I am staying with my parents for about a week while Cedar is playing a music festival out of town. Here’s what I brought with me: two kids (check), a cardboard box of medical supplies, a case of formula, several baskets overflowing with clothes/books/etc., a big orange plastic supply caddy, and an IV pole.
When I moved out to California for college, I brought way less stuff with me. And I was packing for an entire year. Back then I traveled with a little corduroy tote, a duffel bag and a bright red Kelty backpack. I prided myself on having just a few material goods because I wanted to, you know, save the earth and all of that.
And years later, when I was in graduate school, I shared a U-Haul to move in to a house with some people I met on Craigslist (which I’m not recommending for all kinds of reasons). The common consensus from this odd bunch of people (who later became slightly disturbing) was, wow, that’s all of your stuff? That’s it?
Have I gone soft in recent years? Yeah, probably.
Can I blame parenting for this change? I’d like to, although I know that’s not entirely accurate.
It seems almost impossible to fight the river of kid stuff that seems to float our way: much of it comes into our lives through hand-me-downs, gifts and then the other category, Etan’s newfound LEGO addiction. Of course, the hand-me-downs are the best, because then, the often very nice stuff is reused and guilt-free. I had two friends recently drop off clothes for E. that their daughters had worn. Their good energy (and style) will be passed on to my girl. She will, someday I hope, run and jump and blow kisses and stomp around in those clothes. I love thinking about that, about those connections through time and space.
But, like most any mama (or dad or whoever) who is lucky enough to have this option and privilege, I also buy more things for our family than we actually need. Add in E.’s medical supplies and it’s just a whole lot. I know we could be more conscious of our footprint on this amazing planet.
Now that it’s in writing, I guess you can hold me to it.
At the same time, I’m pretty sure that if I still owned just six t-shirts, two hoodies and a few pairs of flared jeans like I did in college, the look may not go over so well with most of my psychotherapy clients. My most beloved, worn out t-shirt from this era was blaze orange with this message across the front: my work is so secret, even I don’t know what I’m doing. I never understood exactly what it meant; I found it at a thrift store in Richfield and looking back, I think that I liked it because it was the opposite of pretentious. But it wouldn’t be a hit in the professional world.
I could go on and on about this topic. But I won’t, not today.
I have good news.
E. is moving around the house like a champ. She’s probably going to be one of those kids who doesn’t ever crawl; her style is to scoot around on her butt instead. Much of the day we are chasing her around, rolling the IV pole closely behind her, since she’s still hooked up 24/7. But it’s such a lovely relief to see this burst of energy and development. She’s got a lot to say, including, “mama.” Hard to beat the sound of that. And, she’s finally, finally, finally gained some weight. She’s still in the 15 lbs range which is crazy for 14 months, but she’s closer to 16 so, let’s round up.
Also, remember how I wrote in my last post that she’s 15 months? Well, it turns out she’s only 14 months. I discovered that at her physical therapy appointment earlier this week. As much as I love her, and as unique as she is, she’s still very clearly our second child. Maybe it would be better for me to just say that she is a one year old, and leave it at that. Then I’d definitely be accurate, every single month until she turns two. I can keep track of at least that much.
We’ve got in-home nursing care now to help us a few days a week. I am grateful that we have this resource. It can be useful to have another adult around, mostly because then our kids are outnumbered. But it’s also kind of weird; there’s often a person in our home who sort of knows E. but really does not. We have had five different people who cycle through. I’m working on getting it to be more streamlined and consistent, which would help a lot.
I’m not sure how to explain it, but I guess it comes down to this: most of the nurses do not seem nearly as invested in her wellbeing as we are. And she’s in that stranger danger phase so her circle of trust is small. There’s been lots and lots of crying. Although now I get more breaks and am getting bigger stretches of sleep too, so at least, increasingly, the crying has been from E. and not from me.
With this nursing help comes a whole lot of guilt. Because I want to be the one caring for my daughter while I’m not at work. She’s my daughter. Also, I happen to really like being with her. I want to take her to the zoo and the Minneapolis Institute of Art, as I’ve done so many times with A., even though she’d probably poop through her jeggings in the first half hour and then I’d spend half the time in the bathroom cleaning her up. I want to carry her all around the Arboretum until she falls asleep snuggled up against me in the front pack, right around the dahlia section. Or maybe she’d just cry through part of a stroller ride because she’s teething or tired or because she’s a baby and that’s what they do, but at least she’d be crying for me. I don’t want her to cry because there’s someone taking care of her that she only kind of knows. And I certainly don’t want her to be stuck at home.
I’m torn because caring for E. is sometimes a two person job, depending on the time of day. She definitely needs 1;1 care, morning, noon and night. And it turns out that I actually have two children, so sometimes the ratio is off—that’s when I need that extra hand the most. When it’s just her and me, it’s not exactly easy to bring her out for adventures, but I’ve been doing it more and more. Each time I have it’s been lovely. In terms of her temperament, E. is kind of like a stuffed animal: cuddly, reliable and very low-key. But those damn tubes. It’s the tubes, and their maintenance; that’s the job from which I need breaks.
This guilt thing can be relentless. I do sometimes leave E. with the nurses in the name of self-care, especially the one who she feels most comfortable with. And still, there are hours and even days when I feel that guilt straight down in my stomach. Often, I bring a nurse with us around town, even to events like birthday parties and playdates with A. and his friends. It’s not how I ever pictured our life before I had Olive, with a medical entourage of one, but I know firsthand that it could be so much worse.
Our girl is going places. She no longer has that war baby look. She’s scooting everywhere around Nana and Saba’s house this week. Watch out world—there’s a bright, beautiful, one of a kind baby who is on the rise.