Some Assembly Required

Carl and the crib

We are now experts at crib-making, stroller unfolding, baby backpack strapping, and car seat snapping. We have packed our bags and filled our forms. We are ready.

Most of the getting ready happened in increments. Separately or together.

I sorted clothes. Carl finally solved the stroller conundrum (yeah, I still don’t know exactly how that monster works). It took both of us and some creative engineering to figure out how to get the crib through the narrow hall and into the nursery.

And it will take both of us every day to be the kind of parents we want to be…

I was thinking about these less tangible assembly projects as I was sorting through snapshots for the baby’s first scrapbook the other day (you had to know that was in the works, yes?), and I came across this picture:

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know Jennifer and Melanie. We’ve been besties for years—well, almost thirty years, actually, since Jenn and I are both scheduled to hit the big 3-0 this year—and we’ve been there for each other through the proverbial good times, dramas of all varieties, change and sometimes the frustrating lack thereof (also through many seasons of the Kardashians, but that’s probably fodder for a different post).

This picture was taken the week after my shower when Jenn and Mel came to help transform the pile of gifts and boxes of products into a bona fide nursery. Jennifer and I put together the IKEA storage system. Melanie organized clothes, while Carl figured out the Baby Bjorn. We put books on the shelves and organized the diaper changing caddy.

And we girls went shopping to pick up the few remaining items on the list.

It’s funny the things you research and the things you don’t. I knew all about how to care for the umbilical stump, but I wasn’t exactly sure what newborns were supposed to sleep in—especially since all the books kept reminding me NEVER to use loose blankets in the crib.

“So, how,” I asked as we wandered the aisles of Babies R Us, “are we supposed to keep her warm?”

We.

I laughed. “Do you like how in my head we’re apparently all raising this baby together?”

On the parenting discussion board I belong to, people like to rant about how babies are their PARENTS’ responsibility and nobody has any right to feel hurt when they have to buy car seats on their own dime or when their relatives don’t drop everything to dote on the newborn.

I understand that.

Nobody is entitled to parades and balloons just for getting pregnant—and sometimes our culture is maybe a little too ready to acknowledge people for weddings and babies while being a bit stingy with the confetti in other areas—but there’s a difference between thinking you’re entitled to something and being grateful it exists.

It’s our job to raise our baby, but it’s our privilege to have a network of friends who love us and, by extension, love our baby too. I can’t tell you how many people have helped get the house ready, helped get the nursery ready, offered to bring food, answered questions, sent us clothes, bought us gifts, and texted just to say they’re excited to meet our tiny person.

Those are the gifts of a loving community, but they don’t arrive out of nowhere, fully formed on your doorstep.

They imply relationship.

There’s some assembly required.

I didn’t think of this when we got pregnant. I didn’t know the fabric of my friendships would automatically tighten as the baby’s birth came closer, tighten until it was strong enough to hold whatever I needed it to hold. I didn’t know it because I didn’t need it.

But there’s something healthy and eye-opening about seeing community in action. It reminds you how important the whole thing is. It reminds you that if you want to enjoy the gift fully, you have to do the work of unpacking it.

We were lucky enough to share overlapping pregnancies with a lot of our friends and family. I have 3 sisters-in-law who are due this year, one of my close friends is due in July, and Carl’s best friend and his wife just delivered their gorgeous baby girl this past Sunday (I keep stalking Jackie’s Facebook page for more photo updates).

Next time you text them, I reminded Carl, ask what day we can bring them dinner.

I’m catching on.

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4 thoughts on “Some Assembly Required

  1. 🙂 This post makes me happy. I wish I was closer but I am so glad that where we are planted, we are both surrounded by community, assistance, comradarie and love. It’s the real stuff.

      • Contrar, Andrea! Can you ever remember not knowing Kathy? Family counts as friends too! 🙂

        Loved this post, Kath! Sorry the crib was so tricky. I liked your thoughts about having to unpack presents, etc. and loved your pictures!

  2. You are so blessed to have such good friends. I don’t have any friends from childhood that I even have addresses for. My longest term friends are from college. Your baby is coming into a beautiful community. That’s pretty awesome.

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