Written Sunday night, February 5th. I’ll be posting this later, when it is very clear that Sugar can’t have gotten the stomach bug in question, because if she finds out that we did, she will fret and fret and fret. She’s been en route to South Africa for days now, been stuck in snowy Amsterdam overnight without a coat (or her luggage), had her direct Amsterdam-Capetown flight replaced with a whole series of shorter flights and long layovers. Fear of vomiting is the last thing she needs to add to her worries.
Today was a hard day.
Sugar is on her way to Africa. She’s been gone since Friday and won’t be back until next Sunday. The Dane, whose company I had hoped might distract me from loneliness and from feeling overwhelmed caring for the Bean alone, unexpectedly had her second baby on Friday, via a c-section at 36 weeks, after her water broke that morning. (The new baby, a pink boy slightly bigger than the Bean and much smaller than his older sister was, is doing well and will come home with her on Monday. We can’t wait to meet the Little Bear.)
I spent Saturday gathering baby things for the Dane, climbing the step ladder and using a long cardboard tube to prod the heavy boxes stacked near the ceiling so that they would fall down to me. Managing the closet is Sugar’s job, as she is considerably taller than I am, but the baby is here now and needs clothes. I bought a small ham and extra ingredients for spaghetti sauce on Friday when I heard the baby was coming, but decided I could wait until Sunday or Monday to cook for them. I arranged to visit her in the hospital today, and tucked a box of cookies into the bag of going home outfits, just in case I forgot to bring them.
The Bean was cheerful enough, even following a diaper explosion unlike any I’d seen from him in months. Shoulder blades, is all I’ll say. After he went to bed, I talked too long on the phone with my parents, made freezer food for dinner, and watched Downton Abbey, pleased to have made it through the day without Sugar, to have one day less alone. It hadn’t been easy to take care of the Bean and get other work done, but I’d managed and found myself less lonely than when Sugar went away before he was born. Taking care of him has made this trip harder for me, but less grim.
A little later than I should have, I brushed my teeth, fed the cats, and padded into the Bean’s room to pat him one last time. In the dark, I could see his starry back rise and fall. I also saw a dark spot, the size of a quarter, on the sheet near him. I had a sudden fear that it was blood. I knew it wasn’t, but I turned on the light to check.
It wasn’t blood. It was vomit. Raspberry vomit, and that tiny bit was the least of it; it was everywhere and plentiful, pink and red and smelling of peanut butter, his current favorite after frozen berries. From the look of things, he must have thrown up and crawled away from it again and again, covering the whole bed. It was revolting and then some, but there was nothing for it but to hook up the washing machine, begin ferrying bedclothes to the bathroom, and wake him up to clean and re-pajama him. It was past one before I went to bed again, and we only slept a combined 90 minutes or so thereafter, the Bean wakeful and miserable and hot with a fever that would not yield to Advil and Tylenol.
Suddenly, the diaper explosion made sense: on Thursday, we visited with a baby friend of ours and her nanny. Afterwards, I found out that the baby and her mothers had had the stomach flu, though she seemed fine when I saw her. I’d hired the nanny to watch the Bean while I teach this week, and in order help him trust her, I encouraged him to eat from her hand. I have replayed that moment in my head a hundred times since, only with Future Me running in slow motion towards them, shouting, “Nnnnnnnooooooooooooooooooo!” The nanny got sick on Friday.
Today has been hard. The Bean is better but not well, there was an even more catastrophic diaper incident, and I have been wondering all day when I will get sick, as I almost inevitably will. If I didn’t catch it from the nanny, I will have gotten it from the Bean, who cannot be dissuaded from shoving his hands into my mouth while nursing. Certainly there was no visiting the Dane and Little Bear, who need this illness less than I do, nor cooking for them. My to do list rapidly shrank to, “Do Laundry; Survive.”
Some time ago, the inimitable May wrote a post about those self-important idiots who tell you all the time how hard your life will be with a baby, how you have no idea. Such proud admonitions are annoying under the best of circumstances, but to those of us who lack babies while desperately wanting them, they are like stone bruises on a heel, so predictable and yet so surprisingly painful with every footfall. May, who is somehow always right, remarked that indeed various things about life with a baby might be, on a strictly practical level, harder than without one, but they wouldn’t be worse. I can’t find the post in question, but I doubt I will ever forget that bit of wisdom.
I have chanted “harder but not worse” in my head and out loud hundreds of times in the past eleven months. Many things about life with a baby are in fact very hard, and it’s easy for me to get lost in that. It’s easy for me to misplace how miserable it was when I was afraid I would never have the chance to find out how hard it can be. I assure you, in case you ever doubt it, that the frustrations of a hard day with the Bean here is to that misery as a rain shower is to the oceans.
It’s late again, later than I should be up. I am well behind on sleep, I have a hard week ahead, and frankly, my stomach feels more than a little dodgy. But I have spent this weekend feeling more deeply than ever the truth of what May wrote, and I wanted to get this down now, while things are still hard, so that you know that I mean what I say. Many things are harder, but nothing is worse.