Life Lessons from the Norovirus

It was adding up to be a perfect night: the hubs was out of town, the kids were bathed and starting to rub their eyes and this momma had her eye on a nice cup of tea and a new book. Okay, why lie, all I wanted was a glass of wine, my jammies and Bravo.

Marjorie went down sweet and cuddly as usual. And then, 30-minutes later, I heard it. That cry that only a mother knows. That cry that says: something is wrong.

I ran to her room, opened the door and knew smelled the problem. EVERYWHERE. Her dinner (I’ll save you the graphics) was E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E. The walls, her bedding, her blankets, the carpet, her face, her hair.

I sat there staring at her in shock. Where do I start? What do I do? Why isn’t Jordan here? I want my mom!

Marjorie stared back at me as if saying, “Mom, get your shit together and get me out of this crib.”

I jolted out of my vomit trance and sprung into action. Bath, yes, put her in the path. I put Marjorie in the tub and started to clean…and clean…and clean. I ran between throwing all blankets in the laundry to rinsing her in the tub. Sadly, we lost her beloved Minnie Mouse jammies in the Norovirus Battle of 2017. They fought a hard fight, but in the end did not make it and were sacrificed to the trash.

Thirty minutes later, everyone was clean and the house smelled like a FeBreeze factory. Marjorie was happy as a bug as we waited for her beloved and sacred blanket to finish washing.

‘Okay,’ I thought, ‘just an upset tummy. We are all good. Deep breath.’

WRONG. Oh I was so wrong.

All. Night. Long.

My heart broke for my baby girl. Her energy quickly depleted and she rested in my arms all night. I sat watching over her and memories of cancer days floated in and out of my mind. Even though I was so tired, I was so thankful this was just a tummy bug. Perspective is everything.

The next morning she seemed okay, so I left her with our sweet nanny as I ran some last minute errands for my upcoming trip. I was finally going to hear and meet my idol, Brené Brown. The trip was days away and I was already giddy with butterflies with the chance to meet her and thank her for her incredible work.

And then I woke up early Sunday morning with a text from our nanny…

‘SHIIIIT! It’s contagious. It wasn’t an upset tummy from too much cheese. (Marjorie takes after her momma – cheese is LIFE).

‘Okay, deep breath.’ I thought, ‘That doesn’t mean you are going to get it, McCall. Wait, do I feel queasy. Nope. Not at all.’

I rolled out of bed with positive thoughts flowing like lava through my brain, willing myself to be well.

‘I am fine. I am a mom. We don’t get sick. I won’t get sick. I am NOT missing Brené.’

Sunday dragged along. It was freezing outside and Marjorie was still on the mend so we were sequestered  indoors – every mother’s dream nightmare. My queasiness rose in parallel to the kids’ cabin fever and by 4pm, I knew I was going down.

I called my sweet mother-in-law for back up, but it would be over two hours before she appeared at my door. Those three hours were a defining moment in my motherhood journey.

As the cold sweats kicked in, I limped quickly into my bathroom with two tiny humans trailing behind me. One crying to be held and the other with his costume box asking, “Momma, which costume should we put on first?”

‘Come on, McCall, you can do this. You’ve got this. Single mothers across the country have to do this. You. Can. Do. This.’

And thus began the Battle of Norovirus 2017. My sister, who is an infectious disease doctor at the NIH (National Institute of Health), told me this was a classic norovirus case. Then she proceeded to explain that it was a highly contagious passed along by microscopic fecal matter on our hands. I stopped her there, thanked her for her consulting and headed into battle.

“Mom, can you tie my cape on? Be sure not to get it backwards. You need the shield to be out.” Manning, clearly not phased by what was going on, waited behind me with the patience of a four-year-old for me to help with his costume.

I turned around, dizzy and weak, tied on his cape (the proper way) while holding his baby sister.

I’m not sure what happened the next few hours or even day, but now that I’m on the other side I’ve had time to reflect on the many lessons and, yes, blessings of the Norovirus Battle of 2017.

  1. Moms can do (and survive) ANYTHING. And I mean ANYTHING.
  2. Moms can multitask like a BOSS. Who else can be sick while holding a toddler and tie a Superman cape…the right way?
  3. Moms are THE smartest people on the planet. When I posted my Norovirus Day 5 Diary pic, I got more tips and tricks on how to clean the hell out of toys (READ: throw everything in the bathtub with bleach) 


  4. Moms are the FUNNIEST people on the planet. Sharing my misery with fellow mommas, not only made the situation better, it made it HILARIOUS. Life is going to throw us curve balls, rather than bitch and moan – call a girlfriend who will provide some ‘Me Too’ empathy and will make you laugh so hard your stomach hurts. 


  5. Life somehow seems to workout when moms are involved. Needless to say, I was devastated when I had to cancel my trip to meet Brené Brown. However, I knew taking care of myself comes first and I also did not want to expose Baton Rouge to the plague. Despite her fun/tough exterior, my mom gets nervous and she knew how much this meant to me. Little did I know, she spent the day rehearsing what to say to Brené. She knew her time would be limited and wanted to tell Brené everything about me. My mom did great, even though she said I speak on ‘body imaging’ instead of ‘body image’. So I’m pretty sure Brené thinks I’m a x-ray tech now. I didn’t care. My mom’s effort to still make the evening special from a distance had me bawling. It is not every day you get a video of your parents with Brené giving you a personal get well message. Cue. The. TEARS.


So, yes, I did not get to meet Brené. Yes, my entire house now reeks of bleach and so do I (Pretty sure I’ve lost sensation in my finger tips). Yes, I continue to go around with a bleach sponge, wiping everything down. But after it is all said and done, a little norovirus can’t get my spirits down. There is something hilarious about dunking 3,987 legos, hot wheels and train tracks in bleach. Above all else, there is something beautiful in the gift of perspective.

The day I felt human again, I received a letter in the mail. It was a card from Zoe McGowan’s mother. I opened the small envelope and tears filled my eyes as I saw sweet Zoe’s picture. It was the prayer card from her funeral. (Read more about Zoe)

Tears rolling down my cheeks, I looked up as Manning and Marjorie gleefully played in the bath tub. Rather than spend my days asking God, “Why?” I embrace the perspective that comes my way daily from my own experiences and from my fellow eating disorder warriors and cancer moms.

Life moves so fast and it is totally okay to bitch and grumble when life throws us curve balls. If there is one thing my recovery and Brené has taught me, it is that life can be both. We can be both flustered, annoyed AND grateful. We can have perspective AND still wish away the  laundry and lego piles (especially when you step on one barefoot, ouch).

Let your heart feel both. Find perspective and humor. Reach out for empathy. Let yourself cry. And remind yourself, you will survive.

Thanks for the lessons Norovirus, until next time…

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  • DL
    January 14, 2017 at 11:19 am

    So reminds me of our Disney cruise with our entire family years ago! Pat started it, then 5 of the nine family members on our “dream” cruise succumbed to what I believe started the Noro virus on cruise ships! By the end I was BFF with the ship doctor and getting phenergan and IV fluids for my family who had left parts of themselves on bedding, in ice buckets, at sea…..and wherever their intestines allowed! Long and hilarious stories that we laugh about now, but were not funny at the time! Yes, moms can do all! Glad your adventure with Noro is over! Hopefully you don’t have the opportunity to meet Rota anytime soon!!!