Ugh

Well, I sure did just wash a disposable baby diaper with a load of laundry! There’s mushed gel stuff coating all the clothes.

Anyone know how to…fix this? Hopefully it’s run the load one more time, because that’s what I’m currently trying.

Baby Gym

This morning, I took Edith to a baby gym class. She’s been more and more active at home; all she wants to do is parkour herself along the furniture and do pull-ups on the rocking chair like she’s Linda Hamilton in her jail cell, so I figured she would love a place to crawl and flip and climb around as much as she pleased without me hovering over her and pulling electrical cords out of her grasp.

Imagine my surprise when we arrived and Edith turned into a wilting violet, clinging to me and refusing to get out of my lap. There were four other babies there with their parents, and Edith stared at all of them, fascinated, but whenever I tried to set her down, she spun around and clutched at my shirt with both hands as if I were shoving her out the front door with a bindle.

Edith did not want to jump on the trampolines or crawl up the ramps or climb on the mats or crawl through the tunnel or walk along the balance beam. She condescended to take her turn on the baby zipline, but she remained poker-faced throughout. She did have fun in the swing shaped like a baby whale — as I’ve mentioned before, Edith loves a swing, and she would have hung out in that one for the whole time.

Eventually, one of the other parents said her name (we introduced all our babies, and the parents were all very nice), and she bustled right over to him like “finally, an adult.” I realized, a bit embarrassed, that she then expected him to hold her and pay attention to her, even though he…had his own son. This is all Edith knows — adults are giant moving beings who are focused on nothing but her 24/7 with single-minded dedication. I’m realizing I’ve set her up for a bit of a rude awakening as we get out into the world more.

Eventually she warmed up a tiny bit and crawled a little distance from me. In that huge space full of all sorts of climbing toys, I was excited to watch her explore, and what she would investigate first!

Guess what it was?

Some tape on the carpet. Couldn’t get enough. There were several rectangular yellow pieces of tape in a circle, and she lavished attention on each and every one. The rest of the place might as well have been a howling void. The class ended and all the babies and their parents left, and only Edith was still there, patting that tape and scratching at it, happy as a clam. She looked up at me, beaming. “At first when we got here, I had no idea what you were thinking,” she seemed to be saying. “But now I get it! This place is wild!”

Duck

Edith has a little rubber duck in a coolie hat that she got for free from the pediatrician and it is one of her favorite toys. We now use it almost exclusively in the bath. If I “swim” it up to her through the bath water saying “quack, quack, quack” she consistently looks at it coming toward her with what I can only describe as a gently fond smile. It’s a very particular sort of smile — it seems to say, “aw, here comes this guy again. Look at this guy, he always does this.”

It is SO CUTE. I swim the duck to her every single night because I love this response so much, and I know I’m going to remember this fond little smile as one of the most representative moments of her babyhood. One day she won’t react this way anymore, and it will break my heart, but I can picture this smile perfectly in my mind. It seems extraordinary to say, but even if the only thing Edith brought to my life was this one perfect little smile, I truly believe that alone would make my whole existence worth bothering with.

Diapering

I didn’t understand why people made a big deal about diapering babies. Up until recently, it was really not difficult. Sure, poop is gross, I guess? But I’ve done much more unpleasant things in my life than change a poopy baby diaper.

But it did not occur to me that when the baby began to move, she would…move. Edith no longer lies obediently on her back for diaper changes. She immediately flips over onto her hands and knees and tries to crawl off the top of the dresser (which is where the changing pad is). This is obnoxious for pee changes, but it is downright catastrophic for a poop change.

When she flips, I quickly grab her by the nearest ankle, and she pushes off, and usually we end up with her doing a sort of handstand on the changing table and flinging her free leg around while I try to wipe crap off her butt (which is, again, suspended in mid air, upside down, and in motion, between two churning legs) before it gets all over her, me, the wall, the dresser, and anything else in reach.

I’m sure this is hilarious to observe, but it’s increasingly unmanageable. I can’t imagine this is what every parent is doing — surely there’s a system that I’m missing that one of you could share?

Please?

