Ashen, Ashen, I Bawl and Fall Down

For the event of Niblet’s birth, we bartered for the services of a local doula (if you can’t buy the time of a lesbian who works at the Environmental Protection Agency for the price of a gallon bag of frozen pesto and a six-course feast including hand-made butternut ravioli…then it’s time to kvetch about the state of the economy). “Doula” is a Greek word meaning “she who will dive into a uterus to pull out the remaining piece of a placenta when everybody else in the room is more concerned with taking APGAR scores.”

A doula is kind of a labor assistant, someone who tells the nurses to back-the-eff-off if they’re clacking too much in your face, someone who suggests that a pair of feet dug into one’s lumbar might be just the ticket to relieve back labor. Some doulas also create written narratives of the labor and delivery, just in case you want to recall at a later time that one of the blood vessels in your eye burst during the pushing.

Our doula, Anne, was cool. When Niblet maneuvered into a bad-bad-no-no position a couple weeks before his due date, she researched various stretches and lunges I could do to get him to shift back. It didn’t work, but, as a faux-academic, I can always appreciate failed research.

On the day of Niblet’s delivery, when I worked for eleven hours to pass his 10+-pound body, which was posterior facing instead of the preferred-anterior position, I kind of, um, stalled out. I was done and ready to wait until he and I both died, whereupon we could romp together in a heaven much like the scene in 1977’s James at Sixteen when James had a crush on Little House on the Prairie’s Melissa Sue Anderson, and they ran towards each other across a flower-filled meadow. Pretty much, I was ready to be Lance Kerwin, and my unborn baby was cast as Melissa Sue.

But then the damn doula refocused me and told me to lower my vocalizing out of the high-and-ineffective-wounded-puppy range, to drop it more into a gravelly and powerful “This-is-the-big-one-I’m-coming-Elizabeth” Fred Sandford plaint. So I started grunting real low-like and forcing my breath to do some work. It was a pretty remarkable sound of channeled pain.

Fat lot of good it, and the doula, did. Fancy-schmancy labor assistants and their blather about breathing. I’ll tell you how to get a damn baby out of you: let a well-paid team of carpenters take their blades to you and cut the thing out.

Now that worked. They hacked me open, and out came Melissa Sue.

Who knew, however, that nearly six years later I’d be giving the low, primal, Sanfordian groans a curtain call…all due to that same Melissa Sue (now a little boy in kindergarten)?

Who knew that I’d be carrying his 54-pound body towards the bunk bed one night and step on this, a much-coveted ring that I’d picked up off the floor already at least twenty-nineteen times that week:

Of course, I was barefoot, and the ring was turned sword side up. Impaled, dropping Melissa Sue, crazy with the pain, I yanked on it.

The ring didn’t budge.

I pulled again, harder, trying to get the sword to yield my foot flesh.

Arrrgh, maties, but it hung tight.

For a nano-second, I wondered what kind of boot Steve Madden makes that could accommodate foot-with-pirate-ring-growing-like-a-barnacle-out-of-the-sole.

If it meant new boots, I might be able to live with the thing.

Contemplating my options, I also hopped around wildly and–apparently–emitted a familiarly deep and extended moan of pain.

Generally, cries of pain are ignored in our house, as they are all overblown act, put on by the drama queens that live with my husband and daughter. But in this case, Groom detected a different tenor. He heard the doula keen. He knew my pain was real and that carpenters might need to be called in.

In fact, he was so convinced actual pain was happening that he dropped his chef’s knife (thankfully not into his foot; I could have told him that would hurt like a mudder-effer) and raced up the stairs, hollering, “Are you okay?”

At the moment he crested the stairs, I was delivered of a healthy pirate ring. It popped out with a flourish and belched a weak cry. As when Niblet was born, I managed to heave out the words “That. Hurt. Me. A. Lot. That. Should. Not. Happen. Anymore.”

Crankily, I hobbled into the bathroom and scrounged for the Bactine and gauze. That’s been Niblet’s legacy to me: blood and gauze and misplaced toys and despairing cries. Several times now, he liked to have killed me.

This week, as as the lad turns six, I am twirling dizzily in the circle of life. His birth gave me a new noise to make; six years later, I trotted it out again. In six more years, when he’s twelve, he’ll whack me in the head with a remote control in a fit of pique. He shall make me groan again, and often.


Of course.

Without him there would be

no moon that looks like a “sleeping banana,”

no snowman called Puffy made out of cotton balls and M & M’s,

no cadre of stuffed kitties named Star, Butterscotch, Strikes, Jingles, and Flash,

no body made prone with laughter over “sufferin’ succotash,”

no science “conspiriments” of growing “jiggly crystals that look like the sunset,”

no Baby Paco who is learning to walk (a character he inhabits through much of the day),

no fried eggs and frozen blueberries for lunch,

no heap of broken junk in the basement for “when Dad learns to weld, and we make a robot,”

no one asking Girl to hold him on her lap and groom his hair “like chimpanzees do,”

no one humming “Allouette” under his breath while throwing a bowling ball at Optimus Prime,

no one naming his betta fish Anikin,

no one seranading me with a song that goes “this is my soft leeetle weenis,”

no one climbing into the bed every morning to hug my cranky body to wakefulness,

no one who moves through the world just as I do, a perfect partner in hyper-sensitivity and goof-ass-ish-ness.
Thus, at the end of an extended visceral growl, I have discovered

there couldn’t be a more perfect pain.





