At 3:07 this morning I heard it. That retching sound that makes me want to curl my toes, while my heart jumps into a frantic rhythm and adrenaline begins to surge. I threw on my glasses, and grabbed at my sleeping husband’s arm, to thump him awake while I charged towards my toddler’s room.

Sure enough, I smelled it when I opened the doors. I turned on the little lamp that would shed light on the mess without blinding us, and began to talk to her and soothe her cry. A moment later my husband stumbled in, with his gear ready. That’s right, we have our gear assembled and at the ready every night. Because this winter has been the winter from hell.

It started before the holidays. Strep for the toddler, then strep for the 9-year-old, and then the hubs. That got all cleared up, and Christmas was actually pretty good minus the constant runny noses. We started into the New Year and all heck broke loose. Some evil gastro bug hit the baby. It went on and on for almost two weeks. Then, the 9-year-old got it, and then the hubs. About the 20th of January, after having to report multiple absences to my employer, scramble to re arrange our schedule, and keep meeting our basic obligations, I started to lose it.

I use essential oils. We all take expensive vitamins and probiotics. I clean my house. I lay down the law about bedtime and naps and hand-washing. I kept them home from school and activities. I hauled them to the doctor. I did everything the books say I am supposed to do. And, they continued to get sick.

“This will pass.” they said, “it’s just an awful year for sickness.”

Even so, I began to doubt my abilities as a mother. I beat myself up at every whimper and cough and run for the bathroom, that my people made through the horrid weeks of January and February.

Then last week, on what was supposed to be a day to make up for all the yucky days of 2018, I finally hit the ground. I got bitten hard, by an awful bug. And while I laid on my bathroom floor, my people rallied around me and cared for me in all the ways I had cared for them in the weeks prior. And while it didn’t totally assuage my guilt over how sick they have all been, it did erase the “L” that I had written on my own forehead. No one had been more vigilant than me in practicing all the “things” to stay healthy, and I still got sick.

We moms tend to be our harshest critics. I don’t fully know why, but I speculate it has much to do with the conditions of our heart known as having an unconditional love for people. It likely has something to do with our fear of letting other down, and our desire to protect them from any sorts of hurt. And yet, there was something powerful in letting my family see me down, willing to accept help and care, and then the healing and love that got me back on my feet.

I headed for the clinic first thing this morning because my toddler had a fever of 104. The kind of burning fever that makes a mother bite her lip as she soothes a fevered brow. She received a prompt diagnosis of Influenza A. It sucks. I hate it. But I tell myself I am not a loser just because she is sick. Instead, I tell myself that God wouldn’t have placed these children in my hands had He not thought I was capable of caring for them, and that the best thing I can ever do for them is to show them that I won’t give up on them or myself.

So I stock up on Essential Oils, Kleenex, Cleaners, Wine, and all the things that will help us get through this season, and every time my mind tries to go to that dark place, I look at the little people I had a hand in helping create, and remind myself that as long as I keep trying, sickness won’t overcome them and it won’t overcome me.

Leah Peterson

Leah Peterson is a native Nebraskan, living on the ranch her ancestors homesteaded in 1878. She and her husband Matt, met at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and returned to the ranch in 2012 after working and living in Central Nebraska the past 12 years. They are parents to two daughters, Maggie and Lucy. Leah has an undergrad degree from UNL in Communication Studies, and a MA in Leadership from Bellevue University. Aside from her work at the ranch and opportunity to be a stay at home mom, she enjoys writing, photography, community involvement, spending time with friends and family and trying new recipes in her kitchen. Leah published her first children's book in 2011 titled "An Apple for Dapple" and enjoys traveling throughout the state to share her book with children and raise awareness about the importance Agriculture in Nebraska.