Wednesday, November 25:
I worked in sales and had an appointment with the mall manager of the South Bay Galleria in Torrance, California, the day before Thanksgiving. I was blinded by my head swimming with wild suppositions as I made my way through the mall. A teeny tiny exotic looking woman approached me and grabbed my arm like she was saving me from being swept out to sea.
This tiny woman brought me and my racing thoughts (about how long can those guys live in there?) to a halt with her claw-like grip on my upper arm. I looked at her, without saying anything, wondering, What the hell, very tiny lady? By exotic, she was what I envision a belly dancer looks like; she was older than me but not old. She was attractive with dark olive skin, distinctively large brown eyes, long jet-black hair but wearing normal clothes instead of sheer flowy scarves.
I am five foot six and was wearing my standard four-inch heels. I towered over this tiny exotic bird with her claw-like grip on me. As I looked down at her, what seemed like a foot below me, she announced, “I vant to tell you yor forchoon.” I shrugged, surprised at this development as it was the farthest direction away from how I thought this interaction was going to play out; I was prepared for a shakedown of some sort but not with this script; I cut her off, “I don’t have any money.”
She dug into my arm with her talons more tightly and insisted by speaking louder in her thick accent and more slowly as if I didn’t speak English, “I VANT TO TELL YOU YOR FORCHOON!” as if changing the dynamic tone of the sentence would help me understand this time. I was alarmed by everything about her and her demanding grip. I responded with what I thought would certainly end things, “I don’t believe in that stuff. I have an appointment; I really have to go.” I was trying to inch my way away from her, but she still had hold of my left upper arm in her DEATH GRIP and held me fast from forward motion.
She took a different tack, immediately dropped her doomsayer tone, smiled widely like we had known each other forever, and brightly said, “I just vanted to tell you yor forchoon because you look-a so sad. I vanted to tell you that you are going to have a ba-beee!” holding her smile with the last syllable.
My reaction had to have surprised HER because I am sure the look of horror on my face was something between shock and blinding fear as I blurted out the first unfiltered thought that washed over me at the top of my lungs in the middle of The South Bay Galleria Mall in Torrance, California, “AND THAT IS SUPPOSED TO MAKE ME FEEEEEEL BETTER???!!”
I was so freaked out by her prophecy, this whole encounter, combined with the anxiety of where my thoughts had already been for the past five days since Friday’s doctor informed panic convo that I startled HER with my reaction, was able to reclaim my arm from her claw with ridiculously long and brightly painted nails and RAN away from her. I whipped out my heavy boot-sized cell phone, remember this was the early 90s, on the run, and called the mall manager’s office to breathlessly cancel my appointment en route to the CVS drug store attached to the mall.
You are supposed to wait until you are at least two weeks late but based on this recent development, even though I wasn’t officially late, I just couldn’t wait. I tore open the box, tore open the test, and peed on the stick. However many minutes it is supposed to take for the results didn’t matter; the second my pee hit that indicator window, it turned blue-before the countdown; it was unquestionably blue as could be, positive. “Of course, these would be the ones,” I repeated out loud to no one.
I realize now that this story requires loads of time travel, buckle-up.
Friday, November 20:
It was jeans and T-shirt day at work. I walked in, and the receptionist greeted me as one might expect with, “Good morning.” Then almost surprisingly added… “Don’t you look cute today?!” It was jeans day. I smiled, responded with a “Good morning,” and walked through the door from the reception area. I wondered, What is that supposed to mean? She has seen me in jeans like… every previous Friday for a year? I was otherwise, in general, in a funk, sulking around my twenty-something-year-old life following that breakup of all of five days ago thus far. I didn’t feel cute.
I made my way to my office. My girlfriend noted similarly from her desk as I walked by that I “looked really cute.” I was wearing a Navy-blue company T-shirt and JEANS. There was nothing extraordinary about what I was wearing. Although, OK, come to think of it, I do look good in Navy-blue, but still. I went to use the restroom after my long commute into the office and noticed that I might be ovulating??? What the? This didn’t make any sense to me. I should have been on schedule to start my cycle the next morning, not ovulating.
Sometime back in 1982:
From the beginning of time, scratch that, from the point of menarche (at 15) when I had my first ladies’ cycle, IT was problematic. There were plenty of physical reasons that included falling off the roof of a building in our neighborhood and landing across a fence, which was the most likely culprit, but falling off horses, bikes, skates, or skis, probably didn’t help either. Needless to say, my cycle was always horrid. Fainting from the intense pain was common, migraines, more pain, unpredictable significant bleeding, lots of doctor appointments; You get the picture. It was bad.
Friday, November 13:
Ten plus years post-Menarche, I was not supposed to be able to have children. After yet another visit to my lady parts doctor, he advised me that if I ever wanted to have a family, that my clock was ticking louder than most. He explained that the process of being pregnant would also give my body a break from all the bleeding. Shit was getting real. Something I hadn’t been focused on, starting a family, moved to the VERY front of considerations for my life plan.
