Sometime in the dead of night, somewhere high above the dark waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Junebug marked the end of her second month of life with her first long-distance flight.
The wait, seemingly unbearable at the outset but not that long in the grand scheme of things, is nearly over. After packing first the layette shipment and then her suitcases, S is making the final preparations for her return to Kigali this weekend. It has been a whirlwind summer — on both sides of the Atlantic — and much as D will grumble about the lost sleep that awaits with the arrival of two jet-legged kids, he is very much looking forward to seeing them again.
Composing the speech for Junebug’s baby-naming ceremony cracked open the floodgates of S’s memory. Writing about her grandmothers’ lives and looking through old photographs of their younger days, S tried to reconcile her recollections with the stories she had heard from her parents – it’s not easy to paint a portrait of someone’s life when one only shares in that person’s twilight years.
One of the things we wondered and worried about before Junebug was born was how Munchkin would greet the arrival of his baby sister. Would he be jealous of her for stealing mama’s love and attention, and how would he act out his envy? Or would he be loving and protective and act proud of being a big brother?
“Zero to one was tough, and two to three was challenging, but going from one child to two wasn’t that bad,” several friends told us with the benefit of hindsight, and perhaps a dose of selective amnesia. Intuitively, this makes sense. First-time parenthood is tough because there is so much to learn. And going from two to three is hard because sometimes you find that you have more little humans who need attention than arms at your disposal. Still, adding a new baby into the mix is bound to make life more complicated, and we’ve found that having two small children frequently feels much more than twice as difficult as just having one.
For the first month of Junebug’s life, we followed a divide and conquer strategy. With D home on R&R and plenty of relatives visiting, balancing two kids was a manageable challenge. Newborns sleep a lot and are relatively portable, and with an endless stream of visitors who gave Munchkin the attention he covets and helped with the day-to-day household chores, the first four weeks flew by. We felt incredibly lucky to have had so much family support, but S was under no illusions about how daunting being home alone with both kids would be.
The first week passed in a haze of cruel jet lag. The next was marked by Rwanda’s presidential election – a week full of long days at the office that seemed to persist long after the final ballots had been cast. The third week was blissfully uneventful and marked in its passing the midway point of our separation.
S’s sister recently sent us a New Yorker article that chronicled one French/American couple’s travails in choosing a name for their son. Charmingly witty, humorous, and filled with all sorts of quirky name trivia, the article also hit a nerve, for despite the fact that S had compiled a list of girl names she liked long before she was even pregnant with our firstborn (who turned out to be a boy), we had a hard time choosing a name for Junebug.
The grass always seems greener on the other side, so the saying goes, but there are exceptions, and this was one of them. There was no doubt in D’s mind as he transited three airports over the course of 27 hours that the return alone from Portland to Kigali was going to be a bit of a downer. What he hadn’t quite counted on was to find the saying to have literal implications as well. Rwanda is a lush, verdant country for most of the year, but D returned during the height of the dry season to find the countryside sere, the grass wilting brown, and the air pregnant with dust.