Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Hell of a Vacation

I just got back from a hell of a vacation in a tropical paradise.

Hell, of course, refers to how a first-time parent (and therefore, a rookie/weenie in such matters) experiences a child's week-long sickness away from home. 

It all began two days before our flight with the salmon at lunch. 

"Don't give her the salmon," JC warned me. "She threw up twice from eating salmon, remember?"

"Coincidence," I said airily. "This will prove it. And besides, I'm just giving her tiny bits of salmon with mostly rice."

Later that night, JC and I were cleaning vomit off the bed and mopping the spattered trail off the floor en route to the bathroom. Time after time that night -- at 10, at midnight, at 2 in the morning -- I would be supporting her in my arms while her tiny hands gripped the edge of the sink and she retched up every last bit of liquid in her stomach until it was just water and drops of bile, and then painful, empty heaving. Then Olivia would just slump in my arms, as exhausted as a pummeled boxer leaving the ring, and fall asleep. 

We didn't sleep a wink... we were just waiting for the telltale sounds of a little mouth smacking and then the gurgling and choking. 

There was one night with several snippets of half an hour of sleep. 

The next night was the same, except we had to get up at 4 in the morning to take a bus to Veracruz, then board a flight to Cancun. Olivia was exhausted and cranky, so we did our best to make her comfortable. But once we got to the hotel along with JC's mother and our niece Karlita, Olivia made a public statement that she had had ENOUGH. It was a full-on cry session, complete with the reproachful look of "Mommy, why are you torturing me this way?  Can't you see that I want to be laying in bed? Why are we just sitting here?"

Later on that afternoon, Olivia perked up so I took her down to the beach. She seemed to enjoy herself, so I thought, "We're done! We left the virus back in rainy Xalapa!" but later that day at dinner, Olivia spilled her guts all over herself... and it all began again. The next day was the same. My mother was also there to play with Olivia... but she only got to play with her once or twice. 

On our first day in Cancun, I also threw up twice -- once after lunch and once in the evening, all over the floor in front of a member of the cleaning staff. I couldn't get to a bathroom in time and all of my extremities went numb. So there it was. She probably thought I was wasted. (My mom also got sick on her plane ride home.)

Meanwhile, the situation with Olivia was getting alarming, so we took her to a pediatrician, who diagnosed a double ear infection, which explained the ongoing vomiting. We came home with a bag full of medicines, including antiobiotics. She threw up as soon as she took them and cried pitifully when we tried to give them to her. "Ma ma ma ma maaaaaa!" Then the explosive diarrhea began as a result of the antiobiotics... five or six soupy diapers a day, often leaking around the edges and staining her clothes, which we handwashed in the sink and tried to dry in the humid air.   

My mother rolled with the situation, bless her heart. So did my mother-in-law. A week in the sun and sand ended up being a week of watching the rain fall outside the window, sitting in our hotel room with Olivia in bed, and trying unsuccessfully to get her to eat something, anything. She hadn't eaten in about 5 or 6 days... just a little bit of milk and water here and there.

Since she had an ear infection, the doctor said it was unwise to fly with her, since the pressure change would pop her inner ear membrane. So we canceled our flight and stayed another two days in Cancun. Our hotel reservation ran out, so I had the bright idea of finding a good deal on Priceline (yeah!) -- a 5 star hotel for $93 bucks a night. Yes... it rocked. 

Here is the hotel room: 
Pleased with our room.
And here was the view outside the window: 

Night view.

So things started looking up. Olivia was no longer vomiting, although the diarrhea was in full force and she was still only picking at her food. But as the days went by -- and we ended up postponing our return yet again because her ears were still plugged up the second time we saw the doctor -- she began chowing down like a champion. 

Since JC and I are hedonists at heart, we took advantage of the spa, which was spectacular. I got an 80-minute massage that began with "hydrotherapy": it began with a steam room with minty-smelling steam where I sweat my brains out, then I took a shower, then I went into another hot room with a little pot of "silver and gold clay," which I was supposed to smear all over my body. Then another shower, then a typical sauna, which I don't particularly enjoy because I feel like I'm suffocating from the heat; and then an "ice room," where I and two other women sat shivering in our bathing suits and applying little bits of ice to our face and body. We were glad to get out of that one.

Then we went into the next "round" of special treatments, with four pools: first was a nice warm jacuzzi with bubbles, then a warm pool without any special bubbles, then an ice cold pool which I plunged into, stifling a scream, and then hurried out of; and then a walking pool paved with stones. The walking pool was basically like a 3-foot-deep pathway filled with hot water and loose smooth stones. You walk along the pathway, which doubles back on itself like a S, then climb a little ledge, and then step into an identical walking pool filled with cold water that blasts your calves with mega circulation. Then off to the main pool, which is about 50 by 100 feet long, with all different types of jets and bubbles and fun stuff to massage your back and neck and thighs and feet. 

After that, the massage... 80 minutes of pure relaxation. I would have enjoyed it totally, but I was thinking about Olivia the whole time and hoping she wasn't missing me. I wonder if mothers ever really relax when they're not with their children?

We also got to visit La Isla mall, which is a fun outdoor mall similar to the ones in Florida. This is me and Olivia at the table just prior to her dinner tantrum. The calm before the storm, if you will.

I have to say, though, that one of the details that made this "hell" of a vacation a bit more palatable was breakfast at the hotel. I've become one of those people who doesn't eat much if the food doesn't look good. But if it's good... baby, I'm there. 

A picture from the hotel website.

The croissants. To die for. Warm and flaky, a limitless supply, and the table was set with those little glass pots of gourmet jams in flavors like apricot and cherry and orange marmalade and raspberry. And the coffee... dear God, the coffee... and the grapefruit juice!  Heaven, I mean it. And Olivia was miraculously good, happily coloring and chowing down and making eyes at babies at nearby tables. For me, those breakfasts, watching the sun light up the water with that azure glow, feeling the warm sun and the breeze at our table outside, were all I really needed. 

Because all I really need -- and I don't ask for much -- is to live at a 5-star hotel with waiters who rush to bring me a second cup of coffee and who answer my thanks with "It's a pleasure." All I need are my croissants and pots of jam and my view of the ocean... and people to make the bed for me and clean up after me and open doors for me and leave chocolates on my night stand. And limitless funds to pay for it all. 

But if I can't have all that, I'll take a healthy, happy family. Any day of the week. 

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