I am trying to get into the habit of writing on a regular basis. It’s so hot that my brain has melted and I can’t think of anything new to say – but I HAVE managed a revision of one of my first posts. I also came up with a word other than “revised” for the title (guess the heat hasn’t completely melted my brain).
brought back; revived:
“the 1980s were far more than just the ’50s redux”
late 19th cent.: from Latin, from reducere ‘bring back.’
THE ACCIDENTAL MOTHER -REDUX
Some women are born to be mothers. You see them at the park. They lounge on benches or under a tree, talking and laughing with the other perfect parents. They are seemingly oblivious to the activity in the sandbox, but at the smallest cry, their heads whip toward the playground. They can tell at a glance whether the cry requires attention or pretended indifference. Their hair is perfectly coiffed** and colored, their nails manicured and painted, their clothing stylish and unstained. Their bags are stuffed with small Tupperware containers (carefully color coded for each child) filled with vegetables, cheese and fruit. These are the women who spent their childhood playing with dolls, parading up and down the street in their mothers’ high heels, pushing their “babies” through the neighborhood in a pink or blue stroller.
They spent hours bathing, feeding, changing and burping their dolls, treating their “offspring” with the utmost care and respect. These girls grew up to become perfect older siblings. They were excited by the idea of being a big sister and wanted nothing more than to help feed/bathe/change/burp the baby. They paraded up and down the street, pushing “their” baby in a pink or blue stroller, their mothers’ heels left at home for fear they would trip and hurt their baby brother or sister.
I am not one of them. I decided at an early age that dolls are creepy and weird. The dolls that well-meaning friends and family members gave me were re-gifted or donated to Goodwill. Dolls that were “too nice to donate” were relegated to a special shelf or corner of the closet, where they were left to gather dust and cobwebs. The ones that I found especially creepy (i.e. my mother’s Raggedy Anne doll) were stuffed into the bottom of my toy box and buried beneath blocks, balls and mismatched socks. I joined the other girls in their neighborhood parade, but my stroller was filled with stuffed animal “babies”, and my feet were clad in tennis shoes or cowboy boots. I grew up to become an indifferent big sister. Actually, I was an angry big sister. I wanted a puppy or a pony, but my parents brought home a brother. It made me mad. If I had to have a sibling, I wanted a sister. I refused to let his sex keep me from playing dress up and having tea parties with him, but my favorite game to play with my brother was Hide and DON’T Seek.
I went into marriage knowing that I didn’t want to have children. It’s not that I hated children, per se. I liked children. I liked cats and dogs too. They were fun to pet and snuggle with, but they were so much more enjoyable when they belong to someone else.
My husband went into our marriage thinking that he would like to have kids “someday”, but (by plying him with romantic vacations and football-filled Sundays) I managed to convince him that being an uncle was a better choice. We loved being DINKS*, and laughed when our friends told us that we were “missing out.”
Then I had an accident. No, not an “oops, it broke” accident, an I-turned-my-sedan-into-a-compact car accident. I was taken to the hospital in a neck brace, and my car was taken to the scrapyard…along with my birth control pills. I didn’t worry. I remembered my friend’s fertility struggles and her doctor’s explanation that “If you’ve been on birth control for years, it’s hard to get pregnant.”
She needs a new doctor.
My friends assured me that pregnancy would be easy, and that parenthood was the most amazing thing they’d ever done.
I need new friends.
Pregnancy was rough, and not just physically (the smell of meat cooking could chase me from the house), and emotionally (FYI, Budweiser commercials can bring a pregnant woman to tears, especially when she’s craving a beer).
There were just too many damn choices to be made. Who do you tell first? (side note to newly pregnant women – men get pissy when they find out via social media) What do you name the baby? (I wanted to name my boy either Justin Case or Justin Time. My friends were relieved when I had a girl) How do you decorate the nursery? What type of crib/carseat/stroller/diapers should you buy? How do you want have the baby? Yes, you have a choice. You can have a doctor and a C-section, or a midwife and a birthing room – you can even have a baby in a bathtub! After hearing labor horror stories from (I assume) well-meaning friends, family and strangers, I decided not to have the baby. At nine months, it wasn’t really an option, but that’s what I decided (side note to mathematicians – in what type of math does forty weeks equal nine months?).
In spite of my decision, at one week past my due date, I showed up at the hospital to have my labor induced – my OB was going on vacation the following week and he “wanted to have (your) baby”. My husband and I were ready to Become Parents – or so we thought. We were turned away by the triage nurse.
“We’re really busy right now, I’m so sorry. Could you come back in a couple of hours?”
It was a perfect Southern California evening – 76 degrees with a light breeze off the ocean – so we spent some time walking (or, in my case, waddling) down Main Street looking in shop windows. Every display seemed to feature products meant for our baby (“OMG look at those shoes! They’re so tiny!”). The people we passed nodded and smiled at my swollen belly.
“When is your baby due?”
“Last week. I’m being induced tonight. We were supposed to be admitted at 3:00, but they were too busy. We’re headed back at five.” I’m sure that this was more information than anyone wanted, but evidently the hormones surging through my bloodstream thought that strangers needed to know ALL THE DETAILS.
We returned to the hospital at 5:00, as requested.
“We’re really busy right now.” This time the nurse was not apologetic. Apparently the fact that my doctor wanted to induce me irritated her. “Come back at 7:00.”
I groaned. My feet hurt, my back hurt, and I was tired of being pregnant. Waddling down Main Street for a second time was out of the question. My husband smiled apologetically at Grumpy Triage Nurse and steered me out to the car. He drove down to the beach, thinking the waves would relax me. The only thing they relaxed was my bladder.
“I need to pee!”
We headed back to the hospital so I could relieve my bladder and wait. Fortunately, Grumpy was gone. The triage nurse took pity on the pregnant girl and started the admitting process.
They say that you forget the pain of childbirth, and it must be true, because I don’t remember much. I remember being uncomfortable, and feeling better when I walked the halls or stood in the shower. I remember my husband falling asleep during Jay Leno’s monologue, as I squirmed and panted beside him (for some odd reason, people have decided that breathing can replace medication in controlling pain. Trust me, it can’t). I remember the doctor coming into the room around 2:00 AM. His smile didn’t reach his eyes.
“Your baby is in distress. We need to do a Caesarian section immediately.”
The rest is a blur, memories distorted by time, pain and panic. I remember seeing my dad and stepmother as I was being wheeled to the operating room. I remember gripping my husband’s hand so tightly his fingers turned white. I remember waiting a lifetime before we heard our daughter’s first cry. I also remember the way my heart expanded to ten times its normal size when they laid her in my arms. Mostly I remember the feeling of panic that arose when I signed my discharge paperwork and realized that I was going to have to take this tiny baby home, even though I wasn’t a natural born mother.
I needn’t have panicked. The many choices and sleep deprivation that come with pregnancy helped prepare me for motherhood. My friends may have lied about pregnancy being easy, but they were right about parenthood being amazing. As strange as it sounds, my husband and I will be eternally grateful for my car accident, and for the little girl who stole our hearts and changed our lives when I became an accidental mother.
*DINKS – Dual Income, No Kids
** Special shout-out to Rachel, who reminded me that the word is not “quaffed”