Well, I managed to have the official "come see the baby" soiree with at least some of the neighbors yesterday. All the kids have been bugging me about seeing him. Two of my friends were coming down from the north side for a visit, so I thought it would be a good time to open the floodgates and let the baby be officially seen while I had two extra pairs of hands around to help out.
Abuelita (Granny, here from Mexico, who deserves a note of her own at some point) and I went out for a walk yesterday afternoon with BJ (for Baby Jaime, not baby's real name) to show her where El Guero (nearest Mexican grocery store) is and go to the bakery for some pan dulce to go with the fruit I had from a lovely edible arrangement. Yesterday was the St. Joseph Summer Festival, so we stopped by on our way to 47th Street. Abuelita got to chit-chat with some real Spanish speakers--whew! I introduced her to a bunch of friends from the neighborhood who were around and they all chatted while Tony and I sat in the sun and watched the ballet folklorico. Abuelita knew the songs and sang along a little bit. My friend Lety took her under her wing and they went to get some food--she had sopes and a quesadilla. (I bet she was glad to have good Mexican food she didn't have to cook.)
I also got to ask Lety, "What is it with all the Mexicans worrying that he's cold all the time?" Abuelita has him bundled in three layers almost all the time. It is an unseasonably cold August, but it's still August. And he has jaundice and needs some skin in indirect sunlight sometimes. Lety was a good person to talk with--she was reminding me most Mexicans would say I shouldn't have even been out of the house (40 days confinement, and there's good reason for it, but I would go crazy inside that long), and that yes, the way they protect babies is to keep them very warm. We are managing some balance, Abuelita and I, but it is interesting. Lety was telling me her mother-in-law was very protective when her kids were infants, too. "Just remember it won't last forever," she said.
"True. And she is really a godsend," I said. "So many women don't have that kind of support--someone who is always there and has experience with their own children."
Then we took a look around the grocery store and went to the bakery. I forgot I had spend a wad of cash at Whole Foods and had to dig hard in my pocketbook to come up with the cash for almost 10 bucks worth of baked goods. We got it.
When we got back to the house Junior's mom was out front with Junior and his little brothers. The youngest is about 18 months older than BJ--I'm hoping they'll be friends when BJ is a little older. Apparently they already have a lot in common--similar birth weight, both had jaundice. Junior's mom and I were comparing notes. She's working nights I think; she looks really tired. Her older boys offered to come by and help out. They will get their chance, I bet. For now, I encouraged Junior's mom to stop by and talk with Abuelita any time since we have trouble conversing. Abuelita has made friends with Dawn's mom next door, which is good, but I'm hoping to help her find some more women she can have a good platica (chat) with now and then. (I'm not feeling so chatty in Spanish these days--the extra step to figure out what to say/what's being said is slowing me down big time.)
A little while later Liz and Lisa showed up and we got the pan dulce and the fruit out. Then a young friend of mine, F, who just graduated in June from Big Picture came by. She had a baby two weeks before I did. He's a boy with an amazing head of black hair. She had a tough labor followed by a C-section. She is up and about and getting ready to start a new class at Morton College with a three-week old. I have a ton of respect and admiration for her. I had invited her over to pick up extra baby clothes and gear--I got a ton of hand-me-downs and have been trying to share the wealth with neighbors and friends who have new babies but don't have as many friends with gear/clothes to spare and share. Sarah's niece, the boy down the street and now this Big Picture grad's little boy have all benefitted from the largesse. We had a teary new mom moment upstairs while F was looking through my stuff. She has been trying to breastfeed but it's been really tough between the C and sore, cracked nipples. Right now she is pumping and supplementing with formula. By contrast, I've had a really easy time getting the hang of it (the first week was hard but now he latches well and my nipples don't hurt and he's gaining). I felt almost guilty when F looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, "It's hard, right?"
"Yes, honey, it's really hard getting started," I said. "And it stays hard for some people for a long time." I gave her a spare nursing pillow plus a ton of extra bottles and nipples. And a bagful of clothes we hadn't even sorted out yet.
Then the deluge. I'd say we had a dozen or so kids show up, and when the word got out there was food, kids I didn't even know (people's cousins) came in--I just sent them to the back to get food or pop. A couple of moms from down the street swooped in and had to hold the baby. I knew that was coming. Tony was quite mellow about it. I figure one of these moms has six kids and the other has at least two or three, so let them at it. My friend Christina told me the mom I don't know as well (with fewer kids) joked in Spanish, "I'm going to take him now. You can have him back when he's five."
"You know what--that might be OK," I joked back in English to Christina. (I'm not sure if she passed it on. I like school-age kids; I could save a lot of diaper changing and toilet training, right? So kidding.)
The kids I knew who wanted to hold the baby all washed their hands and lined up. Most of them have handled very young brothers/sisters/nieces/nephews, so I wasn't too worried. One youngest had to be shown how to support his head; the rest of them probably know more about the whole business than I do. One girl who I know by sight but keep losing her name helps her aunt out with her cousin, who is now seven months old. She clearly knows how it is for new moms. She came up right away and put an arm around me, and was clearly very interested in and competent with BJ. I still think Ines is my first choice on mother's helper, but they are buddies so maybe as time goes on they can help me out together.
The party gave me a chance to get a couple of key messages out to the kids--we won't be so visible/available for a few weeks, and we'll put a sign on the door to let you know when visits are OK and when not. I want to get someone to take pieces of red and green construction paper over to Kinko's and get them laminated together so I have an all-weather sign. Red=no visitors; green=welcome. Simple enough.
One of my friends brought a camera and took pics. Both helped me throw everybody out when I got tired. I may post some photos when I get them. Really glad that's over with, at least for now. (Some neighbors who want to see the baby couldn't make it.) One person I'd like to stall is Mrs. Ribs across the street, whose daughter told me she apparently insists on feeding babies potatoes the first time she meets them. Can I hold her off for six months??? :-) We shall see.