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Staying One Step Ahead

 On evenings when I work, Brian and Maddie often walk me to the subway; it’s a way for Brian and I to talk through the baby hand-off, using the walk time to fill him in on what’s going on with Madeleine that day. One recent walk I gave Brian the run-down on what I had planned for her dinner, where her bottle was, and so forth. Brian said, “Ok, last thing – when is her next nap due, and for how long?” I took a deep breath.

“Well, her first nap today was two hours, which is unusually long for her, but it was also early and she didn’t sleep well last night. So usually her next nap would be based on when she got up from her first one, but today I’d anticipate her getting sleepy around 5 p.m. Now, if she doesn’t seem to go down on her own for a nap by 5:30, you can give her the 6 p.m. bottle at 5:45; it’ll put her to sleep. In that case, make sure she’s up at 6:30 and give her the solids dinner right away instead of waiting like we usually do. Now, if, on the other hand, . . .” my husband’s eyes glazed over.

The fact is, we as mommies have become adept theoretical statisticians. It’s our job to anticipate every possible development from any given situation, and how we’d handle each possibility. We’ve got the “If, then” problem-solving skill down pat. “If nap 1=x and nap 2=y, then z. But if nap 1=x-1 and nap 2=y times 3, then z(x+y)”.

Moms have learned from hard experience what happens to the unprepared – the mom who gets caught in the department store without any Cheerios for snacking, the mom who heads out for a quick trip to the grocery store without the diaper bag only to have a mother of a poop happen on aisle twelve, or the mother who unthinkingly plans a restaurant date right in the middle of kiddo’s naptime will all never forget and never make the same mistake twice.

I carry around three changes of clothing in Madeleine’s diaper bag; I’ve never needed any of them, but don’t want my first time to be in the middle of church with nary a spare onesie in sight. I’ve heard too many stories of harried moms running into Baby Gap with poop streaming down their baby’s legs. Getting ready to head out for the day with Maddie takes the time and strategy planning of a major event – I think my wedding took less planning, and that’s saying a lot – but the alternative is unthinkable.

On a recent trip to a clothing store, I calculated how long the errand would take, divided it by how many times Madeleine would become bored, and came up with the number of different toys I’d need. I had her silver rattle, Piggy, her clutch cube, and my big gun, a small tub of Cheerios. I hid the Cheerios in my coat pocket for when the nuclear meltdown threatened. Ten minutes into the store Maddie began crying. She clearly wanted something specific, and Toy One, the clutch cube, wasn’t cutting it. “What, Maddie? What do you want?” I said as she flailed her arms. She grabbed me, pulled me to her shopping cart seat, and began pulling the Cheerios tub out of the coat pocket.

The hidden Cheerios tub.

Obviously, the trip was put into hyperspeed; with my guaranteed ace-in-the-hole discovered and played out right away, I had nothing that could top that.

And it’s not just anticipating our baby’s ups and downs that we do every day. We also juggle the larger household issues for our baby. If a mom buys jarred baby food, I guarantee she’s got at least a week’s supply on hand (and that’s dozens of jars!) If a mom makes her own food, she’s got as many frozen cubes in the freezer as she’s got space for, packing in as much as possible while trying to anticipate when baby will move to the next food stage and outgrow the thin puree.

We buy the biggest econo-pack of diapers we can get away with while keeping in mind how fast our baby’s growing and how near he is to the next size. We weigh the cost of buying smaller packs with the frustration of having unused, outgrown diapers left over, taking into account our desire to never be caught with our diapers down. I try to keep our “baby pantry” stocked as deep as I dare (and have space for): we keep a bag of diapers, a refill of wipes, and a refill of the Diaper Genie liner in her changing table upstairs. But in the downstairs pantry, I try to have at least one more bag of diapers, what’s left of the economy pack of diaper refills (currently 9 refills – Sam’s Club was good to me), and at least a refill or two for the Diaper Genie.

Try as hard as we might, though, staying one step ahead is not always possible. Sometimes, much to our Superwoman chagrin, things slip through the cracks. Just today Madeleine had a blowout poop. We headed back to her changing table and got her cleaned up. I reached in to her diaper dispenser on top of the table – completely empty. Unphased, I reached under the changing table for the extra bag of diapers.

It was not there.

At the same time, I realized I had used the last diaper in her diaper bag.

My pantry was not completely bare; I had one final bag of diapers. They were just downstairs.

Wrapping a burp cloth around Maddie’s hiney, we headed downstairs together, her entranced by the novelty of being naked from the waist down and me repeating over and over, “Please don’t pee on Mommy. Please don’t pee on Mommy.” I got the bag and arrived back upstairs without incident, thankfully, and spent the next several minutes berating my forgetfulness, letting all my back-up positions run out at once.

But believe me – it will never happen again.


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