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24 responses to “Ashen, Ashen, I Bawl and Fall Down”

  1. lime Avatar

    oh lawsie mercy, i am well acquainted with childbirth through carpentry…as well as what joy these wacky sons bring to our lives. email me sometime and ask about sled dogs…

  2. flutter Avatar

    my uterus is not accepting new occupants purely because of this post

  3. jess Avatar

    Why can’t I have one?? I want mind-numbing pain and groans of agony! I could take it!

  4. cathy Avatar

    I have sensitive little tootsies and a good imagination, which combined with your powers of description adds up to real pain.
    Thank God (and niblet) for soothing banana moons!

  5. Lone Grey Squirrel Avatar
    Lone Grey Squirrel

    Great post. You explained childbirth in terms that I can understand. What an achievement? Perhaps you could also tell me what “suffering succotash” means? I have always wanted to know but Sylvester never explained……that silly puddy tat.

  6. Jeni Avatar

    Sounds vaguely reminiscent of the reasons I rarely ventured into what was my son’s room back in the 80s, early 90s. Never knew what one’s foot might just encounter there. Now, I deal with much the same plight only it’s all usually scattered all around the living room floor. I’m kid of set in my ways -forgetful in that I don’t usually look down while walking around the house and therefore, the myriad of crayons on the floor often cause me to feel the balance going out of me. The sounds of crunching type noises emanate frequently as little cars, tiny airplance and oodles of itsy-bitsy Bratz and Barbie doll paraphenalia lose out in the battle with the foot of one over 200 pound old grandma.
    Oh, and I curse a lot then too!

  7. Pam Avatar

    Oooo,lovely as they are, children are a health hazard! A teacher friend had on-going knee problems after her knee ground agonisingly into some lego on the floor.Myself,after my daughter’s ball connected with and dislodged a cactus off an outdoor shelf, a tooth-pick-like cactus spike lodged in my heel.It was reluctant to “give” even as my husband tried to dislodge it with pliers in the “I am not reshoeing this horse- it just looks like it” position.I disallow toothpick cacti within a fifty mile radius from now on!Even the look of a toothpick gives me the shudders!My teeth are close together so it’s a big sacrifice – but hey,you know, we do it for the kids!

  8. Kylie w Warszawie Avatar
    Kylie w Warszawie

    You know how weird this is right? My Piglet turned 6 yesterday. (And your tribute was just SO much better than mine…I don’t do mushy well, and it shows).

    Happy birthday dear Niblet! We definitely have to meet sometime! Are you planning on making a trip to Poland anytime soon?

    In Warsaw we have a dirty mucky river and communist architecture. Do you think they’ll hire me for the tourism board?

  9. Bethany/Her Grace Avatar
    Bethany/Her Grace

    The fact that you not only referenced Little House on the Prairie and Sanford and Son, and made me weepy with those last two lines is further evidence that I was born to love you.

    My older daughter is turning six on Tuesday, so I’m right there with you.

  10. Glamourpuss Avatar

    Ah, I see what you did there; turning that horrific, foot-stabbing incident into a silver lining; clever. But I still hope he got a clip around the ear for leaving it there.


  11. Jazz Avatar

    Another beautiful post. Almost enough to make me want a kid.


  12. Shania Avatar

    What a lovely tribute to your boy!

  13. kmkat Avatar

    Childbirth by carpentry; I remember it well. I also remember stepping on Legos until I swore that whenever I cleaned, someone followed me around with a basketful of them, scattering them like flower petals before a bride.

    Your sword in the foot was much worse.

  14. chelle Avatar

    awww Happy birthday to your little guy!!!

    hmm I was thinking of calling to get a volunteer doula …

    ouch on the foot, that is evil!

  15. furiousBall Avatar

    that was sweet.

    did you know that professional wrestler Abdullah the Butcher, got his name from his very own doula? She had washboard abs from constantly doing sit-ups. hence, Ab-doula -> Abdullah

    seriously… it's science. by scientists.

  16. velvet Avatar

    Hahahaha! This is wonderful on so many levels. I must say that you have a totally unique and wonderful manling there.

  17. rak Avatar

    awesome post and awesome picture! yes, carpentry will do the trick for those big ones 🙂 i just had my six week checkup and doc looked at my incision line with much pride at how straight he made it 🙂 yeah, nice work doc.

  18. Jill Avatar

    And I thought Lego bricks were dangerous for bare feet. Now I’m thinking tiny swords are worse.

    Happy Birthday to Niblet. 6 years goes by sooo fast.

  19. Chantal Avatar

    Your good! Way to turn that one around.

  20. pistols at dawn Avatar
    pistols at dawn

    Jiggly crystals? This sounds like fun for the whole family. Particularly the fathers on business trips.

  21. phd in yogurtry Avatar
    phd in yogurtry

    What an amazingly sweet and hilarious post. Happy Birthday Niblet.

  22. Minnesota Matron Avatar
    Minnesota Matron

    I can’t get over the ring!! Ouch, ouch, ouch. Stryker’s shoulder got caught on my pelvic bone while his head was out. I could NOT push him out and he started turning blue. A substantial nurse said “Sorry, honey” to me, straddled me, and dropped her body on TOP of my uterus, sending Stryker shooting out.

    Later I said to John — “Did I scream? That really hurt.”

    John said the sound reverberated throughout the earth.

  23. citizen of the world Avatar
    citizen of the world

    They are worth every ounce oain. But I still vastly preferred the natural childbirth pain I went through with one to the C-section pain of the other.

  24. monica Avatar

    Oh I am sitting here with tears in my eyes, all taken in by your words, and totally agreeing with you. Even when they are teenagers they manage to make you realise – in between the “I hate you”s and “You never understand me”s – that you wouldn’t want to be without them, ever!!

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