Soon I will be moving to a new home. I am feeling only a little sentimental about leaving this current house, the first home I’ve owned with Daniel, the home where we’ve had most of our marriage memories. One of the things I am most excited about is our new flat yard, soon to be fenced, so I can turn the kiddos out and let them play unrestrained (except by said fence). Our house now is on the side of a hill. There are natural boundaries, but no real way to keep small children corralled, so the constant vigilance that is being a mother continues into the great outdoors where it is multiplied by the possible ways babies could conceivably–and creatively–find themselves in harm (it was emotionally draining to just write that sentence).
The hill behind our house is divided by a few rock retaining walls. On the other side of our small patch of backyard is a large patch of back-woods. I have liked the back woods for privacy reasons, but it has always been one of the great annoyances of living here. Even before having children it taunted and teased Daniel; he and the woods have been at war for 5 long years. But his hopes to domesticate and conquer “the back 40” are repeatedly dashed. By one small detail.
Daniel is hopelessly allergic to the stuff. He can get it through 3 layers of clothing. He can get it in the middle of winter when it’s supposed to be dead. He can get it just by thinking about getting it. That’s how allergic he is. The first time I suffered it was shortly after we moved in. I had a few small pustules on the inside of my elbow, and immediately recognizing it for what it was, Daniel cut the end off one of his socks and made me wear it like a cast over the area overnight. Even so, he woke up with a rash along his ribs from where I’d cuddled him in my sleep.
During June (the 3rd most awful month to live in Tennessee) of 2008 I decided I was tired of all the English Ivy crawling its way from the woods over the retaining wall and into my small bit of lawn. Daniel had sworn off yard work until November, so I got out my hand-held shears and set to work. I cut along the wall and up as far as my belly would let my arm would reach. Oh, did I not tell you I was 8 months pregnant? So there I was, all swollen and misshapen and bulging and sweating, my tank top stretched beyond it’s natural form, my shorts getting sucked into places they didn’t belong (sexy, really, when you think about it). I was disgusting by the end of that 20-minute project.
Daniel told me to wash thoroughly so I wouldn’t break out with the dreaded poison ivy. I lumbered my awkward self into the shower and scrubbed down. Even so, two days later I noticed a small patch of bumps along the inside of my forearm and across the top of my stomach.
The nature of pregnancy in general is that your body loses track of itself, a small alien life-form takes over, and you have no real control over any of your bits or extremities. The nature of my second pregnancy was such that somewhere between month 3 and 10 I stopped looking and feeling all glowy and just started feeling ready to have my body back. My hips were always knocking into things; my boobs–although blessedly fuller than ever *Dear pre-baby breasts: we had a good 13 year run; I mourn your loss. May you rest in the peace of my memory*–were completely in their own orbit; my ankles and feet were so swollen they were scary to look at. I was uncomfortable and gross and felt like the beauty of childbearing had somehow left my body when baby #1 was birthed.
And then the poison ivy spread. Because my breasts were so lovey and full and rubbing along the top of my huge stomach, it was only natural that the rash would spread to them. And seeing as how my belly took up a good third of my body, there was no good way to keep my inner forearm from brushing against it. Before it cleared up, the infection covered my breasts, along the top of my stomach, the underside of my belly, the insides of each arm and even my inner thighs. I asked Daniel if there was a chance our baby could be suffering along with me. He didn’t think so.
I was so uncomfortable that pregnancy that I’d told myself I’d indulge in regular massages. That plan flew out the window as my unsightly and incredibly contagious rash stuck around for SIX WEEKS. By the time Atticus was born on July 24th, the rash was all clear except for some minor discoloration.
Now I’m more sensitive to poison ivy than ever. I try to catch the kids before they wander up into the wooded part of our property, but sometimes I have to go after them or pull them down from the top of the wall. They’re too small to understand why I rush them into the bath and wash them down with dish soap (a proven method to remove all oils) and then douse myself with it, too. Yes, I’ll be very glad when the battle of the backyard is someone else’s battle. I’ll be even more glad when the kids playing in the yard is not an added stressor to my daily life.