Having Babies: Part One
Okay, where was I? Brand new parents to a baby girl with more character than either of us put together – from day one she had an attitude. And great lungs and a temper. We knew lots about parenting, but nothing about actually BEING parents. Any child is a challenge, but in hindsight I know D. was more than the usual handful. Our spirited child. Isn’t that a lovely way to describe it?
W. had another year of university to complete. I had to go right back to work in a mere four weeks. My mom came to stay with us for a few days after D. was born. After she left, I stood staring at my sleeping daughter and was overcome with the enormity of the responsibility we were taking on. This little life in MY hands? What was God thinking? All the pent up emotions from the past months welled up and poured out. I crawled into bed and refused to get up. Poor W. He put up with this emotional wreck of a new mom, bringing me food and my daughter when she got hungry, and blabbering away about post-partem depression, sounding like he was trying to convince himself more than me that we could get ourselves through this. Two days of being a drama queen was about all even I could stand. And that’s when we made one of the two most asinine decisions we’ve ever come up with, and packed up ourselves and our newborn and took a two-day car trip to visit W.’s parents. They were thrilled to meet their first grandchild. I was exhausted, mentally and physically and spent the entire time there in some kind of zombie state. So D. was at our island and a little camper practically from day one.
As much as my mother-in-law bugs the living shit out of me most of the time, I must give her credit for loving her grandchildren in her own strange way. And she did help me realize a very important thing. My daughter would not cease to exist if she was out of my sight. She would not die if I left her with someone else for an hour or two. MIL forced me to go fishing with W. There was no heart to heart little talk about anything – that’s never been her style. But one morning she just said that I needed to get out, and W. needed to take me, and to get the hell out of here, D. will be just fine. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to having a panic attack. Leave my baby? W. didn’t have to drag me kicking and screaming to the dock, but it came close. We lasted almost an hour with me constantly freaked out that D. might be hungry, or screaming, or in whatever state it is babies might get themselves into when their mothers aren’t around – I couldn’t even imagine. And with W., thoroughly exasperated, saying JEEZUS Lin, my mother had three kids. I think she knows what she’s doing. We got back to find D. peacefully sleeping, exactly how we had left her. How freaking amazing is that? I know my MIL was trying to help me get out from under the enormous weight of the pressure I was putting on myself, to let me breathe and trust someone else to help. I had to do it when I went back to work, like it or not.
We were incredibly lucky to find a babysitter that I felt I could trust. She had six kids of her own, all in school, and she was missing the baby thing. Her name was Mrs. White. Isn’t it funny that I don’t even remember her first name? She looked after my daughter Monday to Friday, 8 to 5, for the first year of her life. It was kind of nice to have someone else to blame for how spoiled she was. I often wonder what effect this all had on D. Sometimes when we picked her up she would look at us with that little frown of hers, as if to say, ‘who the heck are you guys again?’ It was not an easy thing to do. I probably missed a whole lot of her “firsts”, although Mrs. White was very kind and never said anything about D. doing something new until I mentioned it first. D. never slept longer than a six hour stretch, from midnight to 6 a.m. that first year. Her naps were short, few and far between. She was active, curious, easily frustrated, loud, demanding. We just assumed that was normal, having not much to compare it with. We did have some friends who came over with their little Rebecca, who was a month younger than D. although bigger, and a child that they could plunk on the floor and she would actually stay in one spot. I remember we thought there must be something wrong with that kid.
It was a hectic year. We were all sleep deprived. I don’t know if that’s a good enough reason for being lax with the birth control. I recall having vague thoughts about not wanting D. to be an only child, and that if I ever had to make a conscious decision to get pregnant again, I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to do it. So I did it unconsciously. W. finished his year and applied for a gazillion jobs. He got two good offers. One was a teaching position in Lindsay, Ontario. The other was as a Wildlife Officer with the government of the NWT in Cambridge Bay. And there you have the second most asinine decision we ever made. How different might our lives have been, if we had gone left instead of right at that big fork in the road. At the end of the summer, following D.’s first birthday, we headed north. L & W’s Big Adventure begins.