Claire Dobue: We all held hands over bath time

At their end-of-summer family barbecue, my husband and I got to spend time away from the guests and gadgets on the back patio, enjoying the afternoon together. The conversation seemed heavy, heavy. There was just one small detail to address—my two-month-old, Bailey.

“Bailey is growing rapidly,” we told the people at the barbeque. “She’s out of the crib, and it is a source of discomfort for her. It’s not easy having a kid when the diaper grows out of place.”

They applauded. Our families may not know each other, but this is the sort of thing that bond families together.

We sighed, maybe a little too heavily.

“It’s not the same without her here,” I told the mother of the 8-month-old baby at the table.

“There’s always children around when you’re having dinner with the grownups,” she said, genuinely concerned for Bailey’s situation.

“Not all babies have to be in the crib,” I said. “Sometimes kids like to come to our house.”

“And she still belongs in the crib,” the 8-month-old dad said.

“Still.” We all nodded, some slightly in tears.

The burden of caring for a child in the midst of daily life, from early infancy through adolescence, builds gradually over time, but affects every aspect of the family, and often the person who provides for that child’s needs.

Getting to know a child the first few months is important, but such intimacy is to be expected. That conversation with the mom who’s had four kids proves they will be good parents. There’s not as much signifce as she expected, though, when a third child comes along. There were times when I found that we, the girl who wanted only to sleep, were getting all the sleep. Even at my husband’s age, when I thought I knew where to find the nap-inducing blue dye, it’s weird having such a demanding baby.

More mid-life crisis? Nothing like that, though. My husband and I are going to be gone from Bailey soon, and I had anticipated in the last month or so that being out of her home would be hard.

I’m not getting ready to see our daughter off, though. People worry about what will happen to you after you leave, and my husband and I don’t really have an answer. Will she be well adjusted in her new home? There have been some adult friendships that have been lost because of adult kids, and I know they are hard. It’s okay to be worried.

Fortunately, I’m getting the help I need from a team of therapists and health care professionals who are happy to take Bailey to the hospital when she’s born. I will have to say goodbye for a while, but I can count on my family to be there for me and all the new children they’ll bring into our lives. There is something to be said for a community of people who care for each other, people who’ve already invested some of their time in the unknown of parenting.

As the barbeque bell rang, our family dinner ended and we hurried away. It was not a particularly happy time, but it was still a good thing to be talking about it. A small thing that would be healing for our family down the road.

This piece originally appeared on “The Takeaway,” a lifestyle segment on WAMU 90.7FM.

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