Recovering Germophobe - June 6, 2012

Yesterday, my daughter dropped a cereal bar in a parking lot, stepped on it, picked it up and ate it.  I had a few heart palpitations, but I didn’t get the hazmat suit out.  I am a mother and I’m a recovering germophobe.


When Babyface first came home, we had a sanitizer pump located in every 60 square feet of our house.  It’s like we were competing with the frequency of McDonald’s in the Midwest.  My hands started to get dry and cracked.  Solution: I added a lotion pump to each disinfecting station, TV trays serving as podiums.  A touch of Purell, a bit of Aveeno, dry, pick up the baby and repeat.


I was in solitary confinement for the first three months.  And, you weren’t allowed in our house without hitting up one of those stations.  No way, no how.  If I could have dropped a big tent over the house, without admitting that I was overdoing it, then I would have.  I think my husband would have checked me into a local sanitarium, sanitizer in tow, so I could rock back and forth, spray and repeat.


I stayed in solitary confinement for three months, until I exposed Babyface to the biggest petri dish out there, daycare.  When you do your walkthrough, they always tell you how clean they keep the place.  You can even smell the bleach.  Shoe covers or no shoes are a requirement where infants are concerned.  Unfortunately, this goes along with the misconception that your baby can’t and won’t get sick.  Bulls$%*!  Where there are sick kids, there will be sickness.


First day in daycare, Babyface caught the Norovirus, the stomach flu.  Any bit of milk she’d take down, she’d throw up double that and I’d be sitting in a pool of it.  My underwear kept getting soaked, but I had to stay that way because I ran out.  Making my way to the laundry room required effort and I was all out.


Our carelessness (okay, mine), led to a household epidemic.  A mattress was sprawled on the floor of the living room, so I could sleep next to the baby swing and my husband was sick on the couch.  There was a lot of crawling, complaining and grunting.  “Who the heck brought their sick kid to school with this?” to “I feel like I’m going to die.  Am I dead?” to “I’m going to quit my job and stay home, so she doesn’t get sick.  Should we homeschool?” to “We pay that daycare $2000 a month and our damn receipt is the Norovirus!” Bonding in the face of adversity is true, but I’d prefer to be broken and healthy.  All the while, REM’s Everybody Hurts was a self-soothing soundtrack for the drama in my head.


This went on for 3 days.  When we all regained our health and sanity, what did we do?  We sent her back for more sickness.  I felt like one of those girls whose boyfriend cheated on her, but she just can’t stay away.  He cheats again and she repeats.  Masochism is universal, I guess.


For the next nine months, I continued to bathe in sanitizer at work and everywhere else, delusional that it would keep her healthy.  Each week I would get a call, always during a meeting nonetheless, from the daycare telling me she had a high fever, sometimes over 104, and I needed to pick her up.  She had strep throat, RSV, and everything else under the sun.  They needed to make sure no other babies were exposed.  But, what about the baby who exposed my baby?


Then, came my blessing in disguise.  I was laid off.  Money-wise, it sucked.  Sanity-wise it was a stroke of luck.  I don’t remember much of those 9 months.  I think I slept about 6 hours total.


We moved to the burbs and month after month, I would make more mommy friends.  Their kids would run barefoot in the sand, while Babyface had industrial strength socks on under rainboots.  Their kids would play on the monkey bars, not wash their hands and then munch on a snack with their bare fingers, while Babyface would have her hands smothered in sanitizer before she took a bite.


As time passed, I would sometimes forget the sanitizer at home.  As time passed, I would let her run barefoot in the sand and not worry about her stepping on a syringe (I started to remember that we no longer lived in a city).  As time passed, she would drop a cookie on the ground and eat it, but I would just roll my eyes and pretend it didn’t happen.  As time passed, she would lick her ketchup off a table at a restaurant and I would barely cringe.  As time passed, I went from laying down 20 toilet seat covers to just two.


After all, people like Maw Maw on Raising Hope, who lick their fingers at frequent intervals throughout the day, get sick less often.  They’ve already exposed themselves to everything.  So, really, sanitizer just promotes superbugs.  The germiphobes would be the first to become zombies because they have zero immunity.


I just bought 64 ounces of sanitizer because it was on sale for 2-for-1.   I do fall off the wagon from time to time, but I always get back on.


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