Given my personal history with my lady parts, I always assumed that was off the table, but according to my doctor, there was a possibility, and that got my attention, but not like a YAYYYYY, more like an I don’t know how I feel about this- hmmmmm? He asked me about my current romantic life situation which I explained I was dating a textbook Peter Pan who was all about the fun and games and while I certainly loved him, I didn’t think he would take this news seriously because he didn’t take me very seriously. My doctor got out his prescription pad, quickly scribbled something down, and handed it to me with the admonishment that I give it to my boyfriend with an ultimatum that we either get serious or I move on so that I would have the time necessary to find a new potential life partner and the chance to have children. The prescription said, “GET PREGNANT ASAP!”
Sunday, November 15:
First of all, we are not supposed to have to convince anyone to love us; while we might think the answer is simple: either they do, or they do not, nothing is ever quite as simple as it seems on its face value. I was, in my words, not his, still in the test-driving mode of his dating process after FIVE YEARS. When I made this analogy and handed him the prescription, he laughed and assured me that if anything I was the Ferrari of test drives. He obviously knew how to flatter me. With the ultimatum, it was revealed that he was having trouble making a choice because he was also, unbeknownst to me, still mulling over three to five other women who he had known for decades. He had previously dated all of them and been married to at least two of them; as far as I knew, he was a man of many secrets.
We were ALL still in the running in his mind for prospective life partners. After five years of pushing that “LOVE ME” boulder up the hill, learning that a possibility window let alone existed but was also quickly closing to have children AND finding myself on stage with all these other (SURPRISE!!!) beauty contestants? The following phrase grew louder in my head in all caps… WHAT THE FUCK AM I STILL DOING HERE?
I KNOW, right?
I had to break it off (again). It may not sound like a relationship that I should have been devasted over, but I was; I was 26 and dramatic as hell even though the decision was mine 1) to date him in the first place, he was twenty years older than me, and 2) to stay far too long following one red flag after another slapped me across the face-hence lots of on-again, off-again break up responses from me. For those of you who know me (and him), it’s complicated! Go ahead and judge; I don’t care. It’s all part of my life’s emotional education, and I embrace it all…NOW.
It had been a romantic Sunday if you get my drift, but then after the “smoking after” conversation took a dive as I took in all the above information, I had to break it off (again) with him.
Monday, November 16:
I stopped taking my birth control pills the following day because they made me ill EVERY SINGLE DAY since the first dose at age 18. I was supposed to start my lady cycle on the upcoming Saturday, so in five days, I was supposed to start; a pattern that had been set in stone every cycle for the past; however many had occurred since I was 15, (~132+-) I had never been late. I knew when I would have ovulated had I not been on the pill. That timeframe was behind me this month; I was on the downhill run to starting and felt confident that it was safe to stop taking the last few pills based on all this data-thank you, Senior Catholic High School rhythm-birth-control-method curriculum. I felt instantly better with no synthetic hormonal side effects-such a relief.
I told the gals at work about my doctor writing the “Get Pregnant ASAP!” script and me breaking it off again with Peter Pan. That was all it took for word to get out that I HAD to find a guy, get married and get pregnant right away. I hadn’t put it quite that way, but that is how the story morphed like wildfire around the office. Awkward.
Back to Friday the 20th:
I began to panic in the bathroom, thinking of the Sunday encounter, counting on my fingers how many days it had been, wondering how long THOSE GUYS can live inside THERE. I needed to call my doctor’s office STAT! As I made my way back to my office, I grabbed a cup of coffee. I was sitting on hold, waiting to speak to my doctor, when one of the guys from the field stepped into my doorway. He was very cute, a bit younger than me, not someone I had ever seen or had a conversation with, but there he was in my doorway with an inquiring look. I turned the phone handset so that the earpiece remained on my ear but moved the mouthpiece down away from my mouth, and I asked, “What’s up?” He was trying to be cute: I mean, he definitely was cute; he smiled widely and said, “I heard about your…dilemma,” I was irritated, thinking, OH…REALLY? But outwardly smiled, indicating with a wave of my hand that he may continue… “I was wondering if you were taking sperm samples?”
To his surprise, I hopped up from my desk, the cup still in my hand, I downed the last swig of my coffee, and pushed the cup into his chest, calling bluff on his very forward question, “Yes, if you could just put it in here, please.”
I am not for everyone; I have known this forever. I was definitely a bit much for him, this cute little man-boy. I don’t know how he envisioned his plan going down, but pretty sure it was not like this. He was REALLY cute, but I was so not ready for everyone (the guys) to know that I might have problems down there or that I was recently, as in, five days recently, single; I wanted none of this PLUS I was OVULATING!!! Shaken with the fear of God I just handed him; he gingerly put the cup down on my credenza next to the door, broke his gaze from me as I stood there unblinking and unimpressed. He ran away, practically crying. I may… have broken him. Do not go toe-to-toe with a varsity smart-ass unprepared.
