My baby is almost one month old. It’s been a long month in many ways. Now that I’ve been through the first month four times, I also realize that the one-month mark is somewhat of a dangerous tipping point for me. In the immediate postpartum days, I have a burst of energy that comes from no longer being hugely pregnant. There’s the excitement of having a new baby. I also have no expectations, so anything I get done is like a huge win. I wrote an article! I joined a networking group I’d been meaning to. I emailed someone to see if I could send her a galley of my book. Go me!
Then, around now, the expectations start returning. Work generates more work. All of a sudden, I’m trying to turn around edits for someone who needs them by the end of the day while trying to get a fussy baby to nap. I compare myself not to my pregnancy size, but to my pre-pregnancy weight, and feel a bit overwhelmed about how long it might take to get down there. Early morning feedings start catching up with me. I’m bored with sitting around the house, but it’s too cold to do much else.
Fortunately, it will be spring before too long. I’ve also been venturing out without the baby from time to time. Yesterday I went to my 7-year-old’s class to serve as a “banker” for their Valentine’s Day party. They had to “buy” toppings for their cupcakes out of the dollar they each had, and we did not make it easy. Frosting was 27 cents, gummy bears were 5 for 17 cents, some candy hearts were 3 for 11 cents. I would sell you 1 or 2 or 4, but you had to name what would be a fair price and tell me what I owed you as change.
Since the 7-year-old is off school today, I also gave him a reading assignment: the family history my grandfather wrote up many years ago. My grandmother passed away recently, and my 7-year-old has been quite into genealogy of late, so I thought it would be interesting for him to learn this saga. My great-grandfather was very bright but had to leave school at age 11 to care for a flock of sheep (this was in a small village in the north of the Netherlands). It involved getting up at 5 a.m. daily, but this employer provided food, which was good, since his family couldn’t afford to feed him. Indeed, the local principal came to visit his family to see if he could live at home and be tutored so the boy could go on to more education and, per my grandfather’s story, “The answer was — No. They simply could not afford to feed him.”
After this, there was much laboring in the fields of the landowners around there, harvesting grain, digging potatoes and sugar beets. Once he had his own family, my great-grandfather wanted to get out of there and go to America, and when my grandfather was 7 — just like my kid! — they did. They bought second class tickets on the ship into Ellis Island, rather than third class, because my grandfather’s eczema might have caused problems with the medical exam, and apparently there was less scrutiny for people with more expensive tickets. They were allowed in, and made their way to Michigan, and paid off the debt for travel in about a year.
They started off decently in America (for not speaking English or anything) but then the Depression hit. Various family members lost jobs, and crops failed on their farm. My grandfather finished 8th grade and then stopped going to school. His parents needed him on the farm, and he makes it sound like he was happy to be done with school, but he wasn’t really. Eventually, he got into a schedule of working from sun-up to sun-down on the farm and then studying at night. He wound up getting admitted to college without ever going to high school. He went on to seminary and became a preacher. I hadn’t really thought through the dates that my father and his siblings were born, but my grandmother had 4 children in just slightly over 5 years. That certainly puts my 7.67 years into perspective!
I was thinking that this could be a useful story for my son to read. Next time he complains about going to school (where he gets to decorate cupcakes!), or his food, I could say “Hey, you could be getting up at 5 a.m. to tend a flock of sheep so you can eat!” Actually, when I start feeling all woe-is-me nursing a baby at 5 a.m., this might be a useful thought for me as well.
Photo: Valentine’s Day donuts. Much nicer than tending sheep at 5 a.m.