“Thank you, Mommy.”
This is what I say to my daughter in a sing-songy voice after I change her diaper. It doesn’t matter if we’re dealing with the split pea soup variety of poopy diaper or just a run-of-the-mill wet one (though the latter is the one that makes her crazy mad).
My daughter, Edie, is just 9 weeks old, so she has no concept of gratitude and probably very little understanding of the English language. I promised myself, though, as soon as I found out I was pregnant with her, that I would dedicate as much time as it takes to help her become a grateful child—and, one day, a grateful adult.
I’m a big believer that gratitude can carry you through the worst of times and make you the kind of person others want in their lives. I know that even when life feels like a big, ol’ dumpster fire or seems to be full of what’s in those dirty diapers, there’s always something for which to be grateful.
It’s gratitude that gives me clarity when my child is squawking like an angry baby turkey right in my face even though she’s been changed, fed, and snuggled. After all, I wished for this baby, I prayed for this baby, and now she’s here! Part of that means taking the squawking in stride.
It’s gratitude that is getting me through this pandemic. Because even though it is HARD to be stuck inside for fear of exposing my tiny baby to Covid-19, I’m in a far better home for sheltering in place than I would’ve been years ago. I vividly remember back when my apartment was so small it would’ve suffocated me if I had to stay within its confines for months on end.
Count Your Blessings
Historically, things in my life have turned out far better than I thought they would. I’m married to a man who strives to get me. He is a partner who laughs at my jokes, even the ones that are undeniably low-hanging fruit. He is someone who finds a way to come home on his lunch break to tell me I’m doing a good job with everything, even though his day is so slammed that leaving will put him behind.
I majored in English (creative writing) and didn’t end up a homeless poet like my high school guidance counselor warned. I have a family who has always encouraged me to pursue my dreams—even when that same high school guidance counselor told my mom that I wasn’t college material. My parents, my sister, and some seriously ride-or-die friends stuck with me through financial hardships, a failed marriage, and plenty of days when I wasn’t operating at anywhere close to my best (more like my worst).
Even at my worst, I was grateful. This wasn’t because I knew it could always be worse—Lord knows, when you’re in the throes of a bad week, a bad month, or a bad year, it doesn’t feel like things can be worse. I was grateful because there’s always something worth giving thanks for, even when the circumstances feel pretty dire.
During my time carrying Edie, the 20-week ultrasound revealed that I had a two-vesseled umbilical cord (most umbilical cords have three vessels). This condition could’ve created a host of problems. (Yes, I Googled this despite my doctor’s orders not to. He was right when he said the internet is especially unkind to pregnant women.) It could’ve meant that she wouldn’t receive adequate nutrients which could, in turn, affect the growth and development of her vital organs. It could’ve meant she would be born at a low birth weight and have to do some hard time in the NICU. It could’ve meant even worse. I felt so guilty over it. The very tether connecting my growing baby to myself—the means by which my body could nourish hers—was defective. It was missing an entire vessel. There was something wrong that I didn’t even know could be wrong.
It could mean… It could. It could.
It didn’t. My two-vesseled umbilical cord didn’t cause any complications. I spent a great deal of time pregnant praying and then still allowing my mind to wander to the worst-case scenario. The only control I had was gratitude. During the last six weeks of my pregnancy, I went to the doctor every week for a non-stress test and an ultrasound to make sure Edie was progressing normally. These visits often lasted hours. Still, I was getting a glimpse at my baby every week. That was something to be grateful for. She was growing and getting stronger (and cuter) every week. That was another something to be grateful for. Then, she was born at 6 lbs 11 oz of all that is right in the world. She was perfectly healthy with a head full of blonde hair, her dad’s long toes, my lips, and my cheeks.
So, whenever I finish changing Edie’s diaper—whether it’s a super nasty one that assaults the olfactories or the pee pee kind that make her rage inexplicably—I encourage her to say, “Thank you, Mommy.” She’s now old enough to give a big, open-mouthed smile that spreads across the entirety of her round little face when she hears it. It’s our first lesson in gratitude, and it’s something that I believe will carry her through more than just the discomforts of a crappy diaper. It may very well be the tenet that carries her through the crappy days.