Mental Illness

Caregiving: Bathtubs and Babywearing

Lately, I’ve been dreaming of bathtubs.

The beautiful old fashioned kind. Roll top swathed in white. Absurdly cold to the touch until home to gallons of scorching hot water. Rose petals haven’t featured so much as modest bubbles dripping over the side. Candles somewhere on the floor nearby. An obscenely big vase of flowers in sight. Fluffy towels waiting patiently. A rickety wooden chair just in reach with a book, my glasses, and a glass of wine.

I don’t even like baths. I don’t drink. And yet this is what I’ve been dreaming of. I’ve been so stressed and tired that my brain has resorted to stereotypes. Then I think more about that bath. Somewhere in the background, in the next room, there would be music playing. In reality, our bath is the modern type that is more accustomed to accommodating children who have taken the concept of mucky to another level altogether. Our bath also resides in a bathroom that is used to Juniper Junior running in and out like he’s training for a sporting event. The nappy bucket is visited every few hours. And Mr. Juniper’s bowel disorder means he is more than familiar with that particular area of the house. It is not a particularly relaxing place. I have had one too many showers interrupted by Juniper Junior needing to use the toilet or to ask why Saturn has rings.

I’ve been yearning for some space. For some peace and quiet.

There is one way that I manage the latter two. Babywearing. Carrying Little Juniper has been one way to find peace and quiet. When our little part of the world is particularly grouchy and in need of soothing, I wrap Little Juniper. Soon his weight sinks in against me. There are things I could be doing whilst he sleeps, but I made the decision some time ago to embrace that time. I read, mostly. Sometimes I’ll put on a movie, watch the TV, or listen to the radio. On the odd occasion, I’ll use the time I’m carrying him to make phone calls. But, really, I enjoy that time for myself. Just to stop and think.

In all honesty, I’m not sure how I would manage without being able to carry Little Juniper. It’s not unusual for me to carry him for several hours a day between naps, grouchiness, the school run, and errands. Often it’s towards the end of the day that the grouchiness sets in and so I put him on my back. Bless him, that beautiful boy, he isn’t in the slightest bit perturbed by going up on my back and staying put whilst I wrap him. When he’s in that kind of mood, I often grab the time to get baking and cooking done. Bread every couple of days needs to be done. Brownies as often as necessary. When the day has been long, I can get a pot of soup going. Sometimes Little Juniper chatters, at other times he snuggles in and watches what I’m doing.

Amidst all this, Mr. Juniper is doing what he can. Lately, that has often consisted of simply surviving. The past few months have been difficult. Difficult relative to … I don’t know. Right now I’m not sure how to quantify the stress. He’s been sleeping. A lot. Disturbed nights and disturbing days. He keeps falling asleep in the daytime. And I’m worried. The psychiatrist, the psychologist, the GP? They acknowledge it’s an issue but in the grand scheme, it’s the pay off and an unavoidable consequence of his disabilities. He has gained side effects from a gain in greater mental stability, which combined with the realities of a bowel disorder, make for an unforgiving impact on sleep and tiredness. There have been times lately when I have been on the verge of tears as I watch him fall asleep. It simply doesn’t feel fair. It doesn’t feel right. And that’s without other additional health issues undermining him.

One of those issues stems from The Past. From the beginning, Mr. Juniper has struggled to hold Little Juniper for very long. Old damage to his arms means that for the bodily strength he portrays, he has very real weaknesses. I know guilt compounds the pain, but that’s a story for another day. That is why, though, from the very beginning, Mr. Juniper has carried Little Juniper in slings. At days old, in a mei tai. And eventually with a wrap. His own wrap. From here at the kitchen table, I’m watching him sway gently in front of the TV with Little Juniper asleep in the wrap. Mr. Juniper, as stated before, is built like the proverbial brick house. He was able to use my wraps, but I was tying the the very end of the tails. We talked. We looked. It was from Oscha in the end that we were able to find a size 8, a wrap big enough for him to use comfortably. I could cry now thinking about how wonderful it was to see him wrapping Little Juniper. He often needs help to tie the wrap because of the weakness in his arms, but Mr. Juniper is otherwise a pro at wrapping Little Juniper. I’ve never used his wrap. The wrap is his alone. My wraps are hauled about doing all sorts. My wraps are about the day to day. For Mr. Juniper, his wrap is so much more. The beautifully woven threads have allowed him to hold our child. To enjoy the brief respite his body affords him. Without a wrap, carrying Little Juniper is something Mr. Juniper can only manage for a few minutes, if not less. With a wrap, he can even manage the occasional nap. Little Juniper nuzzles in against Mr. Juniper, his head rests just under his daddy’s chin. Mr. Juniper sways gently and Little Juniper sleeps snuggly.

Those minutes when Little Juniper sleeps on his daddy may not be the peace and quiet I dream of, but to see my husband able to carry our child is more precious than I could ever have imagined. It has been a gift to us all.

By Juniper

Rarely to be found without herbal tea nearby. Team Unicorn. Often in pyjamas. Also: TEAM KATNISS!

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