Missing Evanny (aka “gain a baby, lose a baby”)

25 08 2014
Every day is a debut around here.

Every day is a debut around here.

I put this title up as a space-holder on the first or second day Tabitha was home with us; it’s taken this long to get back to writing about it, but it took no time at all for the observations to take hold. I wondered, often-if-not-continually when I was pregnant with this smaller sister, how it would make sense, how it was even cognitively realistic to imagine, having a baby when I had a baby, but now I know the answer: it isn’t. Because the first baby disappears alongside (along a dense, busy continuum of before/during/after) the second’s arrival.

Evanny occasionally still calls herself “a” or “the baby,” but she has this smile when she’s doing it, the same smile she used to use when asking Matt if she could nurse from his hairy man-nipples. Even when she’s insistent, she knows it’s a joke, and she knows you know it’s a joke; Tabby is the baby, and Evanny is somebody different: the big girl, the big sister, “Eh-nny,” when she tries to put a name to her selfhood (usually she just says “me”). She still wears diapers (sometimes the regular size-4s, sometimes pull-ups, all disposable at this point, because after ten-thousand wash-and-rinses she was still getting rashy in the cloth collection, AND they were leaking on her because they’re not the right size anymore, AND she’s playing around with potty training still, so I gave up. Will try again with Tab; have borrowed a collection of her friend Nate’s training pants for in-a-little-while, and am currently doing that thing where I acknowledge that it’s a waste of money and not good for the planet, but it’s a thousand times easier on my sanity than trying any longer to troubleshoot the diaper project while doing everything else, so we’re just not), and only sometimes tells me if there’s poo in them, but she can tell–and she can do a thousand other things that babies don’t do.

Picasso in pajamas--because some days you just gotta get up and paint.

Picasso in pajamas–because some days you just gotta get up and paint.

Eat anything. Climb anything she can reach. Run off at the Firebarn to hang around with the big kids under their climbing-tree fort (she hasn’t quite got big enough hands to get the purchase to climb the tree with them. Yet.) while I’m nursing her sister and eating free bagels. Sass anybody. Sit down in the middle of the floor and throw a tantrum about absolutely nothing–or at least what looks like absolutely nothing to everybody else. Follow directions that involve going upstairs to find something, bringing it back downstairs, and taking it to the right person–sometimes with a successful message delivery included. Fight with her brother over toys. Tattle. Ask “why” over and over through long, long lists of answers. Put her face in the water in the bath, kicking her feet, and pretending to be swimming. Sleep in (and fall out of) her new big-girl room, in a big-girl toddler bed instead of a crib. Go to sleep by herself. Run off to the other floor of the house to play by herself. Defend her personal space, and tell other kids “No do dat!” when she doesn’t like what they’re up to. And that’s really the crux of it, right there: “other kids.” Because that’s what she is now. A very small one, one who hasn’t even yet turned two, who can still climb up her brother’s loft-ladder but hasn’t mastered getting back down, but a kid nonetheless.

Reading her current favourite book to herself on the floor of her new room.

Reading her current favourite book to herself on the floor of her new room.

A couple weeks ago–before the bed/room change, when I was still patting her to sleep by leaning way over her now-old crib (aka “baby bed”), or trying to, when I was home alone with the kids, I told her after a few pats that I couldn’t stay this time, because I had to go take care of Tabby, who was crying in her bassinet. Rather than pulling out a standard toddler reply like “no hold baby!” (which isn’t like her anyway, because she adores the baby, and is much more likely to encourage extra caretaking rather than less), she pointed at me, and said “udda hand.” “Pat you with my other hand?” I asked, stalling a little longer so that it wasn’t so abrupt a leave taking. “No–holda baby udda hand.” It didn’t work–I had to explain (and I’m not sure how much sense I made, but it seemed worth doing anyway) that to lean as far over as it took to reach her, I’d have to hold Tab in two hands, and there’d be none left for patting anyway, but it was a good idea. And it was an idea: it wasn’t just Evanny-the-baby identifying things around her or asking for things she’s had, seen, or done before to happen again. It was Evanny-the-big-kid thinking for herself and suggesting a new solution to a new problem. So it’s pretty clear what’s happened here: Evanny-the-baby is gone.

