opinions about life, work, and spirituality

Birth Control

June 16th, 2009

So. You think you want a baby.

It’s 2:30 am, and you have not yet gotten to bed. Your body feels like a bag of soggy rice. As you head towards your place in bed, imagining the lovely soft, cottony feeling of your head upon the pillow, you smell something rank. You pick up your little bundle of joy and head over to the change table. You unsnap her sleeper and begin the diaper change. Suddenly: Boom! Floosh! Prrrush!

Your little one has projectile pooped all over the change table and your hand. Now you watch, as in slow motion, as she pees. Your cat-like reflexes are not what they once were due to five weeks of sleep deprivation, and before you can snatch your sweet babe off the change table, you watch the pee run backwards underneath her back, soaking her undershirt. It’s 2:35 in the morning. You, your child, the change table, and any surface within a metre are covered in urine and feces. Your angel begins to holler. The sound of her mewling brings you back in time to when you were eleven and your friend dared you to chomp upon a massive piece of tin foil with your new cavity-filled molar.

You firmly but politely ask your now-awake partner to watch over the wee one, but bewilderingly, she runs out of the room, into the kitchen. “What is she doing?”, you wonder with only the slightest annoyance, “Now is not the time for a bowl of cheerios or a plate of nacho chips!” You call for your partner with only the slightest edge of perturbance in your voice. “This child pooped and peed everywhere! I could really use your help! What are you doing!?” Your partner spins back into the room.

For the ladies: You spin back into your bedroom, breast pump in hand. Your baby will need to eat after this diaper change and you are seriously engorged; your breasts are the magnificent size of five-pin bowling balls, and just as rock solid. If you feed your child in this bowling ball state, milk will spurt into your child’s mouth like water from a fire hose (yeah, I know it’s a cliche) and she will gulp down too much air, resulting in rivers of chunky spit-up. Your mid-wife has cautioned against this, though she really didn’t need to, as you are sick and tired of cleaning curdled milk off the sheets, mattress, pillows, walls, carpet, chairs, walls, the ceiling, your hair, your favorite abstract painting and everyone’s clothing. As you rip your undershirt off (because gone are the days you can wear a sexy little negligee to bed) your partner turns to you with a look that is just slightly enraged. You hold up the pump like a talisman.

For the men: Your partner holds up the breast pump with one hand, the other hand cupped beneath her magnificent breast which is the size of a bowling ball . If you weren’t covered in urine and feces, more exhausted than you’ve ever been in your life, and trying hard not to scream yourself from the sound of your child’s screeching, you would be turned on. But you are not. You are just slightly enraged. “This child has covered my hand in poop, decimated the change table with feces, and marinated herself in her own urine.” (You always get poetic when you are just slightly maddened.) Your partner sighs, and trudges over to you.

The two of you head for pails of water, baby soap, washcloths, clothing, mop, steam cleaner, vaccuum and high-powered pressure washer. As you run for these items in your exhausted state, you glance in the mirror and are reminded of when you were eleven and your friend dared you to sprint after spinning around in a circle 100 times. As the two of you get to work, you pass your newborn back and forth like she is a football and you are in intense training for football season. She is not impressed. At last, between the two of you, you manage to scour every surface in your bedroom, fanagle your child into a diaper, and wrestle her into a sleeper. She lets you know you haven’t done any of this fast enough for her liking. As you head to bed, you glance at the clock which now reads 3:35 am and realize there is still the matter of your partner’s bowling ball breasts. Neither of you feel like another hour of cleaning spit-up after your babe’s feeding, so you rock your howling infant in your arms as your partner hoovers milk into a bottle. Finally, as you hand your child to your partner to be fed, the clock reads 4 am. You sink back into your pillow into a very deep sleep.

It’s 6 am. You have slept for a total of two hours. You notice your child smells rank. You head over to the change table…

E.T Does Tai Chi: The First 24 Hours

June 9th, 2009

Babies born by C-section are beautiful, right? But what about the ones who are breech? Ahem. Let me explain.

As I lay in my cot, sewn together and regaining sensation in my lower body, I ogle my new child: Silky dark hair that endearingly sticks out in all directions. Dark, deep, luminous eyes the color of jet. Skin softer than a sea otter’s pelt. An adorably plump upper lip. Perfect, miniscule ears. Unbelievably tiny, compelling toes. Kissable knees, squeezable arms, squishable cheeks.

But. The top of her head is perfectly flat. Like book flat. Winnipeg flat. As flat as your chest when you were twelve and you cried because you could not yet even fill your teeny-tiny training bra, and the boys called you Pancake Girl. On the bright side, she could have a successful career in basket balancing. She won’t have to carry a backpack – she can carry her books to school on her head. She can compete in the new Olympic sport of head-butting. And win.

And though the hair at the back of her head is so long it extends past the collar of her sleeper, she has absolutely no hair at the front of her head. So, when she stretches her long, graceful neck and utters a high-pitched “creeeeeeel”, it brings to mind an equally lovable character from a popular film in the early 80’s.

My husband, beside me in an orange vinyl hospital chair, holds our little one in his arms. I saw his face when he viewed the luscious paradise of Rio De Janeiro and the Amazon, the sparkling golden limestone buildings of Malta, and the refined architectural beauty of Buenos Aires, but there’s no comparison to the awe and glory openly splayed across his face as he peers at our daughter.

Shoot. I know my face doesn’t look like his. I’m too busy thinking that my poor daughter will have to wear hats for the rest of her life. Where does one find a Bowler these days? Ugh! What kind of terrible mother am I, thinking my beloved baby looks like an alien? And why am I disappointed that my child looks like she’s missing the top of her head? Isn’t any kind of disappointment in these first tender hours of a baby’s life wholly inappropriate? Only three hours into motherhood and I’m already a heretic.

I interrupt my husband’s reverie, gurgle out my thoughts through tears. He listens and nods. “She’s so cute!”, he says. Yes. Well. I think so too, but I still wonder where the top of her head went. My mother enters the room and, once again through tears, I voice my observations. She nods and smiles, “Yeah, newborns are a little funny looking – like little old men.”, she says, “She’ll grow out of it, though.” I sigh. No need to buy a tiny baby Stetson hat. No need to invest in a lifetime supply of baskets. Someday my child will have a skull that extends above her eyebrows.

And better yet, my guilt about noticing my child’s imperfections slowly decreases over the next few days. I become okay with the fact that I’m not blind; that I can see my little one’s faults. Maybe I’m just a little more real than the Magazine-Mom with the hazy eyes.

But. What my child lacks in forehead in her first few hours, she makes up for with elegance. She is a brilliant mover. Her limbs stream slowly, esquisitely through the air. A little like Tai Chi, but with so much more heavenly beauty and depth. As my daughter dances silently in her transparent hospital-issue basinette, it’s like watching smoke curl upwards in slow motion. The twirl of her arm is the growth of a bamboo shoot. The spin of her wrist, a fiddlehead unfolding. The undulation of shoulders, the arc of ocean waves. The stretch of a neck, an arbutus tree branch. The extension of legs, ferns blowing in the wind. I want these moments of my daughter’s divine bodily grace to last forever. I know this dance won’t last, though. It’s a gorgeous leftover from her nine months in the watery world of my womb. So, I will take all the time I can to absorb these amazing moments. These God-tinged first few hours of my child’s life. As I gaze upon my daughter, my eyes haze over with tears, my chest fills with joy, pride and longing. My Baby is so beautiful.