Dog Vs. Baby. Baby wins every time.
I have done the unthinkable. I have abandoned my dog. She lay in her bed, her snout on the pillowed edge, her nose hanging over, her hound eyes expertly wrinkled into disappointment and despair. Hounds look this way most of the time, but she can really exaggerate it. She whines, looking up at me longingly.
I put on my pink running sneakers, new in the past few months, as I have made a promise to myself. The minute the laces start tightening, she is up, shaking off the doldrums, panting, jiggling the jingly things on her chain, aroused and expectant for the run she knows is to come, as it always did in the past after those laces were tightened. Alas, she will be left behind. Abandoned to the Baby Jogger, a tripod off-road thing with wide knobby wheels, perfect for me and him, too much to add a dog to the mix. Balance is everything.
She was my baby and she’d curl up in my bed beside me, not waking till I woke, snuggling her long fur-red body against my lonely one. Then HE came, the man, the love and he took up so much room, she slept on the floor, in her own bed, whining at the injustice.
And now this. The baby. I have read of this abandonment. I swore I’d never be that mother. But I have become that mother. The dog is no longer a canine facsimile of a nurtured child. The dog is now a dog. May as well throw her in the garage and put a doghouse out in the yard.
I call Huck Flo. I call Flo Huck. My mother would do this with the four of us, a string of a one named thing to at least catch which one of us was in motion to be stopped: “Amyleemattdanny!” Now I do it with the dog and the baby. And I mix genders, “here good boy” to the dog, who is a girl. “Cmon girl” to the boy who is, well, a boy.
13 months. He’s waking in the middle of the night again. Teething, I suspect. But last night blood curdling screams out of the monitor and we shot up in bed and Jamey went to him. I fell back into the soft pillow, barely aware of the time, the dark, the sounds, as if underwater. I woke again at 5:30am with a toddler perched on my chest, smiling and cooing, ducking his nose into my breast like that cuckoo doll that dips it’s red top-hatted head into water.
We are, again, sleepwakewalking, forgetting words, snapping at each other for silly things. Overreacting, overtired. We are, it seems, back at the beginning. Just an endless wheel again of routines we have carved being upended by a growth spurt some app has explained. Neurobiological changes each month. I followed these like astrology at first. I’ve abandoned all of my apps now to an inner guidance of “I’ll figure it out if I need to.” Maybe it’s a built confidence after a year of keeping him alive and well. I’ve figured it out already. I steered the ship through the shallows and we all survived.
I think about starting a new business for new mothers. What would I have needed? It would have been nice to have a mobile truck come by, like a Mommy Wagon, to take over for an hour, force me to nap, take a bath. To clean our bedroom, the bathroom, deliver us some healthy food, but not gross healthy, yummy healthy. Take me to yoga. Bring yoga to me. A Mommy Wagon that delivered me a Lactation Consultant, a real one, a kind one, who would check in on me after a week of being home and bring me Lanolin. Or, a service for mothers that would be a nursery I could have dropped off Huck while I went to yoga for an hour or 90 minutes, as I could never figure that one out. I just started back after 13 months, because I’ve finally gotten the rhythm of the Mommy’s Day Out schedule.
What if the Mommy Wagon brought information on Low Cost Childcare, Mommy’s Day Out Programs that are nearby, places that offer free childcare, like the YMCA where you can drop your baby off for an hour and go sit in the sauna, or just check your laptop on the couch. No need to even break a sweat. What if the Mommy Wagon was also a food truck and a place to register to vote or a free dental clinic for mother’s who forget to get their teeth cleaned within the first year of their child’s life. The Mommy Wagon would for sure be stocked with Diapers and Wipes and bananas.
I think of angels that showed up in my life, people from my faraway past that sent swaddles unasked for that worked! Or the college friend turned Mommy author who sent a book on parenting. The emails of lists of things to pack when flying with a baby. The woman who just did my registry for me because she knew what I’d need and what was bullshit. I think of the generosity of my older parents showing up 3 days before Huck was born to get my mind off things and then stayed at our house while we stayed at the hospital for 3 days after, my mother cooking casseroles and freezing them for us and cleaning our house, my father making an organized list of all of the trees on our property and what state of health they were in. And then, graciously leaving after 2 days to leave us with our baby alone.
I think of the friend who sent us a gift certificate for one of those meal services we could choose a weeks’ worth of food from. I think of the people who stopped by and left after a half hour (Jamey called them “Professionals”).
My parent’s in-law who drive 2 hours to come visit, to take Huck when I need to work, which means I have to travel away for a few days, and they happily take him to their river home which he loves and they love having him.
I also think of the first smile, the first sound, the first time he opened my eyes and really saw me and his face lit up, his first roll over, his first crawl, his first step, his first walk down the hallway.
We went to a friends’ 1st birthday party a few years back and I remember thinking “Oh this is a lot for a 1 year old. We don’t need to do this.” And I swore I’d keep it to just my parents who were flying into town and Jamey’s family who are in Tennessee. But the closer we got, the more people I wanted surrounding us to celebrate Huck’s first birthday. The more people I wanted to show off that we kept him alive. The more people I wanted to fill our home with warmth and celebration like it felt the day after he arrived when our friends and family spilled into the hospital room overjoyed to meet our new son. Huck smashed his hand through the cake and then smeared the blue icing across his face, his first taste of sugar. Then Kira just put her hands in the cake and grabbed the corner and Megan took a chunk out of the center and before you knew it, we were all just hand-eating the cake, smearing it on our faces and laughing in joy.
The dog even licked the blue icing off the wood floors and when Huck got out of the high chair and wobbled around like a little drunk munchkin, Flo licked his face and Huck squealed with delight. They are becoming friends, dog and boy. Flo has decided Huck can stay and Huck loves to stumble over to Flo’s bed, lay down in it and curl up like a puppy.
I never thought I’d have a family. I figured I’d grow old with a dog. Here I am, with a husband, a dog, a baby and a house with my name on it. And although to many people this is the no-big-deal normal life, to me this is gold. To me this is ‘making it’. This was harder fought for than any spotlight applause I’ve ever received.
Dog vs. Baby. I win.