I’m no Christian saint getting mauled by a lion in a Roman amphitheater, but lately I sure feel like I’m dying for a cause. No capital D, rather the little deaths that represent the pain of change. I feel that I’m generally pretty resilient as people go, but everyone has something which breaks them down. For me it seems to be sleep training. It’s taxing. Though we make progress, and he goes weeks doing pretty well, it’s apparently never-ending. Every life change requires a re-set, for example this Real Life Scenario: it’s early December and baby catches a phlegmy cold which makes him breathe like a rabid wolf. Mummy and Maman (me) then catch it too, and Mummy’s weak lungs are working overtime so Maman goes and sleeps with baby. Add to this snotty, coughing mix that baby then catching a nasty stomach bug and prolific liquids begin erupting from both ends. You’d think it wouldn't phase us, having had a spit-uppy baby. It actually feels frightening and out of control. Mummy catches it too, of course, and gets it bad. She still has to breastfeed since baby won’t have anything else and is dehydrated, but she can’t keep much liquid down herself. The only solution for her is a couch, bowl, hot water bottle, ginger-ale and a “House” DVD marathon. Maman is now looking after two sickies, while coordinating a large fundraiser for her youth group the next day and the eventful final graduation/movie screening of her program at work. Boom, that night, she gets the bug too. A quick passing through, mercifully. A had to take care of Ben that night but could barely stand or breathe without coughing and feeling wretched herself.
How do single parents survive? It’s mind-boggling and every one of my hats is off to those of you out there. In either scenario, who takes care of the caretaker(s)? We were lucky to have some divine intervention (soup deliveries), and kind calls/emails, which saved us. Did I mention that both of us also got our periods that week-end (A for the first time since before conception)? Here’s the kicker, the day after I got sick marked the one-week deadline until we moved, yes MOVED, to a new house. Were we packed? Not even close. Our moms descended from opposite ends of the 401, and both promptly got the stomach bug too (after packing a substantial chunk thankfully). As did our friend and neighbour who helped us pack. As did pretty much anyone who hung out for more than a minute. We wrote on our door “enter at your own risk, plague house”. We managed to move, by some miracle, and in reaction (we assume) Ben proceeded to begin screaming a whole new range of bloody murder when being put down to bed. And in the middle of the night. Like 1.5 hours from 3:30-5. For weeks. Wait, there’s more! We drove to each parent’s house (4/5hr trip x4) for the respective holiday gatherings, occasionally in freezing rain. And then Ben started daycare, and A started work. Need I say more?
I sometimes feel annoyed when I hear myself telling parts of this story, like I’m whining or saying “poor me”, or being a veritable martyr. I believe attitude counts, and instead I could have written about all the neat features of our new place, the lovely time with grandparents, the peaceful snowy afternoons. But aren't most parents entitled to claiming martyrdom from time to time? When they say parenthood requires service and sacrifice, they weren't kidding. When they say nothing prepares you for this, it’s the truth. When you think everything will change, you can’t know how tremendously much. It would all be bearable if it didn't also tax relationships to the edge of reason. A French writer penned a book listing 40 reasons not to have kids. I say there are only two: sleep and relationship stress. I miss sleep with every fiber of my being, like I've been ripped out from some safe hole and left to walk through a minefield. Leaving the warmth of duvet and body heat of partner to enter the cold shock of wintery nighttime, only to run into a wall of sound and fury, sometimes feels like the ultimate test. Finally, when I creep out of his room, careful to only walk on the non-squeaky parts of the old wooden floor, gently turning the door knob to avoid a rusty squeak, that’s usually it. Every so often though, once I've gotten comfortable, as the world is starting to go black … no… it can’t be. A sniff, a squawk and slowly but surely the crescendo of sound from the small person down the hall begins again. I would have said there is nothing to compare to the first nighttime crying session, but I amend that to say in earnest, that I would give up almost anything (including highly confidential political information) not to have to deal with the second nighttime cry (or 15th as one unfortunate mother in our play group knows only too well). As for relationship stress, that’s a whole blog entry for another time. But people have children anyway and they are gorgeous and magical and irreplaceable. And we’ll survive, mostly intact, because we chose this. No one can say that lesbians came into this mess “by accident”. Pema Chodron aptly names it the “wisdom of no escape”, the power of being in the moment, of not resisting what is. I tried to explain this Buddhist theory to Ben one particularly tough night though I think it was largely lost on his 11-month-old self.