My doctor came on the line in my ear as I stood in my office doorway. I picked up my Far Side comic strip coffee-cup-turned-potential-sperm-collector, shut my door, and returned to my chair. Without explanation I got right to it, “Yes, Hi. I was wondering how long sperm can live inside a woman?” He took a long breath and began what sounded like a med school lecture was to follow, “Oh, uhhhhh, typically the spermatozoa can live in there two or three days…tops.” I was so relieved and began to breathe easy.
Then, he added a “But…” I thought no, No, NOOOO… of course, there was “But…”
exception coming. He continued, “…on rare occasions though, they have been known to live in there up to a week.” My blood ran cold. I thought only I could hear my thoughts, but in my shock, my filter didn’t hold the thought inside my head; the words snuck out of my mouth, “Oh, shit. THESE would be the ones that live that long.” My doctor asked for more clarification with a, “What?” I realized they had escaped, out loud, and I abruptly ended the call with a “Thank you.” I didn’t wait for him to say anything further or even goodbye; I hung up on my doctor.
I sat in a medically informed state of panic now, (which is different from just rando-panic of unknown origin), with my back to my closed door. One hand to my mouth, the other still holding in mid-air for no reason other than I hadn’t put it down yet, my empty coffee cup which I literally JUST solicited sperm samples from that cute little man-boy who ran away possibly ruined for life. Time briefly stood still in my office. This was Friday, five days after the romantic Sunday encounter, five WHOLE days after the devastating breakup. I felt something; it was a different sort of clock begin ticking with approximately 6700 hours on it now.
I spent the rest of the day heavy with my informed panic insight from my doctor that probably meant nothing, but my thoughts raced out of control about how long those guys can live in there, for what turned out to be an otherwise completely unproductive day. I had plans to meet my friend Fiona for dinner that evening at her place in Santa Monica. I ruminated the entire 45-mile drive between my office in Walnut to Santa Monica-which anyone in L.A. knows is about a two-hour drive in Friday rush hour traffic. Lots of ruminating.
I found a parking spot after circling her block several times and finally made my way to her door. I had to pee-Oh GOD, did that mean anything? I wondered. I hadn’t seen her in maybe a couple of years. I knocked on the door; she flung it open in the excitement that I had made it. The first words out of her mouth were, “WENCH, YOU LOOK AMAZING!” She worked the Renaissance Faire scene a few years, so her words made perfect sense to me. I pushed past her into their shared apartment, past a man at her side, her boyfriend I had not yet met, as I said in a low, drawn-out tone, “SHUUUUUUT UUUUUUUUP!!!!!” She closed the door behind me as I peepee-danced, and I relayed the events of the past eight days in ONE breath, followed by, “Nice to meet you, I’m Mardi. May I use your bathroom?” As I reached out to shake his hand. The rest of the evening was nothing but more wild suppositions of the unknown and talk of how long those guys can live in there.
Saturday, November 21:
The next day, my off-again boyfriend called me on my boot-sized work cellphone; apparently, his heart was in the trash too. He begged me to come over right then because he wanted to, quote, “Kiss you until you are pregnant.” I was stunned by his invitation, but for once, I was the adult in the room, “I am ovulating, and I don’t think you mean it. You need to decide what you really want.” There were more comparisons to Ferrari’s that somehow degraded into a mini-van or something offensive to that effect. The conversation degraded from there in a frustrating circular existential bit of pointlessness. I didn’t see him that day or for several weeks.
Wednesday, November 25:
From the toilet stall in the CVS attached to the South Bay Galleria Mall in Torrance, California, I immediately called my sister Anne with my stupid boot-sized 90s cellphone and launched without greeting, into a long-standing joke we shared, “I took one of those pregnancy test’s, the one’s on special from aisle eleven, AND THE RESULTS WERE BLUE!” mocking a scene from City Slickers. We used that joke anytime anything wasn’t going right, and the news was dire.
Anne instinctively got every joke I ever made, saw through my making fun of the moment tactic, and understood that while, yes, on the one hand, it was funny, but I was also in distress. The first words she said were the exact words I needed to hear, “OK! We’ve got this!” From the stall in the bathroom at CVS at The South Bay Galleria Mall, in Torrance, California, in my state of shock, I had no idea what exactly “We’ve got,” but hearing my sister, the best mother I know, tell me without the skip of a heartbeat that in so many words everything was going to be fine was incredibly helpful. Especially since she knew everything about me, my limitations, that I had two cats, and as independent creatures that practically take care of themselves, she knew that even THEY were a bit of a stretch for me. If she thought I could do it, then I could do it.
