I’ve been closely following blogs- S,C and A, Rude Cactus, Goldie, ZeroBoss, maxedoutmama, Jen, Dooce and lots of other good ones and a lot they are about the worries that children bring us. I’ve been a little hesitant to get personal, down and dirty as it were, on the Cast of Characters but now that I’m past the free trial period and paying real money for this blog, well, what the hey? I think it could be helpful for me to journal a bit about the daughter I refer to occasionally. She is, in her own right, absent maternal bias, a very remarkable person. I can comfortably say this without prejudice because I am absolutely certain she was either switched in the nursery or of alien born.
As much vicarious pleasure as I get from her life, as much grief she causes me- she can’t be mine. When I look at my son and his smile, his moods, his feelings trailing all down his sleeves, his sense of humor- they all resonate. I know this child. I see his father and myself in those brown cow eyes. He is ours.
She is from another place entirely. So I’ll indulge myself and write a bit about her.
She was difficult and sad in her arrival. A repeat C-section, large at 9 # and the epidural didn’t take effect. 19 years ago they didn’t leave an indwelling catheter; they gave the epidural and rolled you back over to prep you while it was taking effect. But it didn’t and when he made the first incision I made some noise that drove my husband and the pediatrician from the room and the aging OR nurse to say, matter of factly, "We ain’t got no anesthetic down here." Since she was in distress they wanted her delivered without anything that would further suppress her heart rate or respiration. She was also lodged up high and rather than dislocate her hip the OB came around the drape and pressed down hard enough on my rib cage to pop her free and break a rib. At his time I discovered that I, too, could have an out-of body experience. I sat on top of the clock, right next to the crucifix (Catholic hospital) for an eternity or a moment or eight minutes and watched my child come into this world. I didn’t bother with re-entry until the anesthesiologist leaned down to my face and said,
" okay, now it’s over." But even then, in a painless haze, I heard that her first Apgar was 2 and saw them bagging her from blue to pink. Her second Apgar, remarkably, was 10 and I drifted off.
For two days friends and colleagues in the newborn nursery would come to my room and say, "She’s so pretty. She’s so healthy. Would you like to hold her now?" I wasn’t having any part of her.
Whether it was somehow linked to the trauma of her birth or merely remembering how much I wanted this daughter, a week later I was so madly, wildly, completely smitten with this slightly jaundiced green-eyed girl that I couldn’t let go of her. And nothing has changed since. That first month I nursed her as the Challenger exploded, as Michigan had it’s first palpable earthquake in decades and as the Zamboni machine scraped the community ice rink in the park across the street at 2 AM each morning.
Most children first say da-da or ma-ma in a way that quickly gets reinforced into a real word. Her first word was "Emppy." She said this at twelve months when she sat up from nursing, looked at me with a mixture of frustration and distress and slid off my lap, popped her binky into her mouth and wandered off, completely weaned. When her father arrived home from work she shared the news with him, patting my breast and affirming, "Emppy."
A year later: I can’t keep clothes on her and she escapes every evening in the summer to run buck-naked across the street to the park where she flings herself tummy down on the bucket seat swings and squeals with joy. When I chase her she scoots into the cement tunnels on the playground and scrapes up her butt.
Around this same time she came into our bedroom one morning holding up one of those really pissy, ammonia diapers and announced, "I not wear dis no more." I agreed and offered a fresh one.
She then clarified her point- she wasn’t wearing that diaper or any other ever again. Since we were taking our first cross country flight the next day I worked hard all day to jolly her back into diapers; no mother has ever wanted so much for their child to NOT be toilet trained. I lost, Abby prevailed and every seven minutes for 1758 miles I stood half out in the aisle of the airplane holding her over the airplane toilet while she piped, "Who peed bu?!?" She’s still fascinated with blue water and that’s as close as I ever got to the Mile High Club.
At three I can’t keep her in bed at night. "I hab to pee, I need a dink ob wata, I need da cat, I need my PINK binky." I need to call a halt and we dig in, on opposite sides of the door, for the struggle. 40 minutes later she’s doing that awful hiccupping sobby thing that sounds like respiratory arrest, her six year old brother is anxiously chewing his fingernails to the quick and I’m pleading, "Please, just get back in bed and go nighty-nite. Mommy loves you. I’ll see you in the morning." More gasping and choking sounds. I’m sure she’s stopped breathing. And then just as I decide I am killing my beloved daughter and move to turn the door handle her little voice asks, clear as a bell, "What, no deal?!"
That same year she started preschool and when I picked her up after the first morning she had a picture with cutout figures of her family that she had worked on with the teacher. The teacher had labeled the figures- "Mommy, Daddy, Dan, Sunny (the orange tabby
cat). There was no name on the cut out of the black cat and the teacher
said to me, "We didn’t really know what this kitty’s name is." My girl
indignantly put her hands on her hips and declared, "I tol you! His
name is Fucko!" I smiled and said that’s right, his name is Velcro. She
said triumphantly, "See I tol you his name is Fucko."
The cat never lived it down.
At four I’m working in my home office and out the front window I see a police car drive past the house, slow, reverse and pull into the driveway. I race to the side door in time to see Officer Bob looking up on the garage roof and ask, "Does your mother know you’re up there?" And she says, "No, but if she did it would be okay because she knows I can fly." She’s climbed the Maple-several times- and she has a jar of peanut butter, belly-button bear, several books, crayons, legos, her blanky and her binkies.
At five, all of us having weathered a divorce, I decided that she was quite old enough to give up her binky. Actually, binkies. From the time she walked at 10 months she insisted on clothing with two pockets for two spare binkies while one was always firmly plugged into her mouth. From all appearances she was born without caution, with too much curiosity, her spirit of adventure too great- but she always needed her binkies. The summer before kindergarten we had a rational discussion: she was old enough to do without them and soon, some night soon, the Binky Fairy would come and take all of her binkies and leave her a Big Girl present. So one night we gathered them all up, covered with lint and cat fur- dozens?- and put them in a paper lunch bag under her pillow. The next morning she had a small box of handmade paper embedded with glitter and leaves and flowers. That was satisfactory. She still has that paper tucked away in her small box of treasures in her drawer.