After discovering that Otto had put on some of her perfume, Sarah explained that there's a version for boys...
Otto: I want some cologne.
Mom: Well...maybe when you're a teenager.
Otto: OR when I'm a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle?
Tomorrow Eliot is one month old. I could joke that it's been the longest year of my life, but Sarah's done most of the work. I try and stay up late with our crazy little girl but my wife ends up standing over me, gently cuddling our most persistent baby, while I crash into a tired pile of disappointment.
She's good, both of the shes, and even the cat, she's the third she and luckily still the craziest. For your reference, here's how our family goes as far as order of appearance on this planet: Jared, Sarah, Paco, Quin, Allie, Otto, Eliot. It's weird writing that out. That's a lot of commas. In 1995 I thought it would go something like Jared,. It was about then when my friend, Todd, said he wanted to take a psychology course and wondered if I'd take it with him. I signed up and then he dropped it. I think it was a form of intervention. Anyway, I needed the school credit so stayed. The professor, a woman in her 40s who fully enjoyed straddling the chasm of gender expectations, shared her story of how she wasn't in a relationship and wasn't sure if she ever would be, as relationships are often most successful when people start them in their 20s. That kind of freaked me out. I was already 21 and just a few months prior had gotten so drunk I'd wet my pants. As the husks of her voice rasped together, I spiraled into a spacey place where I was forced to take a look at myself. Oh sweet god, I was only getting older and I was already pretty sure I was stubborn and arrogant. Those are the traits, she said, that can only tumor over time and stunt any person's hope for love.
Jared, Sarah, Paco, Allie, Quin, Otto, Eliot. Commas do make you pause. I'm not just talking about their inception, that first encounter, but their continued existence in your life. Commas. Kids expand moments into incidents--some bad some good--and make you deal with a break in the flow, the grind, the loping on the mental treadmill of self doom. Yah, sure, this might mean running to save someone from toddling into the street, or sprinting through a Target to get them to the bathroom on time, but you're forced to pull over in your life's sentence and enhance your statement.*
It could be like the fracas we had the other day. I was sitting on the couch and surfing our 32 over-the-air channels, most of them Spanish or religious, when Quin ran from Eliot's bedroom. He was excited and a bit freaked out. "Mom's doing something in there," he said, breathlessly. Sarah's a good, upstanding person, and no matter how much Eliot keeps her awake, she's not going to do anything crazy, right? But whatever Quin had witnessed sent him to me with the vigor of Paul Revere's famous ride.
"It's a machine!" burst Quin, with the wide-eyed wounds of what cannot be unseen.
I was already off the couch and preparing to face down a fountain of poo, or stumble into an emotional situation that would come with the internal dialogue, "don't say anything, just hug." The mention of a "machine," however, perturbed the recollection of innocence past. It was the first time I saw my wife connect herself to the the little teat trumpets that turn awesome boobs into industrial udders. "She's being milked by a machine," I remember thinking. Sarah looked back at me, her shirt hiked up and her face saying, "welcome."
I laughed while trying my hardest not to diminish concern for what Quin had seen. Not all that impressed with my reaction, he stormed down the hall to recruit his brother. I could hear him busting his Paul Revere into Otto's space and whisper shout about this "machine" and mom and how freaky it was.
What I don't get is how they were not aware of the process. Sarah feeds Eliot in front of the boys all of the time. Although it's true they don't hear me call their name from three feet away and can rarely relay anything that's happened during 8 hours at school. So I sat on a bean bag with my guys and shared how female mammals have mammary glands that produce milk for their young. Otto was stoked and asked if boys could do that. I told him the bad news and he said he wanted to be a girl. Before he could tell his mom that he wanted to have a sex change, Quin warned him that by entering her room he'd have to see mom and the "machine." This led to an argument fueled by the most interesting point of view: Quin thought the breast pump was filling his mom up, instead of doing the all-important extraction. I tried to fix the perception issue, but I still don't think Quin is convinced. "Why would she pump it out when Eliot likes it?" he asked.
And we savored the pause. We'd scamper about and relish the big vision of a bubble blown up in time, and then I'd head back to the couch, stepping back into the straight and narrow--a tube? A "machine?" But comforted by the guarantee of another pause.
*I realized a certain smug douchiness to this pause-with-children concept and know it can work without them, too. For example, I've finally come to terms with the fact that I need professional goals and benchmarks to reach them. This kind of focus; this kind of kindling the passion causes pause and great amounts of reflection that was once frittered away by pacing pointlessly about the room/existence.