In my second breath, I started… “YOU WOULD NOT BELIEVE-THE WEIRDEST THING EVER…”
I relayed to Anne from the toilet stall (what, ten days after I broke up with him?) about the tiny exotic soothsayer and the couple of weeks I had had prior to the soothsayer. This entire conversation was happening at rapid-fire, long increments, only broken by me stopping to take a breath and Anne trying to catch hers from laughing at my histrionic midnight movie of the month storytelling, which grew more hilarious with our compounded laughter.
“I ran as fast as I could, I’m wearing heels, and you know how the floors are slippery tile-I was running the entire way.” Anne, “Yes…” continuously laughing. “I entered CVS and quickly read the signs above the aisles, making my way to where I instinctively assumed pregnancy tests would be located, in the back near the condoms. I found the test and ran back to the front of the store to the registers to pay for it. The clerk, who saw me enter, watched and obviously heard me loudly running around in my heels in the otherwise empty store. She could probably hear my pounding heart, too, as she blipped the box over the scanner; it made the (BINK) noise in the silence left by my currently quiet heels while I stood in front of her, jiggling my leg as I impatiently waited. We made eye contact briefly as she quietly whispered, ‘that will be $6.95.’ I don’t know why she was so quiet (pause as I the theorize) but anyway…” Anne was laughing harder with each detail, especially as I paused for dramatic effect before making the BINK sound. I continued, “I threw money at her, grabbed my purchase, and ran once again, slipping and sliding, clopping in my heels to the back of the empty store past where I found the test, to the restrooms. And…well, you kn… I’m here on the toilet talking to you now.”
I know she could picture me, everything, the scene with the tiny soothsayer and ME in the public bathroom of ALL places-she and I both hate public bathrooms, which makes the scenario even funnier! On the other end of the line of my enormous cellphone, Anne was laughing beyond hysterically, and I could not help but laugh too. It WAS funny, and Anne has an infectious laugh-all of this moment in time ignited my very best storytelling abilities. I could picture her in her office, wiping her eyes because I could hear hints of those sort of sounds between her catching her breath from the entire results were blue soothsayer encounter.
I felt so much better after unloading all of that to Anne and laughing in that filthy bathroom. I washed my hands twice and calmly walked out of the store a much different woman than I had entered. I retraced my steps the long way back to my car in a completely brighter, elevated mood. It’s fine. This is going to be a piece of cake. I thought.
Trust me; there is a great deal of complicated drama that I will simply condense to the container of these brackets (insert unnecessary drama represented here) with his dad and my pregnancy. I don’t even remember the details of telling his dad other than I briefly considered NOT telling him. But my friends, namely Don, a favorite work colleague and a young over-the-moon with his family man who LOATHED my off-again and threatened to tell him if I didn’t because… “I had to give him a chance to know and be involved.” Don’s reaction in defense of my off-again was unexpected and alarming enough to convince me to advise off-again of the circumstance. We remained separate.
Nine months go by slowly…
With his dad out of the picture, I decided I would have the best pregnancy ever because my doctor was shocked that I got pregnant without expensive scientific intervention, and with what I know now, it would have been impossible for me to carry another pregnancy to term-not that I tried. I just knew this pregnancy was it for me, and I was going to savor every minute.
My friend Kellie was game for any adventure I suggested; concerts, beach trips, river rafting, museum exhibitions, movies (FYI, Shindler’s List may not have been the best suggestion for a pregnant lady because I cried for four days after seeing it). I wanted to do things that I didn’t think I would do for a long while once my baby girl arrived. Kellie and I had a ball.
Why did I think I was having a girl? Just my visceral feeling. No definitive sonogram. There was NO rhyme nor reason; I truly didn’t care either way; I just thought I was having a girl.
Friday, July 29:
Kellie and I were at a sandwich shop near our work in Walnut. This was my last day of work before maternity leave. The nice sandwich lady who had seen me practically every day of my pregnancy, at what felt like 10 minutes before my baby girl was to arrive, confidently asked me, “When is your baby boy due?”
I chuckled possibly condescendingly at her silly question. She sounded so sure of herself too. “I am having a girl.” I corrected her. It was her turn to laugh, and the second she stopped laughing, she corrected me with something like, “Ha-Ha-Ha-“ turns ominously serious, “Oh, YOU’RE HAVING A BOY.” Stunned at the change in her demeanor from nice sandwich lady to kinda-scary soothsayer, I couldn’t help but think of the other tiny scary soothsayer lady who knew something about me that I didn’t want to know. I cautiously took my tray with my sandwich on it to our table, glaring uncomfortably over my shoulder at the normally very nice sandwich lady who had the audacity to make such an inaccurate prophecy in front of everyone on the patio at the sandwich place.
