A big change was coming to our family. Well, actually the object of the big change was tiny. Mom was having a baby. At age fifteen and a half I couldn’t wait to baby-sit.
We didn’t need to guess the baby’s birth date because Mom was having a cesarean delivery. The five of us plus Great-aunt Mary wrote our weight and sex guesses in between the open studs of the hallway wall. It was also an extremely handy place for writing phone numbers and notes. This convenience ended when Daddy-O sheet-rocked and painted the hall.
Dad and David wanted a boy to even the odds. Susan and I thought another girl would be great. Mom and Aunt Mary didn’t care about the gender as long as it was healthy, but I suspected Mom leaned toward a boy. This worried me since it seemed like her vote carried more weight. And the only name Mom had picked out was Paul Lee.
Mom worked full-time, and in 1965 at age thirty-seven was considered an older mother. Being pregnant at her age was almost scandalous.
Mom and Dad left for the hospital after Thanksgiving dinner at Aunt Nellie’s. Great-Aunt Mary, David, Susan, and I woke up early the following morning, watched television distractedly, and waiting anxiously for Dad’s phone call.It became apparent that Mom still lacked imagination in the name department. Paul Lee was quickly converted to Paula Lee. Susan and I got our female baby.
I loved rocking and feeding my baby sister. I sang to her until I was hoarse and Mom loved having me do this. Little Paula had no choice. My off-key singing did not corrupt her and she later had a lovely voice.
Unfortunately her bowel movements were not so lovely. They started out normal and I helped change her cloth diapers. She quickly became allergic to cow milk and switched to soy. Her poopy soy diapers smelled worse than grass silage, making breathing hazardous near her changing table. Two months later her allergy subsided, soy was discontinued, and I resumed helping with poopy diaper duty.
A light sleeper, I woke up if a pin dropped. Paula’s nursery was right beside my bedroom and occupied what later became our upstairs bathroom. When she cried at night I jumped to check her diaper, give her a bottle, and rock her back to sleep.
After school I overheard Mom on the phone with one of her sisters. “I don’t know what I’d do without Mary’s help.”
My heart swelled with pride and I kept my ears tuned for Paula’s cry.
Lesson learned: Recognition and gratitude spoken to the recipient is warmly appreciated, but when it’s spoken to a third party and overheard, the recipient glows.
Related posts: Chapter Five: Name Game
Now it’s your turn: Did you have a much younger sibling?
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