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

We created her. And what a delight is has been to watch her evolve.

Semi-incidentally, and if you have any more reading time, my post commemorating the Girl’s birthday last year is perhaps my personal favorite…





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42 responses to “Mockingbirds and Tortoises”

  1. citizen of the world Avatar
    citizen of the world

    She is absolutely beautiful, Jocelyn. Great job.

    And I hated the pushing, too.

    (Ha! The word erification is “cruwl”)

  2. Dorky Dad Avatar
    Dorky Dad

    Reason No. 1 that I’m glad I’m not female.

    And that’s Reason No. 2 I don’t attend creation-evolution debates (that they’re ultra-stupid and pointless is, of course, No. 1).

    But I’ll second COW’s comment: Heckua job on the kid. You did good. Pat yourself on the back.

  3. Bob Avatar

    happy birthday to the girl-child, and happy happy to you.

    looks like you did good.

  4. Tai Avatar

    Way to go for BOTH of you!

  5. geewits Avatar

    That’s so sweet. It made me remember when my daughter was a little girl and was sweet. Maybe you will get lucky and ages 13 through 19 won’t make you want to go back in time and make different decisions. My daughter will be 24 this year and I am still asking myself, “When is she going to start being pleasant?” Maybe next year. Why not?

  6. August Avatar

    Somebody pass me Niblet’s Kleenex–– I’m a laughing-crying mess over here.

    Such a beautiful & shining young lady. Happy Birthday, honey.

    Incidentally, when you’ve outgrown that blouse, may I have it?


  7. AmyTree Avatar

    Awww, what a beauty!!! Happy Birthday Girl, and many happy returns. xxx

  8. Casdok Avatar

    Happy birthday to a gorgeous girl!

  9. Glamourpuss Avatar

    Yeah, I remember that post – it made me cry.

    Maybe dropping a sprog the night of a Evolution vs. Creationism debate proves that life doesn’t need no fancy ideology, just acceptance and wonder. Oh, and gratitude.


  10. Claudia Avatar

    Girl is STUNNING. Well worth the effort, I’d say!!!! WOOT! And “in my downstairs lady flat” – – produced a coffee through the nose snort. God, I LOVE reading you.

  11. SuburbanCorrespondent Avatar

    I guess you don’t want to hear how wonderful Anna was at that age, now do you? Because she was exactly as you described – poised, compassionate, confident, and my best buddy.

    Sigh. Enjoy while you can.

  12. Moi Avatar

    Happy birthday to both of you!

    She is one beautiful kiddo.

    Your birth experience sounds like mine, except they sent me home to have effing contractions for 3 weeks.

  13. Her Grace Avatar
    Her Grace

    She’s beautiful and amazing, just like her mother.

    I usually find myself guffawing out loud at least once during your posts, today this line did it:

    “the whole thing being kind of like a recap of the conception”

    Happy Birthday, Girl.

  14. furiousBall Avatar

    What a beautiful smile she’s got on her face.

    I am very specific.

  15. Chantal Avatar

    I am all teary. Am I supposed to be all teary? It is a nice teary. I just wish I had a daughter 🙁

  16. Steve Avatar

    Happy Birthday, Girl. I hope you put a candle each in eight girl scout cookies. You are an amazing girl to warrant such a tribute.

    Also congratulate your mom for introducing some non-fecal and non-bile bodily fluid into her post!

  17. lime Avatar

    i am not lying when i tell you that there is something very delightful in 7-9 year olds. do enjoy every minute because then they turn into teenagers and that sorta makes you look back at even a horrid labor with a certain wistful fondness for easier days.

    what a beauty you’ve got there. both with that charming smile and the heart of gold she exhibits. well done, mama. happy birthday to a lovely young lady.

  18. boondockramblings Avatar

    You’re an amazing writer.

    And yes, the pushing sucked.

  19. Mother of Invention Avatar
    Mother of Invention

    WOW! What a tribute to Girl’s 8th b-day! Sounds like you really lucked out on a fabulous kid. Kids will enetertain you for life!
    A great Creation Story!

  20. chelle Avatar

    She is breathtaking! Happy Birthday to your girl!! Many all her wishes come true now and forever.

  21. rak Avatar

    Brought tears. What a rollercoaster this took me on, especially since I am newly pregnant with what will be my first! You scared me but you give me so much to look forward to. Thank you.

  22. kimber the wolfgrrrl Avatar
    kimber the wolfgrrrl

    Happy Birthday, girl of quiet and poised resolve!

