Every Friday morning, (except for the precious few when a household emergency and excessive amounts of standing water prevent us from going,) Henry and I meet a group of other moms and tots at the park for play group. We laugh, frolic, soak up the sun for an hour...and the kids seem to like it too. Fortunately, we're usually not the only cluster of adults at the park; the other, more responsible parents notify us when our children are stuck in precarious positions on the monkey bars, pushing each other down, or stealing their childrens' belongings. We're too busy talking about the "weightier matters" to adequately supervise our children. Our topics of conversation run the gamut of feminine issues from home repair projects gone awry to slightly funny, but mostly stomach-turning, stories about children eating their own feces (or worse, that of animals in public parks.)
But birth is the trump card of maternal conversation; once it's brought up, nothing else stands a chance. I'm not a "betting man," but if I were inclined to wager, I'd put Nate's 401K on the fact that when one of a group of women so much as alludes to childbirth, a lengthy exchange of delivery stories is sure to ensue. It's been the most popular topic of conversation at three of the last four playgroups I've attended, and this Friday was no exception. It started with a discussion of the VBAC controversy, which led to a mighty slew of horrifying tales from the obstetric operating room. Stories that were, for someone facing the very likely possibility that all of her births will be C-sections, more frightening than the most sinister ghost story ever told. Tales of epidurals that wandered to places they had no business being (i.e. armpits), of intense claustrophobia setting in on the operating table, of spinal taps that impaired mobility for an entire calendar year after delivery.
At the conclusion of this horrifying exchange of birth stories in our proverbial "Red Tent" my friend, Sarah, who couldn't be sweeter if she were made entirely out of Necco Wafers, who has also never had a C-section, sighed serenely and said (sitting next to her six month old baby), "Oh you guys, all this talk just makes me want to have another one so bad!"
And then there was, at the opposite emotional pole...me. Reflecting back on my own labor that started with an IV, followed by an epidural, (both very large needles for someone who all but faints at the first mention of phlebotomy,) then a catheter, and twelve hours of literally body-trembling labor (accompanied by a 102 degree fever), dilation that ceased mysteriously at nine centimeters, and ended in an emergency C-Section, which C-section though promised to be swift, dragged on for forty-five panic ridden minutes and ended in the very laborious extraction of a nearly nine pound man-child. (End mental reverie--back to playgroup...) There I was, head swooning with those kinds of recollections of Henry's birth, knees growing increasingly less stable, remembering that we are trying to duplicate that experience, or at least the result of that experience, with a second conception.
So, I think it's time to pen some tender thoughts about Henry to remind myself that motherhood is totally and utterly worth every push and pain and poke of birth. Henry, I give you this week's top ten reasons why we love you and will consider giving you a sibling if we can just have the assurance that he/she will be something like you:
1. You have a newly discovered affinity for strawberries. You love the red page in the Colors book because it has a strawberry on it and you love the strawberry banana yogurt cup because it too bears that beautiful crimson berry on its label. My favorite demonstration of your love for strawberries, though, was when you insisted on holding the little carton of berries on your lap the whole time we grocery shopped, reminding me periodically of something I had reminded you, "nee-a payfer-em firss." That's right, Henry, we need to pay for them first.
2. You sat very obediently on the floor yesterday afternoon and watched me paint over the red wall. Your only peeps were periodic exclamations of awe at the magical transformation, "Oooooh, woooooowwwww!" you marveled in your breathiest voice of unadulterated wonder, "Like dat paint!"
3. You toddle up to me when you get sleepy, blankie in hand, thumb in mouth, and lean your body weight clumsily against my legs, and say, "wanna me ho-joo," your attempt to repeat the words that I always ask right before I pick you up, "want me to hold you?"
4. Every night before you go to bed I ask you if you're ready to go ni-night and without a moment's hesitation you say, "nuggow mama bed." So we chase each other into my bed, squealing and giggling, and nestle into the big, fluffy covers and lay our heads on the big pile of superfluous pillows. Then, when we're all cozied in, you call for dad, "hey dad! come nuggow uff us!" (come snuggle with us.)
5. Today we took three little boys to church with us because their mom had to work. I laughed for a solid minute when I heard you say, "Hey guys! Gottem Boots on!" and looked back to see that you had one pant leg pulled up and your leg fully extended to show off your spiffy black cowboy boots to your new friends.
6. When we get in the car, you can see my waterbottle in the cup holder from your vantage point in the car seat and you say, in a thick New York cab driver's accent, "hey mom, need it wooter-bootle."
7. But underneath that gruff Big Apple cabbie exterior, you are sweet and soft as a jet puffed marshmallow. I know this because I walked into your room the other day and found you kneeling on the floor with a stuffed dog in your lap, gently putting your sippy cup in its mouth, coaxing, "wink it water. Wink it, doggie." I also get glimpses of that softness when I plug in my blow dryer, which you have learned is quite noisy, and you quietly slip out of the bathroom, pulling the door shut behind you. And when we drive in the car and I get a youthful wild hair to crank up the volume when an old Ace of Base song comes on the radio, you shout over the ruckus, "hey mom, turn dat down."
8. In case you haven't noticed, you've developed a pattern of speech which consists of addressing everyone with an attention-getting, "hey!" "Hey mom, need it (fill in the blank.)" "Hey dad, wanna (fill in the blank.)" "Hey guys!" "Hey birdie!" "Hey...anyone who will listen to me! Hey! Hey! Hey!"
9. You ask us to read "Chrysanthemum" every night, but you call it "san-te-mum." And every night it's the same drill, dad opens up to the title page and reads, "Chrysanthemum. By Kevin Henkes," at which point you hastily close the book and ask for your tried and true favorite, "Owen," which we read in its entirety every night.
10. Some things about parenthood are very patience-testing, like when you left a Henry-sized hand-print on my freshly oil-base-paint-coated table this weekend, (which we had to wash off with horribly odoriferous terpentine.) But for the most part life with you is a perpetual reminder that "children are an heritage of the Lord."
Oh Henry, there just isn't a way to describe how sublimely pleasant you are. It's like describing the delectable-ness of peanut butter to someone who's never tasted it; you just can't appreciate it until you taste it melted over warm toast. It's just impossible to know the goodness that is Henry 'til you've smelled your morning breath, heard your night-time-nuggow voice, and the sing-songy way that you say, "ye-e-a-a-h!" to any suggestion that sounds appealing to you.
Ok. If I can have a half-as-good-as-Henry-guarantee on your siblings, then the only question left to ask about number two is, where do I sign?