Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Gamma :: Circus Acts

The unfortunate reality of my situation was that no matter how fierce I was in the desire to protect my child, I had no idea what I was protecting.

I was the youngest child born to my parents, the youngest child of my family generation. Every time we had family get-togethers, reunions, or holiday gatherings, I was the snot-nosed baby trying to tag along or the littlest one being coddled by the bigger ones who wanted to play mommy.

My parents moved to a retirement community before I was born to be near my grandmother. As self-employed business people even after my grandmother had passed away, it was unwise for them to uproot their established business to try their luck in a different community with a younger demographic.

I grew up without ever once babysitting. I never fed a child a bottle. I never experienced playing with a little sibling. I never worked in the church nursery.

In fact, until my daughter Lexi was born I had never, ever changed a dirty diaper. And I had no desire to do so!

Instead I frolicked through life in the post-60s feminist world, setting my eyes on whatever leadership position seemed most prestigious and trying to achieve it. And, for the most part, succeeding.

Job interviews and public speaking events held no fear for me. Time management presentations and the seven habits of highly effective leaders were a part of my regularly used vocabulary.

Gaa-gaa and goo-goo were not.

Even so, discovering that we were pregnant with our first child was one of the most exciting, albeit terrifying, experiences of my entire life. I felt like I was on a whirlwind roller coaster of fun and couldn’t wait to experience it all!

I signed up for the baby information bulletins and happily told Dane about each stage of development.

“Honey! She’s the size of a summer squash right now and there’s fine hair covering her whole body!”

“Dane! There’s almost 25% more blood in my body right now than before I got pregnant. She’s swallowing amniotic fluid and hiccupping to practice her lungs! I need to eat raisins for iron.”

“Babe – did you know that 1% of pregnant women spontaneously abort their child after getting a weird virus from deli meats? I can’t eat at Subway anymore. And maybe not any hotdogs, either.”

Every aspect of pregnancy was explored as I tried to learn about this new job I would be taking on. I’m still grateful that I had two other first-time moms working in my office with me. Though I was the oldest of them all, they were farther along in their pregnancies.

During breaks we would gather around the water cooler and compare notes and ask questions.

“I know that these pains are from the round ligaments stretching but do you think that I can put a heating pad on my abdomen or will that bake the baby?”

“Oh! Don’t reheat your lunch on that Styrofoam plate! Who knows what kind of chemicals will be released into the food – it might hurt the baby!”

Deep into my ninth month of pregnancy we found out that our little girl, whom we named Lexi, was breech. Based upon her size, which was estimated to be just about nine pounds, and my small body frame, our doctor felt that it was highly unlikely that she would turn head-down the birth canal on her own. We scheduled a caesarian section for the next week and welcomed our little girl into the world.

Immediately I was consumed with reading everything about babies. What could make them grow best, what had to be avoided at all costs? What developmental milestones I should expect or be worried if she didn’t meet on time?

When I read that every newborn would mostly likely smile by the time they were three-months old and I realized that Lexi hadn’t smiled yet I took it as a personal attack on my parenting. I turned into a one-woman circus act, smiling all the time and talking to her in a happy, giggly voice.

“Why are you talking that way?” Dane finally asked me.

“I want her to smile,” I said. My lip started quivering and my eyes filled with tears. “I just am so worried that she won’t smile!”

“She’s a baby!” Dane said. “She’s going to smile. Relax!”

Sure enough, literally one day before Lexi turned three-months-old, a friend of ours leaned over her and tickled her cheek with a strand of curly hair. Lexi smiled, an enormous, giant smile with a coo in accompaniment.
It hadn’t taken a three-ring circus after all.

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