So I went to my company party last night. It was great. I was a couple hours late and by the time I got there (the Irish Snug on Colfax) everyone was way ahead of me in debauch and drunkenness. And I have to say that I'm very proud of my coworkers. They work hard and they counter that dedication with equal measures of play. I did what I could to be a part of the action, which often manifests in my lifting people. Not uplifting, but actual lifting. I think that my teetering so close to 40 has me trying to prove my physical ability by carrying my coworkers. One in particular, a genius coder of slight build, is genuinely afraid of me. The last time we drank he threw a pilates ball at me and ran out of the building.
There's really no story to it, other than Sarah did what she was supposed to: wake up and go with the first thing that came to her. Well, actually, the Internet helped. We googled around and Munro just flowed. That, and the writer Alice Munro is on the verge of a Nobel prize for literature. I need to read some of her stuff. I hope it's not porny.
We're happy it's behind us. We were getting a little stressed out. We suck at making decisions and Eliot wasn't helping at all. Quin and Otto should get credit for their suggestions:
Leaf, Nick, Paco, Girl and Larry.
Also, if you haven't seen the boys go back to their birth hospital to meet their little sister, then here's that magic.
We're all getting back into our groove, and little Eliot is becoming quite comfortable in her new digs.
Here are pictures from a more peaceful time.
Quin had a question before I took Sarah to the hospital: "How does the baby get out?" I gave him a vague answer about how moms are magical people. He came back with his theory about a "tiny cut on the tummy" and he wanted to see if his mom had one. I evaded that opportunity but then, just like when you thought Columbo was done yet he'd condemn the accused with one, final damning question, Quin asked, "Well then how do you know when the baby is ready to come out?" I was able to play the male camaraderie card and say we men would really never know, but moms do. It wasn't enough, and I'm happy about that. What I'd essentially relayed unto my son was that men are clueless and he'd just have to get used to it (he'll have to learn the hard way some day.)
A day later, as Sarah gently rocked and cooed our new baby girl, Quin went after her with the interrogation. Sarah caved and told him: "The baby came out of my privates." I cringed. And to my surprise, Quin left it alone. It was all too much. And that should be a lesson to all women out there. If you want to paralyze a man, like maybe your boss who's dogging you about being late, then just drop the lady parts on him. Once you say something to the effect of "female problems" or any reference to monthly timing, the male will cave to his debilitating disbelief in simple yet necessary biology.
I thought about this as I looked at my new baby girl. She's absolutely the most adorable creature this side of puppy Paco, yet I'm still unable to wrap my head around the fact that I have a daughter. A girl. A tweener. A teen. A woman. The timeline shot across the chasm and left a lightning bolt impression on my brain. A few cells clumped into a few more and a few more and the next thing you know they're not talking to me because I said the wrong thing about the cute boy in glee club.
Honestly, it's not any of those issues, or Disney's bullshit princess intrigue, or the undying mystery of femininity in general that had me unable to grasp what I was holding. First of all, babies are fricken magical. They pull all the serious out of the world, trivializing everything, and in a tiny six-pound spot you're riveted by what really matters. And you hope to god you're not the one to fuck up pure beams of crystalline with doubt's dirty exhaust and smudges of cynicism
OK ENOUGH. You get it. Babies are awesome.
So Sarah and I shocked the delivery room with our disbelief that we'd just had a baby girl. I don't know what it was, but I guess we never thought we'd have a girl...or not so much in that we were trying for any specific sex, but it only crossed our minds in a hypothetical way. And that little va-jay-jay had me shout "It's a girl?!" in a question mark exclamation point sort of way. I was incredulous and Sarah was too. "It's a girl?"
"Oh crap, it's a girl," I confirmed Sarah's query as the nurse lifted the baby into her mother's arms. "It's a girl," I repeated again before hanging on to the bed railing for the support necessary for a guy who has issues with blood.
That all seems like a month ago but our little girl is just two days old. The expansion of time has given me an inclination as to what the shock was about. It's not just that I'd tangle with one of her first baby poos and have to call for help against her lady crevices, but her arrival is a broad swipe at being a grown up. We've had fun with our boys, but I could always tell Sarah wasn't done with the baby thing. Now, it's for real. We've lived in this weird purgatory between doing and undoing, where we don't often make decisions, rather just keep moving in and out of days until they're weeks and years. Now, we've completed the major reason most creatures even exist. We're done breedin'. We can shut that door behind us and try not to freak out over how good things can be. We've got our unit; our penises, our vaginas, our DHA and even a car that was made in the last five years.
So take heart little girl, we weren't really shocked about who you are. We were blown away at who we've become. And we're very excited to have you with us. Maybe one day you can explain to your brothers how it all happens.