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On a crisp, clear spring morning not long ago, I was finally able to wrap my arms around the fact that at 40-plus I was going to have a third child. The reality kicked in somewhere between the time I dragged my labor-wracked body out of a still-running car and into the hospital and when I finally made it to the delivery room.
Raging inside my head, there was this ongoing debate. One voice was screaming, "Oh, God. This is not happening. I can't."
And somebody answered, "It is happening. And yes, we can." I say "somebody," because to this day I'm not sure if I was really having a conversation with The Almighty or whether I'd simply overdosed on pre-election television coverage. At any rate, "Yes, We Can" kept ringing in my ear. Then, with surprising speed, Cole burst into the world. He is a living, breathing testament to the miracles that sometimes unfold -- accidentally on purpose.
Surprisingly, our new baby wasn't my only new birth. Over the next few months, I gained this newfound sense of resolve and awareness. It was different from the rush of maternal hormones that come with holding a new baby. I began to think "if little old me (emphasis on the "old" part) could deliver a healthy baby in 12 minutes flat, what other startling feats could I pull off?" Corny? Maybe. I mean I was once that cynic who looked at green living and other movements with pessimism. Then, something happened. I don't know if it was the unlikely new, brown face in the White House or the improbable new, brown face in ours. But I started changing. Rather suddenly, I decided I didn't want to waste another minute -- in fact, I didn't want to waste ANYTHING.
Before I knew it, again accidentally on purpose, my Eco Mom instincts were born.
Why now? Honestly, I'm not entirely certain. Sure, sure...everyone loves a brand new baby -- the way they smell; the way their soft flesh folds and creases. The first two babies -- six and eight years ago, respectively -- undoubtedly elicited the same sentiments.
But I was young(er) then and took much for granted. This time, waking in the middle of the night was kinda cool and peaceful. This little guy magically put me in a simple, more spiritual place.
With my first pregnancy, we were given or purchased nearly every baby-superstore product imaginable. We had educational baby videos, a set of toys for the stroller, a separate set for the high chair and -- of course -- crib toys. Even as an infant, the kid's toiletry basket was fuller than mine with scented baby wash, shampoo, lotions, and the like.
Not this time. A day-long forage through our attic and basement uncovered all kinds of baby stuff that had somehow escaped my annual Goodwill deposits. I was proud to put these vintage items to good use. Compared to the newest models, Cole's ride -- a bulky-ish carriage, circa 1998 -- looked like something from the Stone Age. Pushing him in it filled me with a secret sense of superiority, to be honest. "You foolish resource wasters," I thought -- there's no gloating quite like that of new converts, after all.
While I have moments when I get all smug and full of myself, I realize that by any measure, I am still light green. I have to be diligent about my entire family's eco awareness. That means playing water cop with my budding tween who seems to think she needs twice daily showers. Patrolling the house like a night watchman, even during the day, scoping for evidence of my eight-year-old who flicks a light switch as easily as she breathes. The hubby is actually easy in this case, because all you have to do is whisper the "S" in savings and he's all over it: Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs; opt for Energy Star(R) appliances; cut down on gas use.
Sometimes, I have to admit, I'm the one who most gets in the way of my eco self. As a working mom of three I looooove convenience. But guess what? I'm coming along. I've pared my closet way down -- to the point where it actually looks sparse, but the truth is I hold on only to the clothes I wear. And if I get something new, I force myself to give something away. The biggest shift is also the one that gets me the most attention; I walk like crazy. To city dwellers, that's a no brainer. But in the 'burbs, driving is an epidemic. When people see me at the coffee shop or post office with multiple bags attached to the stroller, they almost always look on in astonishment. "You actually walked?" I can hear them think.
I haven't made drastic reductions in my family's carbon footprint -- yet. But with lil' baby steps, we'll get there.