Somewhere a Baby Cries

Somewhere an owl hoots in the dark, moon sinks in a slant slicing across the corner of my window beyond a barricade of maple branches. And I am exhausted. How do single moms, double moms, whole platoons of moms (occasionally plus dads) live through the constant demands of infanthood? How can one small child be so consuming of attention, energy and care? I’d forgotten how constant a baby is–compared to, say, a dog that you can ignore in good conscience, bribe with a piece of kibble or put in the pen and let him bark.

As of yesterday, we’re keeping Taryn (seven months) and Abby (seven years) for four days while their parents visiting from South Dakota attend a wedding in Charlotte. Abby of course has the creek, the dog, and her own imagination to entertain her. I’ll be going out with her later this morning to see how many wildflowers we can find.

But the addition of little Taryn throws these granddaughterly visits into another light entirely.

Ann and I had forgotten 1) how much a baby can eat and how often and with demand this with such urgency; 2) how no matter where you put the baby on the thrice-cleaned floor she will immediately find a piece of bark for her mouth and crawl inexorably toward the dog’s water bowl; 3) about throwing up; and 4) about what happens in a short time to all those strained carrots, a transmogrification that requires at least six hands and a dozen baby wipes to contain–and we also remembered to NOT attempt this Superfund cleanup on the grandparent’s bedspread–ever!

Taryn nodded off to sleep in my (aching) arms on a walk back down the logging road at dusk last night. Wonderful. I laid her in the bed we have for her (a play pen–not ideal body mechanics as the sides don’t let down and lifting and lowering become a major back risk) and she stayed asleep–for ten minutes, and woke up crying. More milk, and no more crying. Repeat this cycle twice more.  She woke up around 9 (by which time we were zombies) and wanted to play which at that point meant crawling over the moribund bodies of Granny Annie and Dumpa near-lifeless in bed. She was determined to stick her pacifier in my mouth.

When she woke up at 1:30, she went immediately to sleep after 3 more ounces of formula. Because Ann got the notion the baby was cold (it was 71 inside–I went and looked) she insisted the baby sleep between us under the covers. I dare not move all night long for the fear of waking her up. I really should have moved. I feel like lead pipe wobble-head doll.

Sometimes they just ain’t enough coffee. Yes, later I’ll have pictures.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Oh my! How can a baby be so much trouble, and yet so much fun to remember, when it’s all over?

    I don’t have grandkids, but your baby night, reminds me of the first few nights with a new puppy, that cries every few minutes and needs to be taken outside every hour on the hour.