    (…downstairs ladyflat…. hahahaha!)

  23. liv Avatar

    oh, joce! she’s just marvelous. happy birthday, you beautiful girl.

    more specifically:

    1)my downstairs lady flat. (OMG. i almost wet myself.)

    2)sam waterston: worked with him many times. he’s a sweet man, and an amazing director.

  24. jen Avatar

    she’s the prettiest watermelon i’ve ever seen, hands down.

  25. Calamity Jane Avatar
    Calamity Jane

    That’s the nicest thing a mother ever wrote about her daughter.

    PS – you’ve got the downstairs ladyflat boarded up now … right? Don’t want evolution thoery dropping in the toilet again ya know?

  26. Calamity Jane Avatar
    Calamity Jane

    I just read last year’s post – you know I share your pain for The Kid Who Fell. A lovely tribute to both precious children.

  27. the frogster Avatar
    the frogster

    Well done as always, Jocelyn. And happy birthday to the Girl. I was born on March 11th. Um, I’m older than 8.

  28. rak Avatar

    On tenterhooks I am! It is a messy ordeal, physically and emotionally, to miscarry. What a miracle that you were to hear that heartbeat when you thought there was nothing left. And she is beautiful 🙂

  29. Diana Avatar

    Happy Birthday to your stunning Girl!

    Your tales of pushing had me nodding and laughing. I will swear to my dying day that after each push for The Son I was told by someone in the room that it was “almost over” or “One more!” or some other lie.

    Charles disagrees. He claims that it was only said on the last push. So sad when they perpetuate the falsehood, isn’t it?

  30. pistols at dawn Avatar
    pistols at dawn

    I also dislike conflict…and pregnancy, if we’re making lists.

    I feel like I’d spend all my time complaining about how my kid’s taste sucks. “Teletubbies? Seriously? That is trash and you are lame.”

    So it’s probably good that you got the kid.

  31. Jamie Avatar

    Damn, woman…you have done it again. Tears and laughter.

    Such a sweet tribute to beautiful little creation!

    And can I say how many times I heard, “Last push, honey! Last push!” Finally, after about 12 last pushes I looked up from behind my O2 mask and said, “Is this really my last push or are you f****** with me?” The Doc replied, “Ok seriously, one more push or we’re going to have to do a c-section.”

    Then I pushed one last push. And he came out. I believe the term is “4th degree tear.”
    I would have rather had a c-section.

  32. susan Avatar

    Great job on your creation!

    Happy Belated Birthday Beautiful Girl!

    (No, I’m not complaining that the girl part messed up my alliteration)

  33. actonbell Avatar

    Oh, she’s beautiful! And this is a beautiful post as well, Jocelyn. Not having had a child, I didn’t know about the placenta hell, I must admit.

    Time is speeding up, these days. A bittersweet deal.

  34. heartinsanfrancisco Avatar

    What a wonderful story, Jocelyn, and your daughter is gorgeous.

    Yes, you created her, but the evolution part is in her most capable hands.

    Happy birthday to your amazing girl.

    When I gave birth to my children, no one was with me but medical personnel, so go easy on your lyingwhore friends and family, please. They were there, loving you and your baby.

    This was another great post. How do you do it?

  35. Minnesota Matron Avatar
    Minnesota Matron

    Pitch-perfect prose. You think the Matron has some tight writing? Look in that cheery old mirror, sweetie.

    Happy Birthday to YOU. The Matron? She gives birthday presents to all her mama friends on the birth days of their eldest. Because it’s not just about that kid.

  36. Dory Avatar

    I loved this post. LOVED.


  37. Dorky Dad Avatar
    Dorky Dad

    Hey, uh … I did that flow chart you asked for. Or demanded. Or casually mentioned on my blog a week ago. Anyway, it’s posted now. Just in case you’re totally curious.

  38. Jazz Avatar

    That’s quite the tribute. She’s absoluely lovely.

  39. Theresa Avatar

    Girl is gorgeous! Enjoy the peace and quiet now because in a few years a huge line of boys will be beating down the door to be with Girl, and you and Groom will probably spend most of your time beating them off with a stick. Happy Birthday to Girl and congratulations on such a fine creation to Girl’s mum (and dad, I suppose, but since mum did most of the work, she gets more credit). 🙂

  40. SQT Avatar

    Wow. She sure is lovely.

    My girly will be eight this month.

  41. Claire Avatar

    You are a beautiful person.

  42. David Avatar

    I Loved This!
    Thank you!

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