Sunday, August 8:
Anne drove Kellie and me to the hospital when the time came, after 11 p.m. on a Sunday night. Anne had an enormous tuna boat of a Buick Woody Electra Station Wagon, a car she unaffectionately referred to as “MY MOTHER’S CAR” that unfortunately happened to live in her driveway. Randy had chosen the car without her input and arrived home with it one day. It WAS a very nice car, but it really belonged to an old lady, not my sister, who is more of a truck lover.
So there we were, floating down the 215 freeway in her luxury liner. She was driving the speed limit and, in my opinion, taking forever to get between San Bernardino and Redlands Community Hospital. I was IN LABOR. I stated, “You know…if there was ever a time that you COULD speed and get away with it, I am pretty sure this is IT.” She held fast to her observance of the rules of the road, with her hands positioned correctly at the 10 and 2 positions on the steering wheel, calmly stated, “I am going to get us there safe and sound and within the speed limit.” I was annoyed, but I was pretty sure my baby girl was not coming within the 15 minutes that it was likely going to take to get to the hospital, so I didn’t push it—accidental pun. Mainly I was excitedly impatient; I just wanted to meet my girl!
Monday, August 9:
By the next day, to the shock of everyone (except probably the sandwich lady) who had listened to me talk about my baby girl for the last nine months, my son arrived; Steven with a V and a wiener, not a girl. He had to be dragged out of there for whatever reason babies decide not to come out; he was fully exploring that option. Knowing him now for twenty-something years, I recognize it was just a precursor of his distinct march to his own drum personality. After way too long in medicated labor, I reached the point of asking the doctor to “Just cut IT out of me!” Instead, they dragged him out, kicking but not screaming with a medical vacuum; they literally “medi-vacced” him out of there.
Since his dad and I were not together through my pregnancy, we had limited conversations about names. He and I had only selected a girl’s name because I thought I was having a girl. The fact that we came to any agreement about a girl’s name (Kathryn) so quickly was a relief to me and validated my belief that it was all meant to be…a girl.
So there I was; I had just given birth to the shock of my life, not a girl, but a bouncing baby boing-boing. Not only was I, in general, not prepared because…read the aforementioned cat ownership information above. I had diapers and onesies and a crib and that kind of stuff, but shit just got very real with his arrival. I had a silent panic attack.
My previous, I got this piece of cake belief disappeared from my being with the placenta; I instantly changed my mind and didn’t think I could do any of it at all! I didn’t say anything to anyone to that effect; I had lost the ability to speak. I had been in labor and gone without food for more than two days at that point because I had been unable to eat the day before arriving at the hospital, and they don’t let you have water- and NO, ice chips are not water. I was in shock from the loss of blood, fluid, and food. A growing sense of awareness was replacing my previous cavalier got this idea; I was not babysitting. That kid’s parents were not going to be coming home to relieve me EVER. I was, in fact, a parent, HIS parent. HOLY SHIT, I was panicking.
As I looked around at the faces in the room, I hated the fact that EVERYONE in the WORLD could see or had seen my hoo hoo. For starters, the random doctor who was on call was the father of Anne’s daughter’s high school prom date. Anne and my on-call doctor were on warm terms, chit-chatting about their kids. Anne asked me to do portraits of the kids a year before during their collective family photo session with both families pre-prom in the doctor’s backyard right around the corner from the hospital. He smiled at me in recognition. Dots I didn’t want connected were being connected. Surely he was going to go home and tell his wife all about my hoo hoo. I wanted to disappear.
Kellie and Anne, who had cheered me on for the past nine months telling me I could do this, who had breathed middle of the night coffee breath on me to talk me through breathing through my contractions, as you might imagine. They were great. But, Anne had one and only horrifying look down there after the doctor suggested she take a look and retroactively felt horrified for her own husband having gone through their children’s deliveries looking from the same perspective at that scene down there. She informed me that she has not yet recovered (Steven is 27).
Poor Kellie may have had it slightly worse; she had been handed a monitor that had been shoved up my hoo-hoo. The doctor pulled it out as things were happening and just handed it randomly to her without looking, assuming she was a nurse, expecting her to take it. I will never forget the look of horror on her face as she reached gingerly with as few ungloved fingers as possible lest she gets birth goo on her. She took it with her thumb and index finger; the rest of her fingers curved up like an OK sign as she took the antenna-looking monitor from the doctor’s hand. He didn’t say, and she had no idea what to do with the thing; she stood there momentarily, just holding it away from herself with a look of revulsion until a nurse came and took it from her. Maybe it was JUST everyone on this particular floor of the hospital who had seen my hoo-hoo, but it felt like the entire world in my state of heightened perception.
The room cheered, and the doctor remarked at what an alert baby HE was. HE with the hangy-downy parts that were the first thing I clearly saw when HE departed my body. Kellie, who I always teased for not crying at the scene that makes everyone else I know cry in Old Yeller, was caught up in the moment with tears as she cut him loose on the world with a few tough wrangles with the scissors on the umbilical cord. He. Him. OMG! I have a baby…BOY?