New Friends

Edith’s time with my friend over the past four days was her first experience with spending actual time with a new person since she was an oblivious newborn.

My friend spend the first day running errands and the second day cooking, and so she didn’t pay a lot of dedicated attention to Edith, but I paid a lot of dedicated attention to my friend, and Edith did not care for this at all. She became incredibly clingy and whiny with me, bossed me around as much as she could and insisted she be carried everywhere. If I set her down or stopped focusing on her for a few seconds, she shouted in protest.

But on Friday, my friend spent some time playing with Edith and observing and admiring her, which is more in line with what Edith has come to expect from others, and then Edith relaxed a bit and began to set herself up at an equal distance between the two of us and gambol and preen. We obliged her with double the attention, and she found she quite liked strangers after all.

Swimming

Edith and I continue to go to swim class every weekend, and Edith continues to be afraid of the pool wall, but she’s getting slightly more comfortable every time. Today, she only really cried once.

When she did another little girl in the class (not quite two years old) became very distressed and wouldn’t go back to swimming until she had been allowed to get close to Edith and touch her arm, and confirm that she was ok. It was possibly the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.

We’ve more or less gotten the whole changing thing down to a science. As a friend recommended, we wear our swim stuff under our clothes, which works pretty well, except for today, Edith’s swim diaper somehow malfunctioned on the way to swim class and when we arrived, I found she had peed herself in the car. Ah, well.

Grocery Store

My friend came to visit me and Edith for Thanksgiving and she offered to cook us a feast, which meant going to the grocery store. I had not ever taken Edith into a store, but I knew I would have to start eventually, and I didn’t think I could leave my friend to spend all day grocery shopping by herself in addition to traveling all this way and cooking, so off we went!

In retrospect, picking the most crowded shopping day of the year was probably not the best way to ease us into things. But it was fun for me to go to the store — any outing is exciting for me these days. Edith wasn’t that impressed by the store. She’s going through a clingy phase and I think it was too much to take in anyhow. She just wanted to stare at my face and clutch at my shirt and pull my mask off and beg to be picked up.

But I had lots to look at. People are so weird! There are so many different types! I don’t much like people, but they do interest me, at least at a distance. I like to look at their purchases and think about their lives. I saw an older lady with only one of those almond-covered cheeseballs and a single slim bottle of white wine in her cart, looking pissed. I saw two punk-rock looking young guys, one with a mask and one without, and the one without was monologuing very enthusiastically at the masked one who looked tired and bored. Cousins? Friends who’ve grown apart? I saw a bizarre family with a fully 10-year-old girl sitting hunched over in the basket of their cart, filling most of it, her face hidden in her knees and their purchases stacked up all around her.

Then I had an anxiety attack and Edith and I had to go wait in the car.

I kept going back and forth over whether it was ok to have Edith in there at all. I mean, case counts are well down even though school has gone back, I’m not in a hot spot, people have calmed down a lot, and life has sort of moved on, -ish, and a lot of other people had their babies in there — I saw two newborns. But also, it was a packed store, and we’re still in a pandemic! This was nuts, I was nuts! I am the worst mother alive! Also, anyone could open fire at any second! Or there could be a stampede!

My friend was having her own small nightmare. I have gotten used to the warehouse-like stores in Texas, but she is from LA and was overwhelmed by the massive spread and the crowds. She looked like I did the first and only time I entered a Costco.

I felt badly about bailing, but everything was chill in the car. Edith cuddled in my lap for a full hour happy as a clam, and then she had a complete meltdown that lasted the rest of the day.

Oh, well. We’ll try again in five years.

Cabbie

One time I was in a cab with a bunch of friends, including the adorable young daughter of one of my friends. I was sitting in the front with the cab driver, and he was making faces at the little girl, who was interacting with him through the plastic screen, and he said to me, “Awww, what is her name?”

Except I thought he said, “Awww, what is your name?”

So I said, “Elizabeth.”

And he called over his shoulder in a baby voice, “Hi Elizabeth! Are you having a fun night, Elizabeth? How old are you?”

