What’s in a diaper bag?

dsc07800The last bag I had was a backpack that I used for seven years straight through my post grad degree and several overseas field trips. I even left it on a train once and it traveled unaccompanied from Waterloo to Kingston upon Thames. But it came back to me, and it was more precious than ever.

Now that I’m a parent, I’ve become gripped by an intense need to search for the right diaper bag. The diaper bag, and what to pack in it, seem to be that part of being a new parent that I still have any control over. Between the 3 a.m. feedings, the mystery rashes, the diaper changes on restaurant floors, and uncertainty over whether the baby is eating enough or pooping enough, everything has become ambiguous. When will he nap, when will he wake up again — it’s been two hours, three, four and a half now — when do I get to nap, shower, or even to pay the bills? All the time management skills, self-discipline, meticulous schedule and control that I mastered in my career went out the window the moment this mass of being exploded out of me.

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If I have to go anywhere with this unpredictable ball of butter then the only thing I can do, I must do, is to be prepared for all possibilities. Diapers, five different types of wipes, hand sanitizer sprays, blankets of all shapes, a change of clothing just in case he has a diaper explosion — let’s make that two sets — sunscreen, band-aids, and lots of tissues.  I need pockets for each of these, and they need to be accessible, like, you know, zero to sixty in 3 seconds.

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Some of this stuff I carry is ridiculous, I know, but at least I haven’t packed a thermometer yet. I draw my line at that.  You know, a fever doesn’t just jump up and attach itself to your baby between Target and the gas station.  I am also not going to carry around nail clippers. Or scissors. Or special pouches to store the special cases to store the special wipes that already come in a pack.

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I just want a bag that helps me stay organized, retain that little sense of control that I so crave.  Something with enough space for me to throw in random things as I go about my day.  In this mad quest for the right diaper bag, I have lost much precious M-is-sleeping-so-I-should-sleep time. I have read numerous reviews and watched more YouTube videos than I care to admit.  I have also bought my fair share of them. Some have been too small, some too bulky, and a couple of others just perplexing. Some have come close to being perfect, but I haven’t found the one yet. And as long as baby M keeps growing and becoming a different person everyday, I’m not sure I ever will.

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Waves and Sand

Our hotel window looks out onto a 180 degree view of the ocean. At night, whenever the noisy air conditioner switches itself off, I hear the waves crashing. The sound of waves builds to a crescendo, a loud bang, and then it dissipates as the salt water settles into the sand. What follows is a silence. In that silence, when I’m waiting for the rhythmic next wave, I start to worry a little, this silence seemingly dragging on forever. In that void, a low ebbing panic creeps in, and I start to wonder if all this is real.  Maybe I’ve imagined my life here, dreamed up this baby sleeping in the travel cot, conjured up this man snoring next to me. I hold my breath — half expecting to jolt awake to the realization that this has been some mistake — until the next thunderous crash comes and shakes the foundation of the building.

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hand-on-sand

Sitting on the beach, M is playing with sand for the first time. He takes to it the same way he approached grass for the first time. He is tentative, letting his hand hover above as if to feel the energy of the sand, then he pats it gently, surprised by the warmth of it from the sun. Now he’s pinching grains; now he’s searching out bits of debris. When Baba half buries a lid from a drink bottle, he finds it. Again and over. But when Baba buries the whole thing in the sand, it disappears for M, as if it was never there.

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Baba takes M to the water, and they crouch there, watching the waves. M digs his uncertain feet into the wet sand. The wind lifts wisps of his hair. His fists are clenched so tight that they shake a little. His shoulders are hunched and his entire body is stiff.  It’s the first time he sees this big expanse. Blue sky meets chocolate sea, as far as his little eyes can see. It must have been daunting.  But Baba’s right here, I say, right behind and won’t let you go. He just wants to get your tiny feet to experience the waves, this mass of water that covers more than half of this cold fragile earth.

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What is ragepotter, you ask

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What is ragepotter, you ask.

The only hobby I had growing up was learning to play the piano when I was around six. I remember the smell of the studio, the stickers my teacher used to place on the corners of music books, and the crispness of the pages as she turned them one by one.

As soon as she started me on the left hand, I quit.  Life, for a six-year-old, was too short to use my left hand for anything other than picking my nose.

When a friend encouraged me to pick up a hobby to escape my perpetual depressive state when I was in my early twenties, I picked pottery instead. It was hard work and took a lot of discipline, not to mention physical energy. I would sweat just wedging, kneading big chunks of clay by hand to knock out all the air, slamming it on the bench, and wedging it again and again with the arms, the elbows, leaning my body into it. I would get lost in the rhythmic motion, heaving back and forth, knocking out all the toxic pockets of self-loathing and doubt.

No sooner had you shaped the clay into a ball, as round as you can, than you smashed the ball onto the wheel, as hard as you can. Take a breath and splash water over it, step on the pedal to spin the wheel, and watch this shapeless but bumpy mass spin out of control. You have to use all your might to hold the spinning lump of wet clay, hold it steady, guiding its rise and fall. You channel your hurt into all this, like a madman, emptying the dark, grunting and cursing — becoming the ragepotter — until the clay is centered, until it’s perfectly round, and moulds to your hands as you encircle it.  Maybe that’s what zen people mean when they talk about being centered. When the room is still, when all your energy is spent, and all that’s left is the murmurs of the studio behind and to the left of you.

I used to sit there and admire the little dome of round clay, anticipating dipping my thumb in the middle to open up its center, and steadying myself in the stillness to pull up the wall, heady with the possibilities of all that it could be.

I hardly have time for this anymore, and anyway I don’t have as much rage as I used to. Before M was born, I had countless appointments with my therapist talking through what postpartum depression would look like, what signs to look out for. I even had to drag the husband to some of these meetings so he could be schooled on what to do or say, and what not to do or say. Now I’m blessed with this bundle of cheeks, I am more calm than I’ve been for a long time. My doctor even joked that M cured me.

I am no longer a potter who rages, but the name kinda stuck. I let it be a reminder of what I no longer want to be.