I could not stop feeling like someone had snuck that child in there and that he had eavesdropped on all the conversations I had had with my baby girl for the past nine months. It was the invasion of the baby snatcher. I felt completely disconnected from this little stranger-this little sneaky baby. I felt no bond, and I felt terribly guilty, which lead to more thinking I could not be a parent; I was already failing to bond!!! I had been too weak to hold him and nurse him immediately following delivery as I imagined I magically would. All these thoughts were feeding my fear of not having this as in the complete polar opposite of the confidence I started with back in the bathroom stall, laughing with my sister from the toilet in the South Bay Galleria CVS drugstore in Torrance, California.
My brief encounters with his father during my pregnancy were ever distressing. He had been a paramedic for more than half of his career with SBFD and delivered many babies. Each conversation was more doomsayer than the last, leaving me with the worry that I had no idea what was in store for me and that “You know women GO during labor?” A detail I did not know and filled the role of my one and only apprehension of my delivery. The only relief from this progression of thoughts spiraling ever out of control came with a clap of thunder as there was an impressive electrical summer storm roiling outside that snapped me out of panic mode to gratefulness, and I took a breath of relief as I thought; THANK GOD I didn’t shit on anyone. I mean it would have been awful enough to have anything slip out that wasn’t supposed to, but to have done so on my sister’s daughter’s high school prom date’s randomly on duty baby delivery daddy who I kinda knew would have been THE worst-so I got that goin’ for me, yaaaaaaay!
All that is just a tiny peek inside my head. I am sure it was MUCH worse.
I was moved from the labor and delivery room soon after he was excavated. I was properly hydrated by the time the nurses brought him to my room about thirty minutes later to spend the remainder of the day and night with me before going home tomorrow. I took one look at him and felt my heart jump for joy at this BABY BOY of all things! Oh, Ma GAD! I had a BOY!!!! I am SO GLAD I HAD A BOY!!!! It finally happened; nothing was wrong with me that a little hydration couldn’t solve. I felt nothing short of the most amazing joy of my life in recognition of this stranger I had never known but already knew that I had known forever. You hear about that déjà vu experience, and it washed over me like a tidal wave. I could not stop looking at and kissing him. I blame the shock and lack of food for my previous panic and dissociation from the moment. From that point on and to this day, he is MY BOY!!! Ya, he has a dad who unquestionably loves him madly, but he really is MY BOY! And I didn’t care about a thing in the world because I just knew…I got this!
But wait, wait, WAIT!!! Record Scratch WAIT!
I hadn’t thought of a name!!! Oh, shit, his dad was out of town as in out of the state-out of town, and in the early days of cell phones the size of boots and shitty cell phone coverage, I was unable to let him know I had headed to the hospital before my due date. He, my baby, had arrived three days earlier than expected. His dad had planned on being with me, but it just didn’t work out that way…story of our life together…times infinity.
I learned that I had two weeks to legally name him, which was a really good thing because I was going to need all of that time. I am THE WORST when it comes to naming things; thus far in my life, I had had three cats, Kitty-which ended up living with my mom, Baby Kitty, and Kid-and-Baby-Kitty (she was younger than Baby Kitty and needed further distinction). You may not believe me, but lying next to me as I type is the latest iteration of Kitty, yes Kitty number four. You can see why I felt this might be difficult narrowing down a name, I am simply not creative with the naming of things, and it never before mattered with cats. His dad had been adamant about not having a Junior if I had a boy, but I wasn’t, remember? Fine with me. I didn’t want to name him after his dad anyway. His dad had a lovely son named Ben, whom I didn’t want to upstage with a Junior replica of their father.
Because I wasn’t close to coming up with a first name, let alone a middle, or formally deciding on his last name because we also hadn’t really discussed that either, and even though I could have left the hospital with a nameless Baby Doe, I simply couldn’t leave that building without a document in my hand that had a name on it, so David N.M.N. (No Middle Name) Linane he was.
I went to my parents’ home directly from the hospital instead of my condo. My mom drove us. US! I was now an US!!! Such a strange and perfectly magical transition. The first few days, I felt like I should have been lying in a box with a blanket on the kitchen floor like ranch dogs with nursing pups do. I felt like I was the mothership, and my baby was attached to my milk ports every minute of the day. I didn’t mind, it was surreal, and I cannot help but look at ridiculous humor in situations such that I was experiencing at that time, getting used to this new adventure and growing my parenting skills along with my now bowling ball-sized boobs on my formerly tiny body.
Over the phone, his dad took the news of his arrival with surprising over-the-moon excitement. He had said he was looking forward to experiencing being a father to a girl, but it turns out he was pretty stoked to have another boy. I explained the two weeks to name him law, and we agreed to bring our ideas to the table about his legal name. I should, for the record, remind everyone that his dad’s name was also David. No juniors.
