I hope my daughter survives me.
Last weekend, as we were rushing about getting ready to visit her grandmother’s house, I got a little over-zealous on her grooming. As my four-month old daughter lay on her play mat in only her diaper, I tried cutting her nails. Instead, I lopped off the tiny fingertip on her pinkie. The gush of blood was nothing short of a horror film. I called 911 in a panic.
When the two befuddled paramedics arrived almost 15 minutes later (they were given the wrong address), my daughter was sleeping in my arms and I needed a good, stiff drink. They were kind to me, even though the injury was much milder than I originally feared. One of them, an older woman who told me she was also a mother, reassured me. “Honey, don’t feel bad. I’d have called us, too.” She fashioned a tiny piece of gauze and tape into a bandage which immediately fell off when they left. If only my guilt would slough off so easily.
Since becoming a single a mom this past May, my life, like my bedroom, is no longer my own. I am also responsible for another life now and I’m beginning to see just how fragile that life is. Even if babies are as resilient as everyone tells me they are, I am seeing just how much I need to learn to bounce back from mishaps like inadvertently cutting my child’s tiny fingers.
A strange new world
It helps that her father is in the picture even if he is with a woman I don’t really like. I wasn’t prepared to meet the girl he was dating and thanks to some text message mix-ups, it happened sooner than I’d have liked. I might have liked her better if she didn’t sit behind my daughter’s father as he was holding our baby and wrap her legs around him like some hormonally-charged teenager. It would have helped even more if she hadn’t then put her dirty hands on my daughter’s lips and rip a tender piece of dry skin dangling in the middle of her mouth (she didn’t bother washing her hands or using sanitizer when she came into my place). Lately, it’s the fact that my daughter’s father has shown up covered in hickeys like he’s being marked. For the record, I am not interested in a romantic relationship with him, but his 23-year-old girlfriend seems to think I am.
I confronted him in an e-mail about why I didn’t care for his girlfriend and why I didn’t want her coming on his visits. I don’t care if he sees her, but I do care who sees my daughter. It’s why I defriended the girlfriend and her mother from my Facebook account. They had both latched onto me shortly after learning of mine and my daughter’s existence. At first I didn’t think anything strange about it because I have so little to hide. Then they started forcing their way into my life in ways I wasn’t quite ready for. Like the girlfriend’s mother posting pictures of my daughter all over her Facebook page and acting as if she was her grandmother. She had not yet even met my daughter or me. I decided enough was enough. Besides, my daughter shouldn’t have to compete for her father’s attention when she only sees him twice a week at best, right?
My daughter’s father’s family has been much easier to handle. They’ve welcomed their new addition with open, loving arms. Her grandmother has become a delightful friend and my daughter’s aunt and uncle adore her. Just last weekend, she finally met her grandfather who took to her immediately. Since my parents are passed away and my own siblings live so far away, it means the world to me to have a family here now. They are not perfect, but they are perfect to my kid and me. That’s all that matters. I continue to count my blessings with this baby even though I know I won’t always get to control everyone she meets.
When fantasy meets reality
Perhaps the hardest part of my life lately has been that fine balancing act of finances. My unemployment payments just ran out and I’m still only working part-time. My daughter’s father has been buying formula and diapers as well covering half her daycare expenses, but it isn’t enough. My job is wonderful but too far from home and the pay only covers my rent. I spent two hours in traffic last week due to bad weather. Another minute would have cost me in daycare expenses. I can’t afford to work part-time anymore without benefits. I’m one disaster away from financial ruin.
Tonight, while my daughter sleeps, I’ve stolen a little bit of time to myself to write. But I’ve got a dishwasher that needs to be loaded, a cat box that could be declared a nuclear waste site and a pile of bills I’m half-afraid to open. I’ve also got to figure out what we’re wearing tomorrow since her father is taking her to his office after her doctor’s appointment to introduce her to his coworkers. I need to put her something that covers that poor little finger I snipped that also says I’m a capable mother, even when I’m not.