What to expect when you’re expecting…

Like many mothers-to-be, I diligently read The Book cover to cover when I was expecting my first baby. My husband and I binged on an entire academic year’s worth of classes on childbirth and childcare. Despite all this, there were still many things I was not prepared for when I had my first child.

The daughter I was expecting turned out to be a son. When he was handed to me, I gasped, not in wonder and instantaneous love, but in horror to be perfectly honest. After 20 hours of labor, his head was alarmingly cone shaped. Jaundice had already started kicking in, and he was an unnatural shade of yellowish orange. Nursing, which I thought would be a piece of cake, turned out to be a sweaty, complicated affair that would leave both of us cranky and exhausted. It was so painful, I kept checking my babe’s toothless mouth to make sure there weren’t rows of razor sharp shark teeth hiding out in there. No one told me that I would be a walking spittoon for regurgitated milk and that I would consequently smell like rotten cheese for the first six months of my baby’s life. And in all of the many birth and parenting classes I took beforehand, not a single person told me about the mustard yellow projectile poop that would squirt all the way up the baby’s back to his neck.

Another thing I didn’t expect was that in these many classes I would make life-long friendships with other new mothers. I met the women in the photo at a prenatal exercise class. Our friendship has lasted through many joys and sorrows. Together we’ve celebrated the births of our first, second, and third babies, we’ve attended countless birthday parties, commiserated over illnesses and the inevitable issues that arise once babies become schoolchildren, and have consoled each other as other “baby friends” moved on to other cities. Last night we celebrated these thirteen years of friendship as we said goodbye (for now) to Christine, who is also moving away to continue her work as a developmental pediatrician in another city. In retrospect, I’m so grateful for all those classes I took. I met women who would teach me so much more than I could learn from a book or in any class…not only about the project of raising children, but about friendship. Until our next dinner date – “May the road rise up to meet you, and may the wind be ever at your back…” Thanks, Christine!

Dirty Little Secret

No one ever told me the dirty little secret of parenthood, which I’m about to blow the lid off – right here, right now. The fact is: having kids is like being on one long, never-ending guilt trip…with no junky snacks, no portable DVD player, and no stops to pee either.

“Are we there yet?”

“NO! And every time you ask, it adds on another half hour to the trip.” (This may or may not be something I’ve said to my children on long car trips).

It’s very possible that I skew more neurotic than most people, but I’m betting that a lot of parents will agree that staggering amounts of time are spent feeling really, really guilty about what you’re not doing for your kids, about what you are doing to your kids, about what dicey genes you may have passed on to them, about what others will think of your parenting skills…For example: I take my camera everywhere I go, but at the ER and at the orthopedist’s this week, I took pictures furtively, whenever no medical personnel were around. Why? Because I was worried the doctors and nurses might suspect me of Münchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy). See what I’m saying? Guilty. And neurotic.

If you’ve been following along this week, you’ll know that my son has a fractured humerus. This was confirmed at yesterday’s appointment to the orthopedist.

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I’ve been indulging in a lot of self-flagellation about the fact that it took me two days to get him to the ER, but…how shall I put this? My son tends to be a kid who is not at all inhibited about expressing his emotions. He is perhaps somewhat more sensitive to pain than other children might be. This has led to more than one “Boy Who Cried Wolf” incident. One time we were booted out of the ER after coming in for his stubbed toe. (See “I Can’t Get it Right“). But then another time when I poo-pooed his stomach ache, it turned out he had to have an appendectomy. It’s slowly dawning on me that I have an absolutely unerring instinct to do the WRONG thing, at least as far as making medical judgment calls. (See, Mom and Dad? I knew I should never be a doctor)!

So how could I make up for screwing up yet again? Here’s what a guilt trip will cost you these days:

1) one fluorescent orange drink from the Coke machine in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, which ordinarily you would never even consider letting your kid anywhere near for fear that he might become radioactive

and

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Yeah, that’s right: a double scoop of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in a WAFFLE CONE, no less!

Atonement does not come cheap.