My Struggle with Emetophobia

I have a vivid memory of when my struggle with an extreme fear of vomiting began. It was October of 2014. My husband and I were about to leave our first baby (8 months at the time) in the care of my mom for a long weekend to attend the wedding of a dear friend from college. We were so excited and incredibly nervous! It was going to be the first time I had spent the night away from Taylor and, to be honest, I was looking forward to a break from mom-ing. 

Basically what I was envisioning a night away from my baby at a hotel in New Jersey would feel like…

My mom needed to drive down to our house from Greenville, SC (about 2 hours away) on Thursday afternoon so I could catch my flight out of Atlanta early on Friday morning. I was chatting with my mom on the phone as she began her drive and I mentioned I was feeling a little nauseated. Shortly thereafter, I became violently ill minutes before my mother arrived at our house. 

After getting sick, I immediately felt better and thought perhaps I had eaten something that didn’t agree with me. 

No such luck. Twenty minutes later, I got sick again. And then again. And again. And again. And again. And repeat every 20-30 minutes all night long. It was horrendous. I had never felt so weak and so horrible in my entire life. 

My husband Ryan had left late Thursday night to head to New Jersey and we were supposed to meet up on Friday morning. Unfortunately, Friday morning had rolled around and I knew there was not a snowball’s chance I would make it to the airport. Thankfully the vomiting had stopped by mid-morning, but I needed to switch my flight to later in the day if I was going to make it to New Jersey at all.

By the time I had arrived in New Jersey on Friday evening, the norovirus had struck my husband. He was getting violently ill in our hotel room and was certain he was dying. 

A more accurate description of what our night at a hotel in New Jersey felt like…

By the time Saturday rolled around, we both felt well enough to (thankfully) attend the wedding! Neither one of us was up to eating or drinking much of anything, but we were incredibly happy to be upright and not still worshipping the porcelain gods. 

Unfortunately, the virus didn’t stop with us. Next, it took down my sweet Mom in Atlanta. She needed to call in reinforcements from my father to come help care for Taylor. By the time the whole weekend was said and done, the norovirus got my Dad, too! It was, by far, the sickest I’ve ever been in my entire life. 

Since that weekend of death, when I hear the sound of someone gagging, it sends shivers down my spine. When someone mentions their child has gotten sick, I immediately wonder if we have breathed/touched anything in the vicinity of that child. When the slightest hint of nausea strikes me, I start panicking that it could be the stomach bug. When I even read on social media about someone or their child falling ill, I can feel my anxiety rising. 

We’ve added two more kids to our family since then, and had several more bouts with various stomach bugs. While none have been quite as violent as the epic norovirus weekend of 2014, my anxiety related to puking has only increased. My sweet children will never know the joy of playing on a McDonald’s or Chick-Fil-A playground because all I can see when I look at the play spaces are breeding grounds for stomach flu germs. 

Most recently, our youngest daughter Chandler got sick one afternoon, literally in my eyeballs and hair. Cue the panic. While I was praying it was carsickness, that was not the case. It took down everyone in our family one by one over the next few days. I spent days cleaning up so many bodily fluids with bleach that my fingertips started bleeding. 

How many pictures of a toilet can I squeeze into one blog post?

I know emetophobia is a quite common fear, especially with moms. We don’t get the “luxury” of laying in bed and recovering when we get sick. I still struggle horribly with the anxiety associated with puking! I guess all I can offer is that sometimes, it’s just unavoidable. 

My husband offers sage advice about stress and anxiety and I have been trying earnestly to employ his strategy. Stressors either fall into the category of our “zone of control” or “zone of concern.” Zone of control refers to things in life that may cause anxiety but we simply do not have authority over. These may be things like the norovirus, cancer, how others treat us, etc. Zone of concern are the things in life that cause us stress, but we have a say in the outcome.

It’s easier said than done, but stressing about things outside of my “zone of control” accomplishes nothing, other than raising my blood pressure. The things I can control related to emetophobia are things like: teaching my kids proper hygiene. Hand washing. Covering our mouths when we cough or sneeze. Bleach washing surfaces in our home. Not sharing drinks with our friends and sisters. Commiserating with other moms who share my fear. 

Periodically getting sick is just part of living (albeit one part that I’d like to avoid as much as possible). And, fingers crossed, once my kiddos are out of the preschool years….our chances of getting the stomach bug significantly decrease, right?! Lie to me if you have to! 


  1. I feel like I could have written this. I’ve had extreme fear of vomit since my teenage years, and to this day I love in fear of stomach bugs. I now have two kids, one who is in preschool now. I know it’s good for her, but there’s a huge part of me that just wants to lock my kids in the house. Its actually a really awful feeling.

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