My girl.

My girl.

She was going before Tabby’s birth–she’s been going for a long time, really, and she knew what was coming. She’d been working extra hard at mastering skills and self-sufficiencies in advance of losing help and attention; she understood, her actions and little proto-words made clear–that the swelling belly meant a baby, and she understood the implications of that coming baby, goodness knows how. When the morning in question arrived, I hardly saw Evanny–she eyed me strangely, and a bit distrustfully, from across the room while I tried to shove on pants mid-contraction in our efforts to not deliver her sister on the porch or in the car (story still pending, pinky-swear), and then we left her alone in the kitchen, trapped in her high chair with Peppa Pig episodes playing on “her” iPhone (our old, broken one that only really works to show the internet) to wait for my dad. And then I didn’t see her for what felt like forever (it was really only about 9 hours, but considering that we’ve only been apart for that long once before EVER…), and when she did come in, it was with her brother, and she was so excited to see him that she spent the hospital visit a little interested in the new baby and a lot interested in playing hide-and-seek in the door-curtain with Caleb; Mummy wasn’t very interesting anyway. Evanny-my-baby would have had eyes only–or at least mostly–for me, but Evanny-the-big-kid was more interested in big-kid things: snacks, games, and running around.

An example of

An example of “climbing anything” (at the Ithaca Sciencenter, with her brother)

Since then, I’ve been gradually making my way back into her circle of attention-and-affection, like she’s been working her way back into mine, past Tabby’s tiny, growing weight and her near-constant presence, but it’s been a bit of a courtship: she’s a different person to get to know, a little girl full of words and ideas and feelings. And like any courtship, there’s some pining involved. I’ve missed her. She’s been so busy, and she’s gotten so big, and she’s so, so hard to hold: she weighs a thousand pounds these days, all dense muscle, and always moving, she runs into things with thuds and bangs (we say that she looks like Pebbles but acts like Bam-Bam), and she’s all elbows and knees when I try to hold her; my first baby is gone-gone, and it feels like it was such a fast switch, like one day she was still her little-self, and then a year went by in the space of the 30-odd hours I was hospitalized for her sister’s birth, and suddenly she’s her new, growing-into-big self, someone I’m only just starting to get to know (although I can still translate her language better than anybody else), someone I know I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to get to know, and playing catch-up in knowing, as she grows faster than any little advances I try will be able to pace: she’s so far away from me, compared to the baby-barnacle she was, my constant kangaroo, and she’s also probably closer now, to me, than she’ll ever be again.

Evanny and Tabitha with their great-grandmother Max Ann.

Evanny and Tabitha with their great-grandmother Max Ann.

Right now, my first barnacle is up at the playground with Papa, doing who-knows-what; he’ll tell me part of the story when they get home, and she’ll tell me another part, and like all kids’ lives, part of what she did, what she saw, what she thought, what she smiled at, will live and bloom in her understanding and her memory but never be communicated over to me at all–it’s hers now. Her experience, her language, her life. Her sister is still mine, for the time being: utterly dependent, sponging the world with no filing categories, learning without discrimination or interpretative frames, just breathing everything in, usually from the confines of my arms or at least within reach of my voice in one of her safe sleeping-spaces (although at the moment, she’s practicing her breathing-and-growing a whole floor away, in her great-grandmother’s arms, which I’m convinced does something good for both souls, the aware and the wholly clueless down there breathing).

But Evanny… she’s my daughter still, and she always, always will be (unless, by some later-developing turn of inclination she decides someday she’d rather be my son!), but she’s not my little person anymore. I’ll still call her “my girl,” probably until the day I die, but I know–and her impish, proud head-toss suggests that on some level she knows too, already–that the only person’s “girl” Evanny really is is her own.

Little miss explorer, off doing her very own thing.

Walking on the moon–or wherever else those little feet might take her.

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