Emetophobia is an intense, irrational fear or anxiety pertaining to vomiting. This specific phobia can also include subcategories of what causes the anxiety, including a fear of vomiting in public, a fear of seeing vomit, a fear of watching the action of vomiting or fear of being nauseated. (via Wikipedia)
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When I was around 14 years old I became a little nauseated and it didn’t go away for about 5 years. With that, I became irrationally terrified of throwing up – especially in public. Every place I went I was sure to know where the bathroom was just in case I needed to throw up. (I never once threw up during this time period). I went to the doctor once or twice – they suggested that I had an eating disorder (I didn’t) and prescribed me some over-the-counter Maalox that I’d carry in my backpack and sip on throughout the day. I can still taste the chalky cherry flavor. I would only eat certain foods that I knew wouldn’t make me feel gross – like brownies, milk, and frozen waffles.
Even after the nausea went away I was still so repulsed by the idea of throwing up, or even seeing someone throw up, that I avoided staying too late at parties with alcohol. In college an acquaintance of mine let his friends pay him a dollar to throw up on him. The concept that someone would accept a dollar to be thrown up on didn’t disturb me nearly as much as the idea that someone would actually PAY money to throw up. In fact, I was just asking Jeremy if he was there and he kind of laughed and said “No, but I saw some of the video.” Of course there was a video.
When I was a teenager and we were all still living at home my brother used this fear to his advantage by making dramatic dry heaving noises in his throat when he wanted me to go away. It worked. My brother is a sideshow performer as a profession and funny enough, his name is Donny Vomit. His acts include The Human Blockhead, fire eating and sword swallowing. We lived together in a little apartment near campus when he was learning how to tame his gag reflex with a coat hanger before he graduated to swords … I all but moved out.
Both times my sister was pregnant she spent all 9 months throwing up multiple times a day, every single day. I remember at the time praying to a God I didn’t even believe in to please, please, please not make me sick if I should one day find myself pregnant. I felt really crummy at times, but not once did I throw up during my pregnancy with Fox. Thank you, God.
A few months ago I came down with a really vicious stomach virus. Every time Fox would nurse and I would let down the rush of endorphins would make me go cold, bust out in sweat, and start excessively salivating. I would have to hand him off to Jeremy and go puke. There have been a few times in the past when I’ve pushed down a stomach bug with distraction and sheer will – the kind of will this sleep deprived mama doesn’t have. So there I was throwing up into the toilet and reminding myself that I’m a warrior mama – that I labored and pushed a baby out of my body. That I got this… but really I had no choice. I spent the whole night sick. It was also the first and only time Fox has ever slept through the night.
I use to worry that my extreme fear of vomit would keep me from having a baby – because babies throw up. Fox has had a couple of stomach bugs that usually result in me holding and comforting him as he empties the contents of his little clown-car stomach onto my chest. (So now here I am being thrown up on and not even getting paid a dollar for it.) I try to reassure him, “It’s okay, mommy’s got you.” After he’s done he’ll cry for a little bit and then go limp – he’ll get this almost euphoric expression on his face. I’ll stroke his hair with my hand and check the temperature of his forehead with my lips.
I wish I could end the story there and I want to tell you that I’ve conquered my fear. That letting my baby throw up on me is better than Christmas – but it’s not. It’s sad and gross. In the moment I’m a super cool, warrior mama with only my baby’s comfort and well-being in mind. Truly. But after I’ve got him changed and am in the shower washing his puke out of my cleavage I get a little scared… Is he going to throw up again? I think I heard him cough – is he throwing up? Is he okay? Am I going to throw up? I think I feel a little nauseated… But all I can do is line the bed with towels, cuddle my baby, and make secret bargains with God.