Saturday, July 24, 2010

It's a Boy

Fast Forward a few years. I'm married and in labor. My midwife is sitting calmly beside me, reading a People Magazine as I wonder what my funeral will be like after my body implodes. "Oh, are you pushing?" she asks me blithely.

I grunt and strain, wondering why television isn't more truthful about this whole birth deal. The nurses are talking about what they'll be ordering for lunch as the midwife asks me to reach down and touch the baby's head as it's half-in and half-out of me. I oblige her, but it's only to shut everyone up and get this baby going. There's no drama, no sirens, no screaming, no fainting. only some odd calm as pain slides away from me.

I didn't have any pain medication. I was "too far gone," according to my midwife. I think that applies to much of me now. I'm just too far gone. But I learned that pain has a saturation point that day. I learned that there's a moment where it just doesn't matter anymore. As the baby crowned, one of the nurses commented, "That must hurt!"

No, no it doesn't hurt at all, really.

The baby slid out without crying. There was a moment of silence as the midwife did something quickly and everyone breathed again. The cord had been around his neck. She put the baby on me, and he pooped. It was a boy.

All throughout this pregnancy, I'd thought I was having a girl. A sweet, skinny, beautiful girl, who would be everything I hadn't been. Yes, someone to find my lost dreams. I'd even named her; Sarah Marie.

It's a boy.

I didn't care anymore. I wasn't pregnant anymore. All I wanted then was a shower and sleep, in that order. I fell asleep first. When I woke up, the baby was sleeping in a bassinet next to me. I went to take a shower, and find out just what the damage was to my ladyparts. (It was horrifying. I've felt raw meat that was firmer.)

When I got out, two nurses were holding my new son and fell to chiding me. I'd committed my first act of parental transgression; Thou Shalt Not Leave Thine Child Alone. What the fuck, the kid had been sleeping. My shower had taken ten minutes, and were there not nurses everywhere?

No excuse.

It was the first of many acts of Parental Transgression. I never kept a baby book, that's a huge one. I lost his first lock of hair. I always forgot my camera, so I have few pictures. I tossed out toys, or I bought too many. It was always something. But through it all, we were close.

I love my son, and I'm happy to say he loves me. Over the years we've become a great team. My husband's work keeps him out a lot, so it's often just the two of us together. We go out for fancy lunches and expeditions to strange corners of the city. I show him movies he probably shouldn't see and he tells me all the bad words he hears at school. Are we friends? I'd say, yes. Should we be? Probably not, but I find my son to be one of the more likeable people in my life. So, if being a friend to my son is an Act of Parental Trangression, then it isn't the first.

He's a neat kid. He's not like other boys I know. Boys, as I knew them, were all rough edges. They play mean, they have action figures, they like import anime cartoons with swords and mutants. They fight. They curse. You get the idea. My son isn't like that. He likes bugs. As in, when we watch the fireflies on summer nights, he catches and releases all he can find to "check on them." He likes bunnies, kittens, and trains. His teachers love him, they call him the kindest and most compassionate child they've ever had. He's quiet, kind of shy, but cries at the most inexplicable things. He's a drama queen, making mountains out of molehills. One "bad thing" that happens to him will derail him in a minute. He can't get over failure, and will quit at the first sign of losing a game or activity. While other boys might fight and tussle over who is "king of the mountain," K (that's what we'll call him) will storm off and cry in a corner before the game even starts.

That's where we are.

Sensing some failure in my duties as a parent, I signed K up for a Karate Class at the community Center. He wasn't doing any sports. Other boys do sports. Maybe he needed a sport to make him feel good about himself. We had gone through the catalog of activities that came in the mail, and while he'd shown no interest in any of them, he eventually sighed and gave up, settling on karate. The Little Dragons. He was five.

The class met once a week, and there were about fifteen little boys. The boys were playing a rough game of tag as they arrived, the parents all sitting in a row of chairs across the wide end of the room. I took my place among the parents, feeling very strange as I noticed every one of them had cameras. Were these people documenting every second? K didn't play tag. He sat next to me. "Go play," I said.

He shook his head. "I don't know them."

"Go make friends."

He rolled his eyes and got up. He went to a boy. "Hi," he said, in a tone that clearly meant "my mom is making me talk to you." The boy ran off to find someone more fun.

I sighed.

The class started, and soon all the boys were a haphazard ninja army being herded around by a sweet young woman possessed of a remarkable patience. The line of parents, who outnumbered the kids two to one, watched. They snapped pictures, ooh'ed and ahh'ed, and generally were everything I wasn't.

At the end of the session, I went ahead and signed him up for another. While it wasn't something he actively talked about or looked forward to, it was all we had. K and I went along with our carefree days, routinely interrupted by Karate Class.

One afternoon we cleaned out his bookshelves, clearing out all the "baby books." "Hey," I said. "The Karate Class is held at the Community Center. Maybe we can just take the old books there and donate them."

K thought that was great. So we bagged them up and took them off with us. I asked the Zen Master of the Karate Class where I could drop them off. She shrugged, and said there was an office "through the double doors." She pointed off to a set of double doors I hadn't bothered to go through before.

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