I was immediately mortified, and hoped everyone would be too confused by the general chaos of being crowded into a cab in heavy traffic to notice or point this out, and indeed, everyone was. Thankfully, it was a short cab ride. We got out in a second (he called, “Bye, Elizabeth!” after us), and nobody seemed to really notice or question it.

I was thinking about this this morning, because I don’t think this is a mistake I would make now that I have a child and am very child-focused myself. Not that many people who don’t have children are as self-obsessed as I am; I’m sure most people would have realized he was asking for the baby’s name regardless. Why the hell would he be asking for my name? But it just…wasn’t on my radar at the time.

Now, though, I only care about Edith, so when people ask “how are you” politely and not really caring, I reply, “well, Edith has got two teeth and is sleeping through the night and crawling, and I think it won’t be long before she starts walking….” and twenty minutes later, I remember too late and say, “and you?”

Limits

Edith is continuing to put me through my paces. She has finally clicked to the fact that I am not merely an extension of her, and so now she is experimenting with to what extent she can make me behave like one. All weekend, she followed me around the house slowly and relentlessly like the entity from It Follows in baby form. If I were sitting in the playroom and she wandered off elsewhere and then wanted to return, she’d then face me from wherever she had ended up and wail at me for several beats. If I didn’t hop up and come fetch her, she would crawl back toward me a few paces and then try it again. By this method, she discovered at what exact distance I was willing to come to her rather than the other way around.

She is perfectly capable of holding her own bottle by this point, but she shows absolutely no desire to do so. Instead, she currently feeds fully reclined on a little pillow with her head tipped back and her arms flung out to either side, while I hold the bottle in her mouth for her and follow her around with it if she wants to look from side-to-side. When she wants to pause from drinking, she knows how to pull off the bottle, but she now prefers to slap it impatiently to one side, spraying milk across the playroom. If she isn’t finished, she will prop her head up briefly, look me dead in the eyes and say, “mmwwwaaahhh!!!!” at which point, I will resume feeding position and she will flop back down.

Booster nap finally bit the dust this morning. She seemed to be slowing down, so I took her to bed, but no matter how long I wrestled with her, she wouldn’t quiet. She was like an aging comedian, impossible to suppress. So we got back up and an hour later, she was screaming at me relentlessly. “Well, it’s too late now!” I told her. “You didn’t want to sleep earlier, so now you just have to push through.”

When the nanny arrived, Edith flew down the hall to her as if she were being rescued from an island, and I tried very hard not to feel offended.

Mom

At the park today there was a mom with three kids, and we got to talking, and I am pretty sure she’s another fully single mom. (This is what I’m calling SMBC for now, since if you recall, I don’t like the SMBC label.) She was using “my” and “I” instead of “our” and “we” and she presented herself like a woman who has absolutely no interest whatsoever in attracting men (this is a look everyone knows, although there’s not a term for it, but I’d call it, like, normcore butch-lite). Plus, there’s just a vibe. I’m like 90% sure. But I didn’t ask, because how do you even ask that? There should be like a signal or something.

Why does it matter? Well, it matters for two reasons: most importantly, I really want for Edith to know some other kids who don’t have dads (or don’t have moms) as she is growing up, so she doesn’t feel like she’s the only one. And yes, I know a lot of kids don’t have dads, but they all actually do — even if their dads suck and vanished, they still exist. I want Edith to know some other kids who just don’t have them at all.

And secondly, I would really like to know some other women like me. I have always wanted this. I would really like to know some other people who are perfectly happy and whole outside of the context of romantic relationships and who intentionally started their own families — not from a sense of lack or loss, not as a plan B, not as making the best of a bad lot, but joyfully and intentionally, because it’s authentically who they are. This doesn’t describe all fully single moms, but I’m finding that it describes a whole lot of them.

I had given up a long time ago on finding this, but since having Edith, I’ve realized that I’m not actually alone — there are a lot of women like me, and they are all over the place. I had previously thought having kids on your own was rather a privileged white woman thing to do, but I now know from Facebook that there are women starting their own families all over the world, from every conceivable economic background, of every race and ethnicity, in major cities and rural villages. There are a bunch in Austin, and I hope eventually to meet them. And there is maybe even one just over in the next neighborhood, here in Kyle.