Mockingbirds and Tortoises
Damn Darwin. Were it not for his meddling ways, I’d still be catching a daily nap just before–okay, more honestly, during–“Oprah.”
But he just had to go to the Galapagos and stare at all sorts of birds and turtles. Then he wrote that thing.
And suddenly, everyone was in a tizzy, wanting to roar at each other over what are clearly apples-and-oranges issues. Religion shines best when there are no microscopes in the pulpit; science convinces better when amazing technicolor dreamcoats aren’t hung in the lab.
Despite these truths, people started fighting, and they continue to this day.
Unfortunately, I’m just not very conflict oriented. I let pushy bastard-ass drivers on the highway ram through, a strategy that keeps it their problem, not mine. I smile as bossfolk shovel verbal compost and call it “a new initiative.” Sometimes, in fact, I have been known to remain in relationships for, say, six years, simply to avoid a fight.
‘Cause most fights require hot air and posturing, and doesn’t that sound like a lot of work? Generally speaking, I’ve got better things to do.
Thus, I shouldn’t have been so suprised eight years ago, that night I attended a Creation versus Evolution debate at the local high school. I never would have gone, except a colleague–a pal–had agreed to sit on the side of Evolution and use his philosophical skills to debate the visiting evangelical “I’ll-Give-Y’all-God-In-This-Here-Slideshow-AND-Scorn-The-Empiricists-Whilst-I’m-At-It” preacher. My colleague was nervous. He needed clapping hands in the audience.
Given the right cause, my hands can be very clappish.
One time, back in ’97, I even did a “woot-woot.”
Some Chinese Acrobats had just spun plates with their feet. How could I not?
At any rate, Groom and I slogged our way into the auditorium that night and settled into the hard wooden seats. At halftime, I excused myself to “go shake hands with My Savior” in the restroom.
I sat on the toilet and started to muse. Why is it evangelical preachers always wear powder blue suits? Why is it their hair–
My musings were interrupted by an enormous eruption into the toilet. This eruption was so unusual, it was, like, NUMBER THREE, maybe even NUMBER FOUR, if NUMBER THREE was something just a little bit more impressive than poo but less impressive than what had just come out of me. Let’s call NUMBER THREE cake batter.
So, yea, a volcanic thing had just exploded into the toilet water. Generally speaking, that can’t be good. If it ever happens to you, make sure you mop up but good afterwards, Moby.
Especially when you’re just starting Week 37 of your first pregnancy, and you’re pretty sure you have, like, a month left to consider packing a bag for the hospital.
But NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. The Creationists and the Evolutionists had to go all barky at each other up there on the stage that night, getting my knickers in a very particular bind, and before you know it, my anti-conflict membranes had reacted with a pre-term rupture.
I still don’t know if it was an act of God or science that caused it. What I do know is that, eyeing the ensuing bloodletting, we hied it over to the hospital an hour later. To this day, I don’t know who was right in that debate at the high school, but a part of me hopes God and Darwin fled the building and settled the argument afterwards by kickin’ it on the curb and drinking a couple 40’s of malt liquor.
Me? I pretty quickly had a monitor strapped around my belly. “Did you have any idea your contractions are three minutes apart?” the helpful nurse asked.
Contractions? Really? Three minutes apart?
This was starting to sound like the Big Show.
And no. I had no idea I was even having contractions, much less that I’d gotten them to repeat with the regularity of a Dick Wolf cop ‘n lawyer show in which a corpse is discovered in the first thirty seconds by an early-morning jogger who stops to retie his trailing shoelace.
Crikey, if these were contractions, this childbearing gig was going to be a walk in the park (just not Central Park, where I’d undoubtedly be attacked by a group of wilding youth who could only be brought to justice through the power of Sam Waterston’s homey-voiced closing statement).
A couple hours later, though, I had become one with the contractions. While Groom dozed, I stared at the clock during the peaks of pain and dozed through the valleys.
By morning, infuriatingly, the contractions had stopped all together. At that point, the midwife said we could either go home–and come back later when they started up again–or we could follow the momentum and make the birth happen.
