Today was my niece’s second birthday. She’s the fourth child; there’s a five-year span between her and her youngest sibling. She was sort of a surprise. But because of my itinerant wanderings, I was around more for this baby’s first days.
I was there in the delivery room a few hours after she was born. And after my sister fired the crazy Trinidadian woman she’d hired to be her baby nurse, I stepped in, with my boyfriend at the time, to take over. Up until then I’d never changed a diaper. That’s right, I’d managed to survive her first three kids without every having to wipe shit off a baby’s ass; it’s nice to have hired help. That all changed with Sophie Isabella, when I became the hired help!
The job of a baby nurse is to be with the newborn overnight and bring the baby to the mother to breastfeed when it wakes up. The goal is to get the baby to sleep through the night, ideally within eight weeks. It’s a position with rich people, primarily, since most new moms get up and feed their babies themselves, without any in-home assistance. I gotta say, out of all the crazy jobs I’ve had in my life, it was the hardest — a huge responsibility and sleeplessness like I’d never experienced (as I’m sure any parent can attest) — but before the eight weeks were up, baby Sophie was sleeping through the night. And I’d come as close to experiencing parenting as I ever will.
Now that Sophie is a toddler, she’s walking and talking and cracking everyone up. She’s a precocious kid, likely due to her older siblings. She can speak in complete sentences and socks ya one when you tell her “No.” She loves to use my “pone” and knows how to select the games she wants to play. She is truly a joy.
The birthday celebration was a somewhat awkward dinner at the Rainforest Café, with one set of grandparents and the nuclear Conte clan, in the midst of their divorce proceedings, plus moi. My parents would be in attendance at the following day’s celebrations, which wouldn’t include dad or his folks. But the baby enjoyed herself, fascinated by the robotic animals and rainforest mists.
The second celebration was at my sister’s new (rental) home with all the kids, my parents and some extra Conte-connected relatives. Dinner was delicious and Sophie blew out a lot of candles on both a cake and a collection of cupcakes. The vibe was much less stressful and there were a bunch of hilarious gifts: a kitchen and cash register, a step-on piano (a la “Big”), a pop-up play fort and a toddler-sized roller coaster. All the kids enjoyed the toys, especially the roller coaster, everyone sailing across the enormous entryway and into the living room. It was chaos. And I’m glad I was there to help celebrate.