My mom came into the room where I was sleeping, my former bedroom from before I moved out on my own. She had the princess phone in her hand, both parts of it, the receiver and cradle with a 20-foot long cord that extended out into the hallway. She handed me the phone, advising me that it was her (lifelong) friend Suzie calling from Oregon. Obviously, she was calling to congratulate me on the arrival of MY BOY!!! Or so I thought.
Suzie, who was like a second mom to me, is my first favorite adult and the funniest person I have ever known. She laughed at absolutely everything in life. I sat around or under kitchen tables, hearing her tell story after story through laughter, surprisingly even unpleasant stories she somehow laughed through. Everyone in my family adores Suzie for her fun nature and her no-nonsense advice-giving friendship that she has shared with our parents, my mom, all of us forever. Again, MY forever.
Suzie, by the way, speaks loudly; her father had been hard of hearing when she was growing up. She learned to speak up so he could hear her. Out of habit, she grew a loud manner of speaking to the rest of the world, I suppose, because it is better than not being heard or having to repeat yourself all the time.
I had grown accustomed to all the calls of inquiry that came near the end of my pregnancy and knew I had to get used to fielding lots of congratulatory calls now that he had arrived. I answered, “Hello?”
Suzie blurted out, “MARDI! (pause here and between the following words in this sentence to get the same effect) I have to tell ya; you cannot name that kid DAVID! (pause) I think David is DUUUUMB!”
I was so shocked to hear her say anything negative at all in general or upon the arrival of my beautiful baby boy! She had NEVER said anything where she was so strongly advising me like this. To hear this admonition instead of the “Congratulations!” I expected to hear caught me completely off guard. I explained, “It’s only his temporary name. I have two weeks to name him legally.”
She laughed loudly, “GOOOOOD. Because I think David is DUUUMB!” Of course, I couldn’t help but laugh with her; I knew there was going to be a good story coming and asked, “What do you mean?”
At that time, her youngest son, also a David, was giving her some grief, which in hindsight was not grief at all, just the typical worry of moms of twenty-something young men experience. I had heard about her David, his successful social life, his wildly unfocused sowing of the seeds, that type of stuff.
She went on to explain… “Every David I have ever known is just DUMMMMB! (Pause) Look at my David! Off makin’ babies with all these girls. (Another pause) AND look at how your David is treatin’ you? Doin ya dirt, not bein’ with ya and all!” I had to interrupt Suzie with confident clarification, “I didn’t name him after his DAD Suzie!!! I named him after MY BROTHER, and he is the best MAN YOU OR I HAVE EVER KNOWN!”
A slight pause was broken by Susie Shouting ever louder, “YA, WELL LOOK WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM?!! I’m tellin’ ya, DAVID is just a DUMB NAME!!!”
Oh my God, I laughed so hard at her attempted logical argument. She was laughing her contagious laugh at this point, too, which perpetuated long laughter between us. I was reeling at how funny this conversation was.
She went on a little more calmly, sighing almost, “I wish you would get together with my David and straighten him out…he just needs a gal like you to straighten him out. (Pause again, I am stunned at her suggestion that I get together with her son that I haven’t seen since we were middle-school-age children. He is two years younger than me, lives a least 800 miles away, while the stitches hadn’t even healed from my episiotomy! None of this is doing anything to advance her cause but making me laugh harder) She throws in her final temptation with a bit of a loud whisper, “I hear he’s REALLY GOOD IN BED!”
“Oh my GOD, Suzie! STOP! STOP!!” I could not stop laughing. She was the last soothsayer in the one-year period of ALL the soothsayers in my life. She, like the others, was on to something because things did not work out with my son’s father (David). It took us the full two weeks to agree upon a name. There were daily meetings with pads of paper, lists of names, debates, scratch outs, no progress. That alone should have been the writing on the wall indicating the difficulties ahead with that Dave. Our son ended up being a Steven with a v, not a David (because it’s dumb), not a Junior, and took his dad’s family name. A lovely name for such a lovely creature who is so much like his uncle Dave (Junior) in temperament, in words, voice, looks, it is uncanny.
I ended up not returning to work as planned. At my parents’ invitation, Steven (Sven) and I lived with them and uncle Dave for several years in the lovely Spanish-style home of my childhood. Because so many people from our extended family (myself included) moved in and out of their house for short and long periods of time, I jokingly referred to their home as Southfork after the estate in the TV nighttime soap opera, Dallas that my mom, Dave and I used to watch. Yes, football playing, manly-man, Dave watched it and he LOVED it; everyone wanted to know who shot J.R. I returned to college earned three bachelor’s degrees, a minor in cello performance, and a Master’s degree during my five-year stay.
Steven was a very happy, healthy baby who grew up deep listening to music (Pink Floyd indoctrination), watching sports and movies with Uncle Dave, sharing chips, cookies, sandwiches, riding on Uncle Dave’s wheelchair, cooking, shooting the shit, and in general, learning to be game for unusual adventures and to be kind to everyone through the example that was his Uncle Dave.