Moment of character revelation: I discovered I don’t go through twelve hours of contractions just to be sent home with a casual “catch ya on the rebound.” So they rolled out the Pitocin and, as long as they were hooking me up, some penicillin to treat the Strep B that had built a vacation home in my downstairs lady flat.
We were in business. Over the course of the next ten hours or so, I started out determined and then got really tired and then cried and got emotional and then had my spine poked and for awhile there got really happy and chatty and then got all panicky and wild-eyed–the whole thing being kind of like a recap of the conception–and eventually I got really, really angry.
Second moment of character revelation: I hated the pushing. Holy watermelon through a bagel, but I hated the pushing. I was surrounded by medical staff, Me Man, and a crew of galpals. They were all being really good cheerleaders, assuring me, with each push, that I was almost done, that this was IT, that one more push would do it.
Sam Waterston should have prosecuted every last delusive one of them for perjury.
It was NOT the last push. It was never going to be the last push. I hated the push. The push was a pisser.
At one point, as I lay damp and panting in between pushes, the midwife announced, “I’m going to go make a pot of coffee.”
She was so carefree, so breezy, I ’bout reared off the bed and severed the midwife’s tail.
Turns out, the old Pot of Coffee Trick is well-known, in, um, druidic circles for jumpstarting a plateauing labor.
Midwife returned. Everyone told me–the lying sods–that it would be just one more push.
And then, twelve pushes later, it was. And it was a girl. It was the Girl.
I sobbed crazily, like a woman who had been through labor and a Creation vs. Evolution debate in the course of one 24-hour period.
Hot upon that catharsis, I realized that getting the babe out was just Step One. Step Two was expelling and massaging the mother******* placenta out. Where had that bit of information been, in all my pre-delivery reading? Huh? HUH?
But the Girl was good, and that was lucky, so I muddled through the placental hell; soldiered through the bloody, blistered and cracked nipples the next day; and eventually we all went home. For weeks, lovely friends came and went, urging me to “Enjoy every minute of it because it goes so fast!”
More with the lies. For a long time, every minute felt like three days. Nothing flew by. After a short battle with jaundice, we all were doing fine, but never, never did I end a day wondering where the time had gone. Time was sludge. The second hand had been attached to a glacier.
A few years later, we had Niblet–at which point every minute felt like five days.
In the last couple years.
Things have sped up.
Occasionally, a minute feels like a nanosecond. Occasionally, I start to consider the possibility that all my friends and family aren’t just big whoreliars. Time sometimes gets pulled over and issued a speeding ticket.
That fact gives me profound joy, yet it simultaneously rents little fissures into my heart. This moment in my kids’ lives is very, very good. It will change soon enough, though.
But what can you do? Just be.
Eight years later, we have gotten pretty good at be-ing with our Girl. She’s made it easy.
Before, I had expectations of parenthood–about how challenging it would be, how rewarding, how much it would revolve around caretaking. However, I had no idea
that She would become my friend (“Can I braid your hair now?”)
that She would teach me responsibility (“I need to put on my coat and hat by 8:00 and be on the corner by 8:03, or I’ll miss the bus, Mom. I need to get ready now.)
that She would take care of us (“Ooh, Niblet, that runny nose needs a Kleenex! Let me get you one.”)
that She would earn my respect (“I have some questions I want to ask a lot of people, like a survey. Then, when we get their answers, can I make some graphs of them?”)
that She would inspire in me a keen admiration (“I want to run this 5K, and I’m going to beat you, Mom.”)
that She would have an uncompromising purity of character (“I can’t even breathe right when I think about people having to be slaves. It makes my heart inside of me hurt.”)
that She would be unflappable (Of a neighbor boy, “He calls me an idiot all the time. It doesn’t bother me because he’s wrong.”)
that She would illuminate how shy, quiet reserve is also gentle, poised confidence
that, by her 8th birthday (today!), She would be one of my best companions, the person with whom I’d most like to take a walk around the block at the end of the day–that She would be one of my calmest and most-insightful chums
that the promise of Her arrival the night of the debate would be fulfilled a hundredfold by 2nd grade
Semi-incidentally, and if you have any more reading time, my post commemorating the Girl’s birthday last year is perhaps my personal favorite…