Awhile back, at a long-ago job, when I had waaaay too much time on my hands, one of my pastimes was to research weird phobias. (I also got really good at online crossword puzzles and started following various pediatric cancer blogs and tracking the popularity of baby names. I’m not saying these were healthy pastimes, but that’s what I did.) I think my favorite phobia was lutrophobia, fear of otters, because: A. WHAT? and B. WHY? Otters? Really? That sounds more like someone trying to mess with his or her therapist than an actual legitimate phobia. Otters?

But I suppose if one were legitimately lutraphobic, one would stay away from large bodies of water, zoos, aquariums and SeaWorld. Otters are utterly harmless, completely adorable and mostly avoidable.

I know people who are phobic about flying who don’t fly, people who are claustrophobic who avoid small enclosed spaces and people who don’t like public speaking who just don’t do it. I don’t know that my friends are any more or less crazy than normal, but no one I know seems to have absolutely incapacitating phobias.

Except, perhaps, for me. And mine is not all that avoidable –– at least not since I had a kid. I am emetophobic –– scared of vomit and vomiting. In high school and early college, I actually stopped eating meat because I was afraid of salmonella or E. Coli, and then I stopped eating spinach and tomatoes after those scares swept the nation –– and then I recognized how crazy I was being and started eating actual food again. So we’ll call that progress.

I am a great nurturer if you have a cold. I will make homemade chicken soup, administer Tylenol and Advil in alternating intervals, fluff up pillows, juice oranges, read stories. But if you’re throwing up, I’m taking off. I will get you a bucket, and then I will flee, leaving a trail of special-ordered hand sanitizer in my wake. (Yes, I special ordered hand sanitizer because the basic stuff at the drugstore? Doesn’t kill stomach viruses. So I went online and ordered Germstar Noro: The No. 1 Choice of Cruise Ships. When I said I was phobic, I meant it.)

When I was pregnant, I voiced my concerns over how I would handle a vomiting child to some of my mommy friends –– leaving an adult alone with a bucket is a shitty thing to do; leaving a child alone with a bucket is child abuse.

My friends all said, “Oh, it’s different when it’s your kid.”

They were wrong. It is not any different. I can get through it with Ruby, and I do; I have to. But even now, after four years, I initially just freeze up when she pukes. I just stand there and stare at it, at her. And then I get her in the tub, and I clean up, and I handle it. Because I have to. What’s funny to me, though, is how completely blasé Ruby herself is about it. She is the queen of the “ralph and rally.”

There are many ways in which parents have to be brave for their kids, and I know on many levels that it’s ridiculous that this is the biggest challenge for me. Vomit is disgusting, yes –– I wouldn’t want to meet someone who liked it –– but honestly, it’s as harmless as an otter in the grand scheme of things.

I’m working on overcoming this, and I’m getting better, though I’m still not going to willingly care for a sick adult. What are your phobias? Do they make more or less sense than otters or vomit? And how have you overcome them?