One of the hardest things about taking care of a baby is taking care of yourself. It’s been almost ten years since I last played this role, and some parts are so easy to recall.
I remember the first time I saw my little girl smile. She was three days old and had spent most of that time in the nursery. They wouldn’t tell me why, but I later read the clinic charts and saw that she had swallowed some amniotic fluid during birth. Anyway, it was my first night with her all to myself, and she looked at me and smiled. I was sure my heart would burst. I remember wondering who had taught her to smile, because we had only spent a few hours together in hospital, and she had always been asleep.
I remember the first time I saw her walk, and the first time I heard her laugh. I remember her looking at the other kids during her innoculation visit, and not crying until the other children did. It was as if they reminded her of what she should do.
I remember coming home late from a work trip. I hadn’t seen her in a while, and she had fallen asleep on the sofa waiting for me. I picked her up to carry her to bed, and her arms instinctively curled around my neck. Then for some reason, she woke up and saw me, and giggled with glee for five full minutes. She was too excited to say anything, so she just looked at me and giggled for ages and ages. I will take that memory to my grave.
I don’t remember many of the hard parts. It’s like what they say during labour. You forget all the agony once you see your baby’s face, hear him cry, and hold him for the first time. Then, if you’re anything like me, you’ll scream amid the stitches then black out for six straight hours. But the pain comes back later, and trust me, you’ll be sore down there for weeks.
I’m staying with my 4 month-old nephew for a while. It all seems strange and new to me, and it’s not strange in a good way. After almost a week together, we’re getting into each other’s routine, and at least we can get through a meal without throwing it all up afterwards. Some things feel almost pioneer-al, while others feel drainingly familiar. One thing I can remember is the nap.
See, I mostly work from home, so I don’t have hired help. I’ll write when I’m inspired and take a break for dishes or laundry when there’s nothing left that’s clean. I almost always stop at lunch time for some food and Dr Phil. But with my nephew around, my routine is a little … well … broken. For example, I can only really type when he’s asleep.
I remember when my own baby was born, the books and websites said to sleep when the baby is sleeping. It helps in keeping the energy levels up. Thing is … when the little boy is asleep, there are several … um … distractions. Like … one … you spend a few
hours moments staring at the sleeping angel, wondering how anyone could be so beautiful, and making crosses on his head to vanquish the demons that possess him whenever he’s awake.
And then, you want to do all the stuff you couldn’t do before. Like eat. And shower. And wash his clothes. And clean the house. And mash his food. And warm his milk. And … oh yeah … work. This despite being only half awake because you spent the whole night doing midnight feeds.
This part I remember.
When my princess was little, I had to take some time off life. I was out of school and ‘between jobs’ so I was focused on her and on chores. It made it a lot harder to find excuses for why the housework wasn’t done. But now, I attend to my nephew and my princess and my house … and my work. Sometimes, I even have errands to run. You don’t want to know how that works, so don’t ask.
In a few weeks’ time, I have to start a sit-in job, so I’ll be gone from 8 till 6 most days. Then I’ll have to come home and attend to housework, two babies, and some freelance. I’m not sure how I’ll manage that, but I have faith – I know that George will send Mary Poppins. And no, she won’t get Tuesdays off.
A part of me feels sad and neglected. I want to be recognised for this mammoth task, this mighty deed of raising two kids and having full time jobs and part time work – even if it’s only for a little while. But then I kick myself, because women handle so much worse! The hawker who runs with her wares and her infants, the mother of five who washes clothes for a living, the madhe who cooks for construction workers, the lady who lives with four kids and six grandkids in a one-roomed Kibera hut. Compared to them I have it easy, but it’s still a major challenge. It’s still a whole lot more than I’m used to.
Yesterday, when the two kids were asleep, I turned on my computer and started some work that was long overdue. Every once on a while, one of the kids would twitch or yawn or sneeze, and I’d be distracted and throw a glance at them. They’re so beautiful when they sleep. So quiet and peaceful and adorably undemanding. Someone needs to develop a sleep-switch for babies and not-so-babies.
Before I started writing, I was hoping to find a time machine to stretch his nap and let me get everything done. Unfortunately, I’ve had no eureka moments while I typed, and I missed the window to Dr. Phil. I passed by the TV to flip channels, but it was a depressing episode, so I didn’t bother.
The little boy is dunyo-ing his eyes now. The noise from the keyboard must have roused him. Aw crud. I was hoping to fix a sandwich before he woke up. Oh well. Maybe I can distract him with cartoons while I cook. They have started, haven’t they?
♫ C’est dur dur d’être bébé ♫ Jordy Lemoine ♫