It is my estimation that I changed more diapers by the time I was twelve years old than most women who have only one child do in their lifetime.
I started my illustrious, and lengthy, babysitting career when I was eight years old. We were living in Provo while my dad went to BYU, and even though we were poor my mom was devout in her faith and followed the gospel by being a turbo charged baby MACHINE. Most of my memories of my mom during my childhood are of her being pregnant. Being pregnant and crying a lot.
Did I mention we were really poor?
Anyway, it was because we were so poor that my mom started leaving me to babysit. I had been changing diapers since my first sibling was born when I was four, and I LOVED being my mom’s helper so it wasn’t a hard decision for her to leave me with them. And it’s not like she could afford a real babysitter anyway. Most of the babysitting in the early days were just quick trips where I was left alone for no more than an hour. I remember liking it- I’d load the toddlers in front of the tv and close the doors to the living room. Then, I’d take the baby with me to kitchen and I would blast the radio and dance. I had strict instructions to keep the door locked and to call our neighbor if there were any problems.
My mom’s last pregnancy was a hard one for her. Baby number five was really taking it’s toll on her physically and she developed Toxemia and was put on bed rest for the last six weeks of her pregnancy. This would be tough for anyone, but keep in mind that there were three young kids and one toddler running amok and the priesthood holder in the family was worthless when it came to anything other than delivering a good beating.
It was a really hard six weeks. I did everything I could to help, but without my mom nearby I got put to bed early more times than I like to think about. And I got the chicken pox two weeks before the baby was due. My mom wasn’t allowed out of bed, and I wasn’t allowed to get in bed with her. I’m not sure if the chicken pox were really as painful as I remember them, or if it was just worse for me because I was left alone so much. I spent my tenth birthday alone in bed with the chicken pox. I remember lying in bed burning. And crying. Lots of crying…
But it gets worse. The baby had to be induced early. And on day four of my chicken pox all three of my little siblings came down with it as well. My parent’s were told that the new baby couldn’t be exposed, so we were shipped off to the Relief Society president’s house. Four kids under the age of 10 WITH CHICKEN POX. This woman was a saint. We slept on the floor in her living room on sleeping bags, and I would put cold wash cloths on my siblings backs and faces and cry with them. The littlest one was just under two years old and I don’t think I put him down once. We spent four days there before my dad’s parent’s drove out to take my siblings back with them for a month so that they could recover and the new baby could get stronger before everyone came home and the madness started back up.
My “step” Lamanite grandparents agreed to take my siblings, but not me. I don’t know how to properly express how intensely I love my siblings, and how I pleaded with my mom on the phone to please not take them away from me. I couldn’t bear the idea of not being able to take care of them and I was sure they would be treated badly because my “step” grandparents couldn’t stand the sight of me and never pretended otherwise. (I always thought it was because I kept trying to play Cowboys and Lamanites with my cousins and my grandparent’s found it offensive.) My mom told me in plain, clear words that I was right- they didn’t like me but they loved my siblings and would take good care of them. It was also in this conversation that I FULLY realized a fact that haunts me to this day: I was sealed for time and all eternity to a father who outright hated me and by extension, grandparent’s who also didn’t like me. (I’ll write about this at some point, but when I was eight my biological father allowed my stepfather to legally adopt me and I was sealed in the temple to him and my mom shortly thereafter.)
Ain’t that some shit.
Honestly, I’ll take being an apostate over being sealed for time and all eternity to people who don’t like me any day….