You’ve got the soiled diapers. The pee leaks. The clothing stain removals done by hand. There are the drippy-nose booger wipe ups, food-on-the-floor clean ups and the unexpected spit-ups that always seem to aim straight for your hair.
When dissecting the day-to-day tasks of motherhood, it is a rather unglamorous scene indeed.
To top it all off, there is there is another icky intruder, albeit one entirely unrelated to motherhood.
Oh yes, you’ve met them before and they are dirty, sneaky and stubborn. I am talking here about dust bunnies.
Make that the large army of dust bunnies that regularly infiltrate the corners of our home and hide under the tables and beds. I am convinced that the really bold bunnies are flat-out mocking me by greeting me at the door when I come home.
Under the right circumstances, I actually don’t mind cleaning (the right circumstances being when I am not overwhelmed by the zillion other glamour-free tasks that have wound up on my plate).
The last thing I want to do when our baby is finally napping is put on grubby clothes (OK, make that grubbier clothes) so that I can sweep, mop, dust, and scrub sinks and toilets.
That said, my hubby and I have good intentions. We talk a good game about our plans to tackle the muck, but then we get caught up in home renovations, grocery shopping, making meals, looking after our ever-shedding dog Maggie and then — oops — you guessed it, cleaning falls right off the to-do list.
The state of our breeding dust bunnies became very apparent when we put our baby in a hilarious mop-style onesie, given to us by friends of ours. With thick strings lining his arms and legs, he looked very much like a mop with a face as he crawled around the kitchen.
The next morning when I collected him from his crib, my eyes turned red and I began sneezing uncontrollably. Turns out, the sleeper actually works and had stored a ton of allergy-igniting dust in its stringy bits.
With our son now confidently cruising all over the house, the bunnies simply had to go. We’ve had to admit that a) We don’t want to spend our free time armed with vacuums and brooms b) Our son has become a rather efficient dust collector and c) Turning our baby into a ‘mop’ reeks just a bit too much of child labour
We knew what needed to be done. No, not clean. Outsource, of course.
Finally, we hired a pro. We’ve booked her twice a month and it’s heaven. While we do our part to keep things polished between visits, the stress of built-up crumbs, toilet muck, and clusters of dust bunnies is gone.
Now when I walk into a freshly cleaned house, I feel light and relaxed, like I’ve just enjoyed an afternoon at the spa. And maybe I will. You know, with all the free time I now have on my hands.
It started with a light brush of my hair. Another time, it was a tickle across my hand. Then it was the feeling of fingertips against my cheek and later a light tap on the back of my arm. That last time had startled me. I had been nursing our baby alone in the dark.
Soon after the birth of our son, strange things started happening. I’d be holding our newborn and I’d feel my husband touch my shoulder and I’d turn to smile at him. Only, he wasn’t there.
About a half dozen times this happened. A clear, unmistakable sensation against my skin and then nothing — or, rather, no one — was there.
I didn’t find it troubling because whatever it was it was most certainly gentle.
It has been a few months since I experienced a random shoulder tapping and I’d forgotten about it until two weeks ago when, out of nowhere, our baby had a bizarre laughing fit. He is a baby who loves playing and giggling, but this time was different.
A friend was over for a visit when he suddenly turned his head, stared down the hallway and started laughing hysterically at, well, nothing.
He would stop for a moment, keeping staring and then he’d bust a gut laughing again. This went on for about 10 minutes. Laugh, pause and laugh again. I couldn’t snap his attention away. Whatever was holding his interest was far too hilarious.
“OK, I am freaked out,” my friend said.
I tried to act like I wasn’t, but it was alarming and unexplainable.
Later that night, I told my husband about our son’s odd behavior.
“It was your mom,” he said, thoughtfully.
It’s a wonderful and heartwarming idea, if only we believed in supernatural forces. That, however, is a far stretch for us. We tend to believe in things that can be proven or disproven with science, but there was a small part of me that had wondered the same thing a few months back when I felt something touching my skin.
Now watching our son enjoying the same belly aching laugh I used to share with my mom made me wonder if maybe, just maybe, she was sometimes still here with us.
My mom and I laughed together so hard our cheeks would hurt and tears would be streaming from our eyes. We would desperately try to catch our breath.
She passed away in 1997 and I know, without a doubt, she would’ve given anything to be able to be with me at this stage of my life navigating new motherhood and for the chance to spoil and love her only grandchild.
But, even though she can’t be, and even though for me science trumps otherworldly ideas, I am reminded of her everyday.
When I hear our sweet baby boy’s joyful and infectious laugh, without a doubt she's there. My mom. Exactly how I remember her.
Parenthood is about unconditional love, fun and crazy amounts of laughter. It’s also very much about a four-letter word that begins with f.
Fear. Make that the worst fear you’ll ever know.
I met fear the other day and it was raw and terrifying and left me feeling delicate, shaky and uncertain for hours.
It came in the way of the staircase leading down to the basement playroom.
My husband and I had just finished dinner and were marveling at what a great little crawler our baby has become. Then, in a New York second, our little guy made a sharp turn and his small hands were gripping the edge of the staircase.
Enter fear — the kind of fear that grabs your heart like a wild animal and drags it mercilessly down to the pit of your stomach. It's scarier than any nightmare you've ever had or horror film that has kept you awake gripping your sheets wide-eyed in the darkness.
Adrenaline races through my body, my heart pumps hard inside my chest, and I don’t have time to think. Instinct takes over and I race toward him with gazelle speed and pluck him up.
He is safe. He is fine. He wears a big smile and his two teeth poke out from his pink bottom gums. He doesn’t sense the fear that's surging through me, but I am shaking. My eyes are burning as ‘what ifs?’ flood my brain.
What if I hadn’t reached him in time? What if he’d toppled down? What if we’d failed at our jobs as parents — at the single most important part of it — to keep our boy safe?
My body shudders as worst-case scenarios zigzag through my mind like an errant marble in a pinball machine.
We are not yet accustomed to, or fully prepared for, our baby’s new cruising skills.
One day he couldn’t get anywhere without us carrying him from point A to B and the next he’s trucking along with speedy precision as if he’s known how to crawl all along.
His world has evolved and the boundaries have stretched. He wants to wander and explore and touch everything. He wants to exercise his newly discovered freedom.
And who can blame him? There is great terrain to discover.
What this means is our house is becoming home to a rather large number of very unstylish purchases, among them cabinet clips, doorknob covers and, possibly, toilet bowl locks.
We will never be able to turn our backs for a second again. Baby gates will greet him at every turn, and so will pairs of eyeballs as we watch him constantly.
Thank god the kid is cute, I say.