My journal has become passing thoughts scribbled on the backs of grocery lists and clumsily typed iPhone notes that say things like “Avalon likes touching cold cups” and “Now I can hear her heart anytime I want to!”
I was paying an SDG&E bill the other day and found, scribbled on the backside of the envelope, the words: “There is the serene ocean and her dangerous currents and there are the car alarms of the world ” written in my second grader handwriting, some mid-sentence letters looking just as uppercase as the first. I think this has to do with a thought I had about how there is magic in life, like a human growing from the size of a seed and sprouting into someone that can hold hands with someone else who was also once the size of a seed in their own mother’s stomach; there are big problems, like Maddie’s cancer, and then there are the inevitable little annoyances such as sitting down to read a book after your child goes down for a nap and most of your chores are finally completed only to have a car alarm go off for the entirety of that quiet time.
Yesterday I took Avalon to her last lactation appointment. At least, let’s hope. There were a bunch of infants learning how to latch properly and even one who was fresh out of his tongue un-tieing procedure, numb-tongued and crying like a goat who’d been kicked in the neck. In my time visiting the clinic I have dealt with an over-supply problem, fast-letdown, mastitis and then an undersupply problem that resulted from stress. Before we left she said, “Now go and enjoy nursing!”. Avalon was the oldest baby there by a few months, but, as our elevator door began to close and I watched the lactation consultant bustling around her office helping the next new mom, I couldn’t help feeling like we graduated from something that made us both more grown up. (I write my problems down specifically in case anyone else out there is struggling and needs support–quitting or sticking with breastfeeding because, honestly, both are equally tough and good choices if you ask me).
I am now making some milk to set aside and save for Maddie in case she has trouble keeping things down while she does chemo. I think it will be best mixed with an In N Out milkshake. Today I nursed Avalon in the hammock chair in our backyard while listening to some bluegrass music and the wind. (I write that down because I want to remember it).
Last year at this time, I had just found out we were going to have a baby. I felt like it was the culmination of years spent dressing plastic dolls, teaching preschoolers how to wait their turn and nannying kids I probably would have adopted if given the chance. I was also freaked out about a life alteration I had only observed as a bystander and, maybe most of all, struggling with the reality that I couldn’t celebrate Halloween like a drunken idiot impersonating her current hero or favorite brand of beer (one year my friends and I were a six pack of Coronas. I had a lime drawn on my shoulder in neon permanent pen for six days).
Now Avalon is here in a way that fills the whole house. She wakes up in the morning and smiles this smile as I approach her crib that her face barely seems to have room for, so consumed by joy that I almost have to look away so I won’t cry. Her breath smells like warm fruit yogurt and sour cream. Normally I despise those smells, but I purposefully inhale her breath all day long. I write down other things in my scattered journals about how I always want her to be so accepting of me being in her personal space. I get her busy doing an activity like sitting in her Tiny Love Seat chewing on her Tag Monkey and instead of responding to text messages or sweeping the kitchen I end up staring at her. I feel so overcome by this small human. There has always been a space for her in my life and now she not only fills that space, but seems to overflow it. And yet, I always want more, like those days when it’s clear and just the right temperature and you can see for miles.
The other day I drove away from perfect offshore, waist high waves to look at freshwater fish in the air-conditioning at Petsmart. Scott said it could have been a scene in Joe Dirt, but was pleased I saved $14 in not going to the real aquarium. The Petsmart employees were very helpful, asking if I had any questions or needed any help identifying some of the fish species. And a free tour guide! I thought, but it seemed too evil deceiving a good intentioned hourly employee for her knowledge on aquatic animals I was never going to buy. I’ve been there, owning fish before. They die often and it makes me sad just as frequently. For some reason I became more engaged in the idea of owning a few small finches labeled “beginner” on the pet guide. Had I brought them home, however, and this complimentary tour of Petsmart would no longer have been amusing to Scott. The employee did mention that there was “a great tropical fish shop just down the way”. An outing for Thursday!
This week my focus has been on sleep. Everyone seems to have an opinion about it. There are so many different good ways to raise kids that it makes sense there are such a variety of approaches that work. I see teaching Avalon to sleep well as an important lesson I can bestow upon her at this age and so I’ve been putting her down for bed and nap time in her crib tired but awake, after a story and some snuggling, then allowing her to figure out how to sleep. There have been some tears, hers and mine, of course. The first night we tried it I became overwhelmed, after going in to comfort her with tummy pats and copious kisses, by the fact that her crying eyes looked just like they did when I held her for the first time and now, here I was, teaching her this very grownup thing by not holding her. I wandered around the house morosely for about five minutes after that until she fell asleep, thumb in mouth, all by herself in her very own big girl crib. Then I poured a glass of wine and called my family.
And I think, this is how it’s supposed to be: the intermingled pain and joy of life.
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