Some people are just born to be parents. They fall effortlessly into the parenting routine as though they’ve been doing it all of their lives. The feeding, burping, diaper changing, bathing, and getting these tiny people dressed in the itsy bitsy, impossible onesies with buttons, zippers and flaps out the wazoo can be unbelievably overwhelming. Yet some of these super-parents seem to perform these daily obstacles as easily as Mary Lou Retton doing a cartwheel.
I was not one of these people. I was thirty-three years old when Gracee June was born, and since she is my only biological child, I had never tackled even one of these parental duties before March 29, 2013. I was lost. Scared. Confused. You name it, I didn’t know how to do it. But as time went on, I changed countless diapers and made hundreds of bottles, and soon I became a fairly able-bodied caregiver for my little munchkin. But it wasn’t without some
major speed bumps. There were days when I questioned who had signed off on me becoming a legal guardian of even a dog, much less a human.
One such fateful day occurred on May 16, not long after Gracee arrived. I relive the whole scene in my mind often. It was the Thursday after Mother’s Day, and for my wife, April’s, special day I had bought her a spa package at a local salon. She was to be pampered with a manicure, pedicure, and massage. The whole works. Gracee was six weeks old, and for the very first time I was going to keep her at home, all by myself. I was nervous but oddly confident that I had this under control.
One of the cool things about having this little mini-me is the amazing connection that we have. I have always felt that I could look at her face and know what she was thinking. Like we are on some other level. So, on this special first day together, we began having a conversation. We were lying on the couch, and she looked at me with questioning eyes and said, “Hey Daddy, where’s mama?” And I said to her, “Well, she’s getting her Queen for the Day spa treatment that you and your sisters got her for Mother’s Day.” Gracee then replied, “Oh, well that’s cool. Thank you for watching me today while she goes and does that. She really deserves it. Oh, and Daddy? There’s just one more thing that I wanted to say to you.” And then she projectile vomited straight up into the air.
It was astonishing, like a puke fountain at the Bellagio in Vegas. It covered her face, and hair, and eyes. It was in her ears, all over her clothes, and all over my clothes and arms. It’s pretty amazing that she puked about a gallon, because she only ate four ounces. So then she said, “Hey Daddy? I’ve kind of got puke all over everything and everywhere.” And then I said, “Holy moley!” At this point, I jumped up and got her to the bedroom to start getting the puke off her face and hair.
I took her clothes off, wrapped her up and headed to the kitchen for our first solo bath. I’d seen her do it dozens of times. So I put her down on the towel on the counter, and she was all happy and smiley because, hey, everyone loves a bath!
I started clearing our two older daughters’ breakfast dishes out of the sink, while I held my hand on her belly so she wouldn’t roll off the counter. She then said, “Hey Daddy, what’s this little plastic rack with all my bottles on it? I think I’ll throw it.” And being a little girl of her word, she then threw the bottle rack that was covered in bottles and nipples, sending them loudly tumbling to the floor. She then said, “Hey Daddy, all those bottles flying around and banging off the tile floor for no apparent reason just scared me really bad, so I’m going to scream real loud now, for a while.” I pleaded with her, “No baby, don’t scream, I’m just trying to get the water to the right temperature for you. Too cold. Nope, too hot. There we go, just right.”
Once the water was dialed to the right temperature, the diaper came off, and I picked her up. But then, at the last second, I decided that the water was a tad too warm, so I held on to her, and tried to cool it down just a bit. Right then, Gracee said, “Hey Daddy? I’ve really got to pee.” And then she peed all over my t-shirt and belly. I admit, I screamed a little, not too unlike our ten-year-old Emma when she sees a spider. I quickly laid her down into her little bath chair thingy, and started running the warm water over her. She smiled so pretty at me, and then said, “Daddy, I LOVE baths. They make me so relaxed. I think I’ll go ahead and make a poop.” The eyebrows turned red and her face took on a look of total concentration, which are the telltale signs that it’s go time. OH. NO. I’ll admit to you now that I panicked a little bit. I turned around and grabbed the diaper that I’d just taken off of her, and slid it under her butt. Unfortunately, it was just a moment too late.
Ok. There was poop in the kitchen sink. I was going to have to burn the house down. But first, I had to finish what I’d started with cleaning this baby. She looked up at me with a very satisfied face and said, “Daddy, I feel so much better.” I said, “I’m glad, honey. I’m really happy for you.” But right at that particular moment, I was much more concerned with some other more important things.
First, I picked the baby up out of the sink and cleaned the unholy deposit out of it that she had left for me. I had to give it a thorough cleaning. I mean, really thorough. Once that was done, back into the bath we went.
Why in the world were there three different kinds of baby soaps by the sink? I read the instructions to determine what each of them were for, but they all looked exactly the same to me. Just to be safe, we used all three of them. I scrubbed her up really good, being sure to get in all her little baby fat rolls. Washed, rinsed, repeated and then we were done. Easy as pie. Gracee looked at me with a loving, toothless grin and said, “Not too bad Daddy, but Mom does it way better.” OK, it wasn’t pretty, I’ll give you that. Admittedly, I kind of panicked under pressure. There were still bottles all over the kitchen floor and puke-covered clothes in the bedroom floor, and undoubtedly there was some puke somewhere on the couch. But we’d survived. No one was hurt. Nothing was broken that couldn’t be fixed. I call that a win. A huge win. Then, with a smug look of victory on my face, I looked over at the clock on the wall and realized that April had only been gone thirty minutes. She’d be gone for another three and a half hours.