i thought that i would have fewer doubts the second time around, and largely i do. it is normal for her to be rolling over at 3 months and normal for her not to be rolling over, normal for her to be preoccupied with fans and lights, normal for her to make lots of sounds some days and not as much the next.
but is it normal for her to sound like she’s choking from time to time after a feeding, even when she’s upright in the carrier? or is she getting sick? and is it normal that a baby with reflux only wants to sleep on top of me on her belly, not in an inclined rock and play and not in an inclined mamaroo and not in a crib with a wedge or elevated legs and certainly not in a dock-a-tot propped up with towels or flat on the bed? i have resigned myself to letting her sleep this way, despite my anxiety, mostly because it happens without my consent at 2 a.m.
and how is her head still developing a somewhat flat spot, when she spends all of her naps strapped to my chest in a carrier and all of her nights on her belly? and what the fuck am i eating that’s upsetting her stomach so much — or is it just structural, nothing to do with the cow’s milk protein or the soy or the wheat or the eggs or the acidic fruit.
and so we are muddling along.
elena has a fever, horrid cough, constantly dripping nose, even though we only leave the house once or twice a week and so have very few opportunities to catch anything, much less this nasty virus. i was certain it would be the flu, and as we waited for the test results to come in i kept getting alerts on my phone about how many children have now died from the flu. she doesn’t have the flu, but a “flu-like virus,” apparently, and i’m still living in terror that Lila will catch it too, or that it will settle into Elena’s lungs. after all, two years old is mature but not that mature. we had been working on weaning, but now i throw myself into nursing with gusto, and elena is surprised that i no longer reject her requests. my milk has never seemed to guard any of us, but at least it’s some liquid she’s willing to drink. some nursing mothers seem to think their milk is ambrosia, but to me it’s just another thing my body can’t do right. how are we always, always sick.
the days pass by with slow misery, even though i know these should be the best days of my life. it seems that they’re both perpetually facing “emergencies” at the same time, in need of a diaper change or help with the potty at the same moment, needing lunch or playtime at the same time. it feels like one or the other is always being neglected, and that i’m neglected most of all. i hardly think of myself as a “self,” just a body making it through the day so we can hopefully make it through another.
and isn’t that how the majority of people around the world live, anyway, so i’m not sure why it seems like such deprivation. i suppose because i’ve known otherwise — days filled with reading, writing, grading, discussing, coming and going, exercising, emailing, texting, wasting time, showers, shopping, peeing in private and without a little human strapped to my belly.
it all feels like too much, and my body feels like too much: too large, too much milk, too needy. why do you need so much food and water, body? don’t you see that we don’t have time for you any more? and what about you, mind? what are you complaining about? don’t you see that there’s a baby here who just shat through her diaper and her onesie?there’s no time for you right now, you leech, unless you’re spinning your theories of what travesties will befall us all next; time will always be made for those.
elena’s cough stabs through like an ice pick. i wish i could make her more comfortable. Lila looks at me with red-rimmed eyes and bangs her head, again and again, against my chest, looking for milk. this is how we pound out the seconds of our days.