    Jones is certainly not a stranger to the world of literature. One of his anecdotes is about how his first superhero was Beowulf. His literary mother read him that epic when he was five. But at some point Beowulf wasn’t enough and to his mother’s despair he graduated to comic books. At first his mother was very negative and reactionary, tried to ban their influence. Eventually she came around to seeing that they were somehow good and necessary for him even if she didn’t like them herself.

    One of Jones’ points seems to be that stories about swords and bows and arrows may not fulfill the psychological needs of the child who is aware that he lives in a world with atomic bombs and assault rifles. And I can certainly see that point. A child needs to attach to a hero who he believes can overcome the demons he fears. his fantasy world needs to address his inner demons and if a child lives in a world saturated by contemporary news media old fashioned epics cannot compete with modern superheros.

    I agree certainly that we must engage with the culture, live in the world while not being completely of the world. And that means helping our children to become savvy consumers of modern media at the same time as we are helping them to appreciate the masterpieces of the past. It’s not an either-or situation.

  7. Melanie Bettinelli July 25, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    [cont.]

    As for your “does violence beget violence?” question, I think that’s his concern but only on an individual level not so much on a cultural or social level. His question is more tightly focused to: “Does that movie/comic/show/game lead these individuals to violent behavior?” His answer is no, consuming violent media does not lead to violent behavior but rather fulfills a psychological need in individuals who feel powerless. Fantasy worlds allow individuals to confront their fears and to take control. Except that really his answer isn’t quite that simple. He acknowledges that in order for violent media to really fulfill that function most children need the adults in their lives to guide them through that processing or to at least step back and allow them the space to do the work themselves without reacting in fear or defensiveness when the child’s taste clashes with the adult’s expectations. In other words what is more damaging is our over-reaction against kids acting out what they’ve seen in movies—pretending to be ninjas or power rangers or whatnot.

    While Ben hasn’t hit that stage yet, I’m expecting it. I definitely agree that there is something in boys that will make sticks and fingers into weapons. Jones argues this well, saying that in part it is because children feel powerless and the sword or gun or whatever gives them a means of indulging in a fantasy of power, of control, especially then adults play along. I was thinking along the lines of a blog post Regina Doman wrote some years ago about her family’s rules for swordfighting, which included rules about not attacking unarmed opponents and the need to protect those who are smaller and weaker. In other words, I don’t think parents and teachers should just shrug and say, “oh well boys will be boys.” I think we have a duty to help channel those impulses toward chivalry, toward defending the weak and defeating evil, toward being on the side of good.

    I haven’t read the Meeker or the Esolen books. I should add them to my list. I love Anthony Esolen.

    We very much limit screen time. I don’t think toddlers and preschoolers really need to watch tv or movies or to be on the computer. Our kids occasionally watch a NASCAR race or football game with Dom. Sometimes we watch You Tube videos. And a few games on Dom’s iPad.

    I’m going to have to feel my way into what I’m comfortable with for older kids as Bella will be in first grade this fall. At first it will still be pretty limited since everyone else is still so young. I expect things will relax as we turn the corner to having more big kids than preschoolers and toddlers.

    I like your notion of maintaining at least a 1:5 ratio. I can’t imagine much less. I think kids need to be active and to be outdoors and to have plenty of time to read books and to be bored.

    I know Bella and Sophie HAVE to act out what they read. And often will call the games they are plying “videos” as if they are experimenting with that form. And with implementing rules from the iPad games they see as well. I think children very much process what they learn by doing/playing.

    One of my college lit professors, a wise Cistercian monk, drew a distinction between violence and power (or maybe it was force), which seemed to me to be helpful, though it’s not how I’ve been using the words here. To him violence
    was power that imposes itself on another whereas power was power to do good, to protect and to serve. So by his reckoning a Marine who was protecting innocent civilians wasn’t committing an act of violence even if he found it necessary to use deadly force.

    Perhaps what we find most disturbing in some modern media is that blurring of the lines between good and evil? Even so I think that while much depends on the age of the child at some point we do need to introduce media which does blur those distinctions. How else will they learn to navigate the tricky waters unless we first go with them as a guide? We must be Virgil leading Dante through the Inferno, making sure that he learns the proper lessons from the images that confront him.

  8. ex-new yorker August 23, 2012 at 5:31 am #

    I actually came over to your blog because I sort of crossed paths with you in one of the more intimate blog comment boxes around where it felt rude not to congratulate you on your pregnancy while commenting in the same thread, yet felt weird to do it in that comment box, especially since you barely know who I am. Life has interfered with a lot of my previous blog reading. I need to remember to read this post later because life has also interfered with my concentration skills, but it sounds very relevant when we have 10, 8, and almost 2 year old sons. And a 4-year-old daughter. And they’re all quite into Star Wars right now, especially the oldest two, of course. I’m amazed how much time they can spend playing with a Darth Vader mask and plastic lightsabers. Part of me says, “Almost all the Catholic geeks are into this sort of thing, it must have some value/not be that bad” and part of me wonders if it was a mistake not to raise them exclusively on “Catholic” videos, if they have to watch videos at all. Anyway, congratulations! It’s wonderful that you are adding more life to your family and the world. I will try to remember to pray for you and the little one.

  9. Melanie Bettinelli August 23, 2012 at 8:04 am #

    ex-new yorker,

    Thank you for dropping by and thank you very much for the congratulations and prayers.

    I understand what you mean by the weirdness—sometimes figuring out blog etiquette can be so confusing—but I really appreciate that you gave me that much thought. I may not know you well, but I’m always happy to see your name pop up in discussions.

    Since our kids are still too young for Star Wars—and in fact don’t really do any videos yet—this is still a bit abstract for me; but it’s the kind of conversation I love to have and really I’d rather start to have it now when it is still a sort of future consideration. I’m kind of like you in that I end up vacillating very much in my thinking about this kind of thing. The book was interesting but doesn’t really address the kind of questions I think of as “Catholic” questions—which are less about psychological health and more about spiritual formation… I think.

    Anyway, I do hope you find the time to read it and come back to chat. I know all too well about cutting back on blog reading. How much time I spend on blogs and commenting is yet another thing I tend to vacillate about. But I’d be very much interested in your input to the conversation if you find the time.

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