Bringing the baby home

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The day this paper comes out, we will be celebrating my youngest daughter’s 11th birthday. As this day approaches, I think about when she was born. My husband, Jason, and I were renting a farm and milking 40 cows at the time. We had three other children under 6, and every day was a lovely blend of work, play and chaos.

It was time to take our newborn baby home from the hospital. Lily was less than 48 hours old, and we were getting ready to pack her up. Jason and the three other kids had just arrived to take us home as the nurse was kindly explaining that our car seat had evidently expired.

I was trying to keep an eye on the other three kids so they wouldn’t accidentally wind themselves up in any cords or push any of the buttons while they waited for me to get officially discharged. So, it took a second for what the nurse was saying to register in my mind.

The car seat had an expiration date?

I hadn’t realized that this perfectly intact structure that had carried my three other children came with an expiration date. The nurse informed me that car seat plastic tended to break down after so many years, and it was recommended that a new one be purchased. The car seat conundrum was not nearly as overwhelming as the realization that I had been birthing children for so long that our equipment was expiring. No wonder I was tired.

The nurse decided that I should use this car seat this time, and they would order me a new one to pick up later that week. So, we got Lily strapped in, and I held the car seat in my lap as the nurse took me down to reception in a wheelchair. Jason and the kids had gone ahead so they could pull the car around to the entrance.

The nurse and I waited just inside the hospital doors and watched as Jason drove up. He came around to help us in, and as he pulled open the sliding door of the minivan, a couple things happened simultaneously.

First of all, we were hit in the face with the offensive stench of diesel fuel. We had been making weekly trips to the gas station for fuel since we didn’t have a bulk fuel tank at the time. I had been the last one to make the fuel run, and one of the cans had tipped over as I swung into the driveway. The fumes were strong and had apparently not faded during my short time in the hospital.

Secondly, the three kids were standing up in the doorway of the van, still swaying as they struggled to stay upright while the van had been moving. So, clearly not buckled in for the ride.

We have always been diligent when it came to seat belts and car seats, so the sight of all the kids just tumbling around in the van was a bit of a shock. Coupled with the fumes, it was enough to question our abilities as parents, I’m sure.

The nurse was obviously willing to overlook the lapses in management since the kids quickly buckled themselves in after one look at my face. Then, we tried to put Lily in the car. The car seat had this great feature where the base remained buckled in the car while the seat could be easily inserted and removed, without waking the child. When we went to click Lily’s car seat into the base, we discovered the base was installed incorrectly and had the baby seat facing forward, which was against all the rules. Jason didn’t realize it, though, and confidently clicked Lily in facing forward and then casually slid the door shut.

I quickly jumped out of the wheelchair and opened the van door again. The nurse buckled the base the right way, with Jason’s help, who had to lean over the 1.5-year-old to do so. All the while, the diesel fumes were making the nurse’s eyes water, although she kindly failed to mention it.

It felt so wrong. The expired car seat, the fumes and, now, the backward base. If we didn’t have the other three kids as evidence, it might have looked as though we had never done this before.

Finally, all the kids were buckled in and facing the right way. We said our goodbyes and, as we left, opened all the windows to try and get rid of as many fumes as we could. The cold March air that bit our faces was not as harsh as the air inside the vehicle.

As we pulled out of the parking lot toward home, I looked at Jason and jokingly said, “If the cops aren’t waiting for us at home, I’ll be shocked.”

What was waiting for us at home instead was a barn full of cows and a rented house that we made our home for a year and a half while we farmed there. The addition of Lily was exactly what we didn’t know we were missing.

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