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The Last Duck

When I found out I was pregnant, I signed up for classes. There was Dogs & Babies, Breastfeeding Basics, and Labor & Delivery. I went to each one and took notes. Then COVID hit and they cancelled Baby Basics. I convinced myself it was the one that would’ve helped me the most. If I took Baby Basics, I’d have been better at swaddling. If I had attended that one, my daughter, Autumn, would’ve been sleeping through the night sooner. And for sure I’d have known how to better handle teething. Alas, I felt subpar in many areas, one of which was giving baths.

I put off placing her in the tub for weeks. I was nervous and convinced that because she was so tiny, a washcloth would suffice. Then I started feeling guilty, like I was a terrible mom sterilizing everything she touched, but not cleaning the actual baby. I finally found the guts to read the instructions on the tub and fold it just the right way to fit into the sink. Now to add my daughter.

It was stressful and confusing. How do I wash such a fragile body? What about shampooing her hair without getting soap in her eyes? And speaking of soap, what kind do I use and how often?

The first few nights, she cried, and I might’ve, too -- at least slightly -- with feelings of inadequacy. I read about other babies loving bathtime, why didn’t mine? How could I know what to do when I hadn’t taken Baby Basics? But over time, she got a little bigger, I got a little wiser, and we were not just surviving bath time, but enjoying it.

Then she got a lot bigger and outgrew the tub.

I get teary eyed thinking about her sink bath. I was in denial near the end that she barely fit, and reluctantly asked friends with older kids what came next because the regular tub was still too big. Several sent links to a large, inflatable duck that fit inside the bathtub. When it arrived, I still wasn’t ready to get rid of the sink bath. It felt too monumental, too indicative of the passage of time, too real that my baby was growing up. Giving it away also felt like closing the door on having another baby, which I wasn’t ready to do. And so instead of giving it to charity, I left it in the hallway, halfway between the bathroom and the front door.

Passing the lonely sink tub daily, I pondered its fate. “I could store it in the basement,” I thought. But the basement, and the rest of the house, was already cluttered.

I started off thinking of it as a reminder of what was, and what will never be again, but after weeks, I convinced myself it was just a thing. That I needed to stop making it into something more, and that giving away a tub doesn’t mean giving away the baby, nor that I’m not having another. That, and the fact that it was sparking more worry than joy made me finally donate it.

In the meantime, the duck bath brought with it new excitement. Autumn’s smile that first night helped ease the pain of her transition. And with her getting older, new routines started. Every night, I’d undress her in her bedroom, then run her to the bathroom chanting, “No pee pee, no pee pee, no pee pee!” She pumped her fist to the battle cry. We were united in our mission to get to the duck without wetting mommy. And all but once, we were successful.

The duck takes up tons of space in the bathroom. Every time I want to shower, I have to move it. It’s cumbersome and cluttering and clumsy. I sort of hate it.

But really, I love it.

We read books, play peek-a-boo, and pour water. It’s bubbles and giggles and sillies. It’s ten minutes of us time. And it’s always bright and happy.

After six months, it started deflating. I bought another duck which also lasted months. A few days ago it, too, began dying. My dad made a suggestion:

“Why don’t you put her in the regular bath?”

Because one of us isn’t ready.

So for now, I’ll buy a new duck and continue being happily annoyed to have an oversized bird in the bathroom -- at least for a little while longer.

Mommy On.

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