I've been musing on this post since Annika's birthday back in December. I had it in mind to do a sort of Academy Awards Ceremony for all those involved in getting her to her 1st birthday in one piece: "and the award for Most Patient Pediatrician EVER goes to...GRANDPA SCHNEIDER!!!" and so on.
Had the potential for great hilarity. But as the awards piled up (in my mind, you understand), and more and more people needed naming, it seemed to me that really, I had my entire world to thank for getting me through that year. Pretty much daily I relied upon someone's kindness, generosity, patience, tolerance, cell phone ...you name it, I needed it.
This past Friday brought me full circle, right back to considering my 'village' that gets me through.
My friend Jen & I were enjoying the spring sunshine, sitting on my front steps and supervising our fractious non-napping 4 year olds and Annika, toddling through the garden beds. Annika suddenly changed course, steering towards the sidewalk and us. Her Stride Rites caught the edge of the sidewalk wrong, and her fall was stopped only by her chin smacking the edge of a plastic storage box on the walk. In the first nanosecond, it seemed she'd just taken a nasty bump. And then the blood started to flow. And flow. And flow.
Now my first instinct is always "I don't need the ER, do I?? (Could be the 11 years of nationalized medicine in the UK that drilled that into me.) So I staunched the flow, staunching staunching staunching - in the name of all that's holy HOW MUCH BLOOD CAN A ONE YEAR OLD LOSE?!?!? But I totally kept my cool.
Second instinct is always to call afore-mentioned Ever Patient Pediatrician Grandfather. The first phone call had to be abandoned due to Howling Infant Background Interference. The second call, confirming that yes, we could see right through the wound, gave me the answer I was hoping not to hear: Go Directly to ER. Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200. (instead, plan to give them $200!! Yay!)
Four hours and four stitches later, the story has a happy ending. Well, happier than a lot of kids in the ER anyway. She'll be fine, and maybe get a cool scar to brag about later. But her stitches aren't really the point of this story, anyway. (Flash forward 20 years: yes sweetheart, of course Mom was worried. Of course it was scary and I wanted you to be ok. But you were serving a narrative function for me. Isn't that important too??)
The point of the story is all the people who got us through this mini-drama this particular day. There was Jen, who knew immediately where I keep my rags that would be perfect for sopping up blood, who knew to reassure Cecilie that babies can't die from stitches, and who didn't hesitate to offer to babysit while I drove to the ER. There was Betsy, who immediately ran down the street to see if we needed a babysitter, and who offered the critical information that really, the closest ER was hopeless, and I should go to the one the next county over. There was Jen's husband Dave, hero of the hour for the bigger kids, arriving with pizza for dinner (and dad by proxy until Torbjorn could get through traffic). There was my dad, always calm and always able to detach enough to give me the critical information I need. There was the ER doc who knows my dad, and remembered caring for Lars & his croup a mere THREE years ago.
And this is just four hours' worth of parenting. Admittedly, a pretty dramatic four hours, but I simply can't imagine trying to get through parenting without my peeps.
When Annika was born, I was overwhelmed with the outpouring of support offered. Neighbors brought meals, hand-crocheted blankets, offered to watch the big kids, returned Lars when he decided to take off on his own, and one kind soul even took Cecilie to school 3 days a week to make sure that she got to school on time at least 60% of the week. Once in the Target bathroom, another mom (total stranger) held a screaming Annika & waited with the big kids just so I could use the facilities. Another time in Costco an older woman (mom of 3 grown kids, total stranger) offered to push my cart to my car & unload it for me just because she "remembers those days, and people did it for me then!" Speaking of Costco, I've not forgotten the scene we made there last spring, and the friends who helped me that day.
So I haven't even covered someone like my mom, who has been so integral to the daily survival of my brood the million ways she helps go almost unnoticed, or my aunt whose care packages are really sent with all the care in the world. Or Torbjorn's mom, who is willing to stay with us for weeks and help and help and help without even hinting that I should be saving for the kids' therapy. Or a sister in law to call who will tell you "yeah, I'm ready to kill them too."
If I could give advice to any new parent (advice that would be really useful, as opposed to 'sleep when the baby sleeps' [pah!]) it would be this: know your village, know your people, and let them be there for you. The grandparents, the extended family, the neighbors, the friends: let them come, let them be part of your living. For the time will come, hopefully, when you can be an integral part of theirs.
And for all of you, my own Peeps, now its my turn to start giving back, even as you all continue to give. And the Oscar goes to............YOU!