While staying at Zana and Dons these past several weeks, spending time with Saylor, soon to be two, and newborn Opal, it brings up memories of having my baby at 22, and a conversation I had with a girlfriend. Her son had just had his first baby six months after Zana had her first, and as we sat talking she said in reference to her son and daughter-in-law, “I don’t know if they’re ready.”
I reminded her then that our kids are 37. If they are having babies, now’s the time. And I couldn’t help but laugh at her worry, because if anyone wasn’t ready to have babies it was us!
When I became a mother I was unprepared in every way. I knew nothing about babies. I spent one night in hospital after her delivery and then went back to my parents house where my partner, Zana’s father Dennis, and I were staying until he finished fixing up our rented home; a tiny two room miners cabin with a big oil cook stove, set in a laneway in downtown Nanaimo. And before she was one month old we moved into it. It was the winter of 1980.
I remember the health nurse coming by to check on me and my baby, but it was so minimal a visit. I had no idea if I was producing enough milk. No coaching. I knew nothing about milk “coming in” or “good latching.” The nurse said she would be back the following week, but she never came. Dennis was a musician and away on the road, so I was on my own much of the time. I had no circle of girlfriends, and I guess my family thought I was doing fine.
I kept breastfeeding, and carried her around the cabin in a “snuggly” because she would fuss a bit. Then I took her to our family doctor for a check up. He took one look at her and he said, ‘this baby is starving,’ and gave me the name of a brand of soy based formula. I obviously wasn’t producing enough milk. I went to the pharmacy straight away, bought it, and fed her as soon we got home. Within days it seemed she ballooned into a rolly polly healthy baby.
We were on welfare for short time. I had no vehicle. We carried our laundry to and from the laundry mat downtown. The majority of Zana’s clothes were from second hand or discount stores. Her stroller was salvaged from the roadside. Her toys were minimal. I went to work at an art gallery in my downtown when she was six months old, taking her with me in her stroller. Luckily she was a very content and happy baby! When she was three her father and I separated. Zana and I moved a lot during her childhood, and being a working single mother brought its own complications and hardships.
I was ignorant and extremely naive, though I somehow held it together.
Today Zana, now 38, is strong, compassionate and caring, and fearless in the face of challenges. She has always worked. A self-taught talented pastry cook and caterer. She has travelled abroad alone. When she became pregnant she had a Dula and a Midwife, she had a nursery room ready and waiting with everything the baby would need, a closet stocked with baby clothes, a car seat, crib, stroller, all the things all in a beautiful home. When the baby came she had consulted a nursing coach. Zana knew what to do, and if she didn’t, she knew where to find the information. Her children were brought into a loving, stable and secure home life.
Then there’s my girlfriend’s son, also 38. She was 17 when she gave birth to him. She separated from his father when her son was four, leaving him in the fathers custody, and embarked on a long arduous path of waitressing, and education, and long periods of absence. The dad and her son lived in a small, cedar shingled A-Frame cabin in a rural, rustic area. The house was under heavy renovation construction, with a makeshift ladder to get upstairs to the bedroom, a make shift toilet and a two by four construct that served as the kitchen.
Her son today, lives in Vancouver, works for Apple overseeing several outlets, owns a condo. He’s a talented musician, he and three of his band members have been playing musically since the age of thirteen. They’ve cut three albums. He has been with his current partner since the age of 19, they married 6 years ago. His wife works at a daycare. They had their first baby 15 months ago and he is an amazing, fully engaged father and loving, attentive husband.
The contrast of parenting experience is stark between myself and my daughter and my friend and her son. We were not ready. And still our kids came out winning, in spite of all our unpreparedness, hardships and chaos.
Yes, girlfriend, they are so ready. With soul, heart and mind. And I’ll add one quote, in light of their upbringing, from a Chuck Berry song:
“C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell.”