“Can’t I just take a shower?”
At some point in you’re parenting life, you’re going to have to choose between taking a much-desired shower or tending to your baby crying in a crib or cradle. I can also clearly remember when the miasma of a fouled diaper overwhelmed my fresh pot of morning coffee when all I needed was a cup. A sip! And six years later it all came back when I received a call from my friend John. John was a university chum two years my junior, and had semi-charmed kind of life. John had the cool family, great game (thinking back to college mindset) and this subtle magnetism that was natural. As were catching up and I could tell this wasn’t going to be routine turkey, however.
John’s long time partner and love was unexpectedly, nearly inconceivably pregnant.
I know this because John had a vasectomy party just after college, before joining the Navy. I was there for the cake. The doctor tested his juicer and it was active. ‘So what do your parents think?’
‘I haven’t told anyone yet. Just you.’ I was one of the few friends he had with kinds and some miles outside of the toddler years. Naturally, I’m pretty quiet, so I asked him if he wanted advice, comfort, or distraction? ‘Yes’. He laughed.
I only tackled the last two. A baby during COVID-19 was tough enough, let alone an unexpected one. ‘You want advice, give me a week.’ I just wasn’t prepared to draw on my memories and formulate a baby rearing thesis better than any book or blog that already existed. And we’d already spent a half hour pulling him out of the abyss of fear.
A week went by and I called him up as promised. ‘First sonogram was great man, but it just looked like a cashew or something in the twilight zone.’ He said it light hearted, and in a much better place. Acceptance and, I think, happiness.
‘Yeah. The first sonogram looks like a 1950’s hurricane map. So what advice did you get this week?’
‘I’ve had way too many people tell me too much. I don’t remember anything. And there is so many mixed messages and I donno man… half of it doesn’t make sense, hypocritical.’
‘Well you’re getting just one line from me. Just one.’ And that he could take. I reiterated that he and his partner should accomplish whatever adventures they’d wanted to finish, as much as anyone could during a pandemic, because, as I’d stated before, ‘…at some point in you’re parenting life, you’re going to have to choose between taking a much-desired shower or tending to your baby crying in a cradle. You’re going to pick the baby no matter how bad you want that shower, and that little test will be the easiest decision of your day.’
The other end of the line was quiet for a moment. ‘No one has put it that way yet. That uh, makes sense. A lot of sense. No decision I make will be easy. And they all said everything takes 10 times as long.’
‘Right. Most decisions you make from now on will have layers, when before, it was just you. And yeah, everything takes a while, so I did a few easy things in parallel. It really helped.’ I’d explained that I never had time for little things, like filling up the car with gas, cleaning the car, or listening to the radio. At night my daughter would fall asleep pretty quickly on a car ride so a couple times a week at night I blended all those things into a loop; a nighttime carwash, gas up, quiet radio session and she would fall sleep. Id’ wash my hands from the work, pull her from the car seat into the crib and crashed out.
‘Sometimes you also can’t shower because you’re just too damn tired. That’s when you need a babysitter.’
John laughed. He gets it. Baby Olivia is due in August.