A couple months ago, when I was pregnant and very hungry, I was rooting through my mother’s cookbooks looking for something good to make. I came across a vegetarian cookbook called “Laurel’s Kitchen.” My mom is not a vegetarian, but she used to be something of a hippie, and I have memories of tofu snacks and eggplant loaf. One of the authors, Carol Flinders, wrote a lovely prologue to the cookbook. I can’t remember what it had to do with food, but in one part she talks about nursing your baby. The beautiful passage struck me so much that I wrote it down in my little book of memorable quotes. “You nurse him or her because there’s no question today that it’s the best possible start you could give your child. At first, all the sitting still and rocking might send you into paroxysms of restlessness. But then something in you gives way, relaxes, and your very reckoning of time alters. The present moment takes on an amazing luminosity.”
When I had my baby I found this was so true. At first, I couldn’t stand it. It took me twice as long to get anything done in a day, because I spent half the day nursing my baby. Of course I loved nursing, but all the other things I had to do, like the baby’s paperwork, the letters and cards to reply to, phone-calls to relatives, my writing, hobbies, volunteer work, cooking, exercise, and not to mention laundry and dishes, would pile up. I began to notice a change after I slowed down my pace to the pace of my baby. I relaxed. Instead of feeling like a waste of precious time, the present moment seemed full of drama, humor, and amazing beauty. Each moment became significant. Our house is the farthest possible point from any useful commodity in town. It is quite an expedition to get to the grocery store, the second-hand book store, the bank, the library, or my favorite thrift store.
Since my husband takes the car to work, I make a great trek almost every day with my baby, William. William is four months old and likes anything that includes vibrations. It is our favorite part of the day. We pack up our carriage with blankets of all kinds—a thin blanket for a windbreaker, a warm blanket in case it gets cold, a blanket to cushion baby’s head, blankets for cleaning up wet messes. The blankets are also padding, as the road is rough in spots and I like to go fast. We have a mighty, rubber-treaded, three-wheeled carriage, which we invested in for this very purpose. We also need a water bottle, something for William to chew, a diaper bag, my purse, a sweater in case the weather changes, and some apples. It’s like the Peary expedition to the North Pole. Along the way, Baby and I chatter in a friendly, casual way. I tell the baby about what we need to buy and the top price I’m willing to pay, and what I’m going to make for supper. He chatters to me in a gibberish about leaves and squirrels and trucks.
Along the way we greet our favorite street people. There is the traffic man, who wears an orange safety vest with a yellow x. The city didn’t hire him, but he stops traffic throughout town by standing in the middle of the road and holding up his hand, which is a nuisance to drivers. He is severe with drivers, but interested in babies. He always wants to know what William’s name is and he stops traffic for us. There is the singing window-washer, who doesn’t actually wash windows, but holds a squeegee and sings a long song with the refrain, “Over the mountains and the sea jingle bells, jingle bells She’ll be coming round the mountain We wish you a merry New Year We wish you a merry New Year In the dale.” He enjoys a local reputation and the town takes good care of him. William and I never stop to listen, because it makes him uncomfortable to be looked at. We sometimes give him coins as we pass. If we are downtown, we stop in front of the soap store, where a lady makes exquisite hand-made soaps. I can’t afford to buy anything here, but it’s a tradition for William and I to stop on the sidewalk and take a deep breath of the gorgeous fragrance of lavender, honey, and peppermint that wafts into the street.
The baby usually falls asleep on these hikes, so when we get home, he’s ready to play. I put him down on his tummy for a few minutes, because Canada Health warned me that it’s necessary for his development. He hates being on his tummy, so I turn him onto his back after a few minutes. While he plays with his toes or his stuffed monkey, I start my work. He’s always in sight, and I come around every few minutes to chat or bounce him, or change his diaper. This is the trickiest part of the day. I have to think of clever strategies to fit my work in. Time management has never been one of my talents. If anyone had told me two years ago that I would be dividing my time between singing to my baby, nursing him, changing his diapers, washing his diapers, going for long walks with him, and writing articles about him, I would have laughed it to scorn. Now that I have a baby, I can’t imagine doing anything else. What used to be so frustrating has become a joy. We have to do what is right in order to be whole and happy, and sometimes we have to make sacrifices. One of my small sacrifices is to live quietly with a little baby. But the everyday sacrifices that we make, and the ordinary work that we do, even the quietest work, like nursing a baby and taking him for walks, becomes beautiful by the state of mind we bring to it. I can honestly say that I’ve never been happier in my life. I wouldn’t trade these days with my baby for anything.