A small miracle happened here.
We went away for the last weekend of February break, visiting friends who live further down the coast. We had a great time, went to a restaurant where Penrose ate lemon and ice and charmed the toddlers at the table next to us, and enjoyed seeing friends and leaving the island for a few days. We came back on Sunday and did the loads of laundry that accumulated while we were gone–clothes and diapers.
And then we didn’t do laundry again until Thursday.
We had been treading water for so long, barely staying ahead of the cloth diapers, pee and spit-up and poop-covered baby and parent clothes, sheets, towels, bibs, and various fabric scraps for wiping and blotting. Moving blindly from wake up to changing to feeding and changing and feeding and nap and changing and feeding and on and on, completely submersed in a most delightful ocean. Recently, and without noticing, our feet found the sandy bottom.
At 10 months, Penrose can feed herself solid food and takes a bottle easily at the babysitter’s. She doesn’t spit up anymore. Some days she wears the same outfit from her first change in the morning until she gets changed for bed. Thanks to our babysitter’s expertise we’re double-padding her diapers and she rarely pees through an outfit anymore. She will sit and play with toys or entertain herself cruising along the edge of the coffee table while we open the mail or load the wood stove. She’s happy as a clam sitting in her Phil & Ted bucket chair eating a snack and looking at a book while I make dinner.
Penrose is an armful at 19 pounds, but the actual load of childrearing is getting lighter day by day. The trade off for her growing independence is of course our constant vigilance, since she wants nothing more than to dump out the pets’ water dish and then climb the stairs, but it’s a different kind of energy than we’ve needed to expend in the recent past.
With all of these changes, and the fact that I’m back at work now, I spend more time enjoying the baby and less time feeling like a worker-bee serving her queen. The baby care ticker tape is turned off in my head, and in its place are ideas like bringing in a bowl of snow for her to play with, getting her up in the Ergo and going snowshoeing, and teaming up to chase the dog around the living room.
We played before, but on a schedule. Our interactions now feel more spontaneous and fun. She asks to play the piano by pulling herself up, standing next to the bench and patting it. She pulls her favorite books off the shelf. Because Penrose’s needs have leveled off, we spend more time indulging her wants. It’s a lot more fun.
I loved Penrose from the positive pregnancy test on, but I did not love the overwhelming feeling of newborn care. Even after the first three months, Penrose felt like a detachable piece of my body. But now, this sleeping, eating, expressive person is coming into her individuality and I am reclaiming mine. Caring for her is a weight I’ve been privileged to bear, but to look around and realize that our heads are above water, we’re all thriving, and we’re happy to see each other every morning and afternoon is a relief and a delight.