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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.

Yet.

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.
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Thus, at the end of an extended visceral growl, I have discovered

there couldn’t be a more perfect pain.

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