The day was a blur of all the feels! I had just spent the afternoon being honored as a Working Mother of the Year by the She Runs It organization in New York. I was surrounded by my agency’s leadership and dear friends, senior clients who had taken time out of their insanely busy schedules to honor me and, most importantly, my wife glowing with pride as she expertly corralled my 19-month old daughter who somehow managed not to lose her shit at a white tablecloth luncheon.
There were countless photos and video ops, stage moments and words of praise I still felt uneasy accepting. I felt humbled, proud and fortunate to be among such esteemed women in the advertising industry. After 20 years in this crazy business, I was being honored for something that mattered more than anything—being a Mom, as well as a caretaker for my own aging Mother, without sacrificing my career.
I felt glorious as we boarded one of the crowded Thursday evening planes from LGA to ORD that I had flown so many times before. It was a day I’d never forget.
And my daughter Aria was about to make sure we’d never forget the flight home too.
Every seat was taken, our trick to reserve a window and an aisle with the hopes of Aria getting her own middle seat to commandeer was out of the question. So we squeezed in to the window and middle seat, our carry-on diaper bags and roller bags taking up every inch of free leg room we had as we prepared to take turns occupying Aria with snacks, toys and of course, the almighty ipad.
But as we sat on the tarmac, number ten for takeoff, out of nowhere Aria’s generally easy breezy mood turned south. Before we knew what was happening, she began projectile vomiting all over as I helplessly held her in shock.
She had never thrown up before in her life, and definitely not with a volume and velocity like this! After a minute or two that seemed like forever, she began to cry and it appeared she was done. Her face and fancy luncheon dress were covered in vomit. So was my shirt as I felt puke drip down into my bra and who knows where else.
Julie sprang into action, telling the flight attendant we needed five minutes to sprint to the bathroom. The smell of vomit permeated the rows around us and we desperately asked the flight attendants to sop up the still-standing vomit from our seats as we dashed into action.
Thankfully we had an extra outfit for Aria, so we stripped her down and bathed in her in wipes as fast as we could. I ripped off my puke-soaked shirt still standing just outside the bathroom and Julie handed me her jacket. I zipped it up topless and continued to wipe the crotch of my pants, my glasses splattered with puke and our little girls’ curls now wet with remnants of her big girl lunch in downtown Manhattan.
The flight crew and passengers were amazingly understanding as they welcomed us back to our row and the plane took off. Aria was exhausted and fell asleep instantly on Julie’s shoulder, breathing deeply and seemingly unaware of what had just happened.
Julie and I exhaled as well, we shook our heads in disbelief and even had the gall to let out a little laugh. Wow Aria, thanks for bringing me down a notch, reminding us both what being Mother of the Year was all really about!
But before long she awoke out of her deep sleep and began to cry. She lurched forward and began to vomit again. A bit less in volume this time and slightly more prepared, I poorly tried to catch her white chunky puke in the barf bag to little avail. Splatters from her body’s desperate exodus flew back on us both as she looked to us helplessly, miserably.
As Mothers, there is nothing we all would not do to make our child feel better, if only for an instant. We rocked and shushed, wiped her face, her hands and her hair and yet she still whimpered. Never once were we grossed out or gaging, never once did we ask the other one to take a turn. Our desperate desire to help her in any possible way was all we both cared about in that moment, and in life.
Aria proceeded to get sick twice more on the flight, making the two and a half hour adventure the longest flight of our lives. We did our best to clean up what we could, but the flight was undoubtedly miserable for everyone around us.
We arrived home and immediately got Aria in the shower. We gathered her splattered stuffed animals and threw them in the wash along with every stitch of clothing we wore. We dried her hair, covered her in kisses and found a fill-in favorite stuffed animal for the night. Aria seemed un-phased, happy to finally be home after her big two days in New York.
We tucked her in and said good night before we took a moment to reflect on the crazy day we had just experienced. Because that’s what Moms do. They take care of their little people and their families first, no matter what. And that’s what makes every Mom I know, a Mother of the Year in my book.