Dave loved sharing any funny story in general. He laughed so hard as he tried to convey the parts of the following story to me between bursts of laughter. Steven was two-ish at the time and was a breastfed baby who addressed my breasts as though they were sentient beings. They were more of a source of comfort than satiating hunger by any means. He had grown to the point of only nursing when he was falling asleep. I was working hard to talk him out of nursing but was not successful because no reason I presented was convincing him that he should stop. He was not a child who would have accepted because I said so as a valid reason for anything, and to that, I thought rightfully so.
So, Sven was two-ish, still a breastfed child, exceptionally verbal and growing in his worldly observations. He was outside with Dave on the sidewalk directly in front of our side porch; Steven was sitting on the steps of the porch. They were talking in the same space-much like that day when Dave came home from Shelly’s memorial and found me on the porch, and I had to tell him to essentially stop being such a good person.
A neighbor that I have never seen or met, but Dave knew, because he knew everybody, stopped to talk to them. Dave described her as having ENORMOUS breasts; and by ENORMOUS, he described them as “the size of watermelons that can’t possibly fit into a bra,” followed by, “the poor gal.” The conversation with her was brief.
He saw Steven out of the corner of his eye sitting there on the porch, looking at her with huge eyes. Dave lost it, describing Steven’s reaction to her after she walked away. Steven was quiet a moment watching her as she fell all the way out of view behind the bushes at the edge of our porch; he said, in a reflective tone, “I like her,” he was talking with his hands, gesturing with both of them way out in front of his chest as far as he could reach, unwittingly framing the shape of boobs and added. “She seemed really nice.” Dave could move his arms a bit, he did so for emphasis on occasion, and this was one of those occasions. He was so taken with the humor that he found in Steven’s unwitting physical description of this woman with the ENORMOUS boobs. Dave loved watching and describing Steven’s wheels turning as he thought about what he was going to say about this woman he described as seemed nice. Oh my God, we laughed at his warm observation of her bodacious tatas equating niceness.
Sven brought so much joy to an already pretty joyful house. I had no idea how much joy surrounded a happy, healthy baby. I mean, I had had nieces and nephews at that point who I adored. They were all very sweet kids and easy to adore. But I hadn’t been ecstatic about the arrival of anyone on the planet before Sven, and even then, I wasn’t so much ecstatic per se. I mean, I was always happy for people. The receptionist at work, a mother of five, jumped out of her chair, ran, and practically picked me up when I made the announcement in the office that I was pregnant. I didn’t even know her that well and could not believe her cute reaction and still didn’t get it until Steven arrived. I feel differently about all children now, and I have become my former receptionist jumping for joy for them in excitement when I learn someone is pregnant!
Dave revealed that having Steven in the house and watching him grow up was the greatest joy in his life. I was shocked to hear this because although I am quite fond of all of my uncles, I hadn’t really thought about uncles in general gushing over their nieces and nephews. I thought maybe the two of us being there might have put a wrench in the day-to-day operations of the house in some way. But then I thought of the much time Steven had spent, from the earliest days of his life in his car seat, propped on Dave’s couch, then in the same spot when he could sit unassisted, later still when he could climb up on the couch on his own, to when he plopped himself down on the couch as I had my whole life- he would keep Uncle Dave company any time of day. For my other nieces and nephews who grew up on that couch, you were ALL his favorites!
Many years after we had moved out, I had married, and Sven, at 15, became ill with e.coli, a surprisingly virulent reaction following a short road-trip, likely foodborne. We spent a few days in the Emergency Room, back and forth at two hospitals, and hours and hours in the hospital for observations while test samples grew in Petri dishes. He fully recovered, but the next time I saw Dave, he got choked up as he spoke of “how worried I got hearing of how ill Sven had been which sparked a different sort of worry should anything bad ever happen to him, I don’t think I could take it.” Dave was not one to hide reactionary tears at movies or moments of life, but I NEVER witnessed him completely break down like that as he did with worry over Sven; just as Dave had spent more time with me than I spent with my dad growing up because our dad was working, Dave spent a dad proportionate about of time with Sven, and it showed with the imprint on Dave’s soul.
He never said anything to me about temporarily naming ma boy David Linane. I never thought he would or expected him to, nor did I specifically intend anything by it. While I was trying to think of names and certainly adored my dad and his name, it absolutely never entered my thoughts to temporarily name Sven, Thomas Linane. The only name I could think of at the time was David Linane, and it was a good name.
I think Dave experienced as close to being a father without reproduction as you can get through raising his nieces and nephews. I was really happy to have been able to have been a part of that.
Somewhere I read something about the universe picking our name before we are born or something like that. Secretly, I think my Sven may have a hidden superpower in his first beloved name.
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