They say that there are no qualifiers to become a parent. There are no exams, no Litmus tests, not even any blood tests required to spread a seed. The thing that is asked of us is that we sign a non-binding agreement with our baby, our child.
Our end, the Mommy and Daddy-end of the bargain is pretty involved. We will be awake on command. We will pick noses when they are crisped over with boogers. We will wipes asses, kiss foreheads, cancel dinner plans when fevers spike, and compromise parts of ourselves for the good of our offspring. We will gaze at baby photos, brag to unsuspecting cashiers, and squirt ibuprofen down a throat if it will cool her forehead. She'll stun us when she walks, propelling that body on her own when it was so grounded mere weeks ago. We'll love the wee thing ferociously, becoming the parent we couldn't imagine we could become before she was ours, and wake up eager to be Mommy and Daddy again today.
Her end of the pact is simply this: Outlive us. Outlive us.
The unspoken first rule for every baby is that she is to go on living long after her parents are gone. She is to be the harbinger of the customs, the sayings, the love of her family, well beyond the day that we die. No matter what else she does, what other joys or griefs she brings to her family, her end of the pact will be upheld so long as she goes on living.
When the pact is broken, hearts break. So when I read the story of this little girl, Madeline Alice Spohr, I wept for her parents. I called home to check on Violet.
I think of her parents during Violet's baths and during her dinner, when she is playing and especially when we go to sleep. I think of the incredible emptiness I felt for months after my Dad died and can only imagine that emptiness mutated and multiplied when a parent loses a child and not the other way around. The unspoken pact, the rule of nature, the DNA that was crafted with all intentions being sent on down the line; all gone in an instant. The ache of it all is too much and I only wish there were some way to give this Mommy and Daddy, and all Mommies and Daddies who have lost a baby, a shred of consolation.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Before I got pregnant, I remember my mother telling me that she would not be waiting around at any given time to have grand kids dumped with her. She had a life. Fast-forward to May 12, 2008. Her tune changed a bit. Grammy couldn't stand to have her only granddaughter in daycare--so she gave up the retired life and volunteered to stay with Violet 4 days a week.
The situation has really been perfect in almost every way. First, who could be better to care for my precious daughter than my own mother. If I had to drop off my tiny 12 week old at a daycare center back in August, I think I would have quit my job after my first day back. Second, the time and work that Grammy has put into Violet over the last 8 months has forged a very special relationship between the two of them. That bond is evident whenever Violet sees her Grammy and I think these formative months Vi has spent in my Mom's arms will keep them linked in a special way forever. Very cool for Violet, especially in this day and age when so many families are spread out across the country and the only time kids see their grandparents is the week between Christmas and New Year's.
It is also pretty cool for my Mom to have such a close tie to her only granddaughter. Our family has had so much loss in the last 2 years with my Granny's death following my Dad's passing by only a year; I think Mom needed a new itty-bitty to remind her of the wonder surrounding the beginning of a person. After holding her husband and mother's hands as they struggled out of this life, I'm sure holding Violet's hand as she huffs and puffs through her first steps as a toddler is a welcome change.
The only problem with relying on only my Mom to watch Violet is that when she's sick, Shawn and I are scrambling to find an alternative baby watcher so we can both make it to work. Barb was down with pneumonia for two weeks this month and Shawn and I were making phone calls to family and friends each evening, trying to patch together a plan for Violet's care for the next day.
Lucky for us, my sister-in-law Aly and my brother Jeff were both in a position to pinch hit and did so frequently during Grammy's illness. Aly has two little guys of her own, Jack age 3, and Charlie, age 9 months, and I suspect she felt some sympathy for Octomom when I repeatedly showed up to add my 11 month old to her already busy household. She grinned and bore it beautifully, however, and actually had me almost believing her when she said 3 babies aren't any more work than 2.
Uncle Jeff, Violet's godfather, also stepped up to the plate to do some babysitting in our time of need. Talk about a crash course in babies, Jeff learned the ins and outs of diapering, the importance of dicing food in chunks smaller than babies' windpipe, and how to socialize with other mommies at Kindermusik all in 2 weeks. Violet learned that ham and bacon together make a delicious meal.
Jen, my BFF, also spent her day off tending Violet. Her 2 and a half year old Avery helped out quite a bit, I understand! Because of the generosity of all these people, Shawn and I were both able to keep our jobs. And it is these people, relation of blood and marriage, people I've chosen to surround myself with and those who were chosen for me, who tie me to Indianapolis and the Midwest. They are the reasons Shawn and I want to bring Violet up here and no where else.