I learned a new word last week. Seeing as it was the first full week of school, I figured my vocabulary would be supplemented eventually. I was catching up on some social networking one sunny morning while my one and only child still at home, Bella was catching up on some Olivia episodes. It is interesting to watch what shows she picks, which games she likes to play and how much that child can talk and talk and talk when she is the only one home. I had no idea she had such a vocabulary, she even has conversations her vocabulary can't support. She just make noises and sounds until she finds another word that works. It's entertaining unless you are trying to have a phone conversation with a public health nurse. But it was not Bella who enlightened my vocabulary that day, it was my cousin.
I am one of 8 cousins on my dad's side. I was 3rd in line and through my brother's untimely demise, became VP cousin, second eldest. Through a lucky assignment, early in our Air Force career- I was within driving distance of my extended family again and was reminded of how many happy years we had growing up. In a time before cancer, before responsibility- in a time you could safely jump into a mountain of leaves your uncle had just raked without wearing a helmet and body armor. I remember each of my cousin's arrivals and the excitement of having one more baby to play with. I remember feeling so much older than my younger cousins, more worldly and responsible and look back now and laugh, we are only a couple years apart. I remember following my older cousin around- she was the cool one, the pretty one and most definitely the smartest. She introduced me to Toni Basil's Mickey, of which I sang relentlessly for months. We got together a couple years ago and compared ages- we were both shocked to find the difference was 2 years. The difference between 32 and 34 is a lot less than 10 and 8. So I have to agree with the whole time is not linear arguement.
I remember holding my cousins, changing their diapers, having sleepovers, crazy dress up 4th of July's and wild Christmas Eve celebrations. I remember feeling the distance when my family moved across the country and feeling even more left out going back to visit. I remember feeling heartbroken not being able to make it to my cousin's wedding because we are across an ocean and I had 4 small kids and a husband who was away. I was so excited a few months back to learn a new member will soon be making their way into our clan. It has been fun to see the family prepare and the excitement grow for the new little one. I remember back to a decade ago, waiting for our first child, thinking the time would never come. Yet it always does.
Seasoned mommies tried to warn me- get sleep now- I laughed- it's impossible to sleep with a 9 lb baby jumping on your bladder. Knowing smiles did not tell me what I would soon learn- it's even more impossible to sleep with a crying baby. Or shower, or cook, or grocery shop. I was so uncomfortable I thought I would burst- an experienced mom told me- if it weren't for the last month of discomfort, we'd stay pregnant forever. I thought that was the silliest thing I had ever heard- I was growing a human and it hurt, it would be so much easier once he was out. 2 months later, I ran into that mommy- with my 15 pound baby, 10 pound diaper bag, 10 pound carseat, and 10 pound stroller- I was 30 minutes late because Phil had to work late, I had to shower and change the baby who seemed to want to do nothing but scream from 3:30 until 8 and was completely frazzled by the time I arrived at the social. I gave that mommy a hug and she took Phillip and he didn't cry for a whole hour- it was glorious. I even got to eat something.
So last week, I sat down and saw my cousin was still anxiously awaiting the baby's arrival. She posted she couldn't wait for her "baby-cation". She works full time, but I had never heard of maternity leave being called a "cation". I resisted the temptation to tell her again to sleep as much as humanly possible now, before it's too late. I resisted the desire to warn her, she will never again see a day as worry free as today, or as quiet as today. I knew it wouldn't matter- in the expectant mommy's eyes, the hope for an easier day would soon be getting her through the rough laborious nights.
I wonder if my cousin will be one of those lucky moms whose babies sleep through the night immediately. I had hoped I would be, every one said big babies sleep longer. It is my experience that big babies eat longer, and more frequently. In lil Phillip's case, Every 2 hours. For 40 minutes. I hope for her sake that the baby is not blessed with colic, for the first thing a new mom learns is that their baby's crying produces a physiological response in them like no other. There is no such response in the new dad. Such disparity often results in midnight kicking and nudging when the baby wakes. By our 3rd child, we had a routine down to prevent nocturnal kickboxing events- He was a night owl and would stay up to do later feedings so I could get a couple consecutive hours of sleep. When he came to bed, I was on call.
No one also could possibly convey the sheer excitement generated when a mom sees her baby's 1st smile or hears their first laugh. Getting to watch as they learn the mastery of all their muscles and harness the power of movement. Most moms will tell you the best feeling in the world is watching their child's success and the worst feeling ever is their disappointment and hurt. It is an unrelenting career and working moms soon learn the art of managing not one, but two careers. And those of us who are fortunate enough to stay home wonder how the working moms do it when there never seem to be enough hours in a day to get everything done and far too many hours until you get to rest. It is for these reasons and many more that I am so excited for my cousin who will be soon become an official member of this elite club. A club that shares a bond only experience can forge.
We recently met with Lily's surgeon who had just returned from her baby-"cation" with her second child. This is a woman who cares for the surgical needs of the entire pacific pediatric military contingent. She works long, grueling hours in the military where there is no overtime pay. The woman never walks anywhere and is needed everywhere. I stopped to ask her how she was managing it all while sleep deprived- I can not imagine keeping up with her pace especially with a new baby at home and a toddler. She began to laugh. Coming to work is easy- she told me- 10 times easier than taking care of a baby- I have an immense amount of resepect for you , I don't know how you take care of 4. It was all I could do not to tear up- the woman who saved the lives of not 1, but 2 of my babies validated my "job".
So as I sit here, momentarily neglecting my "job", I am once again grateful. I am grateful to have a wonderful family. Grateful that my job involves 4 great opportunities for advancement with unlimited possibilities of growth and wealth. I am grateful that they are out of diapers, can feed themselves and generally listen when they are told to shut down and sit up. I am mostly grateful for the public school system that takes 3 of them off my hands for 6 hours each day, minus 1 hour on Wednesdays, weekends, breaks, teacher no contact days, furlough days and holidays. Those days make me grateful for the times we are together. It is also on those days that I truly realize that how being home with one baby could feel like a "baby-cation."