Feb 1, 2009

A New Baby For "Dawn"

A friend of mine is way overdue with her baby – I think she was due a couple months ago. She's finally going to be induced tomorrow, Groundhog Day. Of all the days in the year, I think Groundhog Day has to be the coolest day to be born. My friend must think the same. She told me her due date has influenced the choice of a baby name. She’s going to name her little boy (to be) Punxsatawney Phil, the true name of the famous Groundhog Day groundhog. Isn’t that great? I always wanted to name one of my sons Punxsatawney, but I couldn’t spell it.

There are many groundhogs who are said to “forecast” the weather, but only Punxsatawney Phil is a certified meteorologist. He has even predicted in the presence of statesmen and presidents. He is published, a know humanitarian, and holds an honorary doctorate from Harvard University. Read more about him on this website: http://www.groundhog.org/about/.

But this article isn’t about that amazing groundhog, so I apologize for digressing. This posting is about babies. A few of my friends had babies recently, and boy does it bring back memories.

That moment when the child comes out and is placed on the mother’s stomach lives vividly in each mother’s mind forever. I was 12 or 13 when I had my first child out of wedlock, and when they gave him to me, it was a life-changing moment. I looked at little Hans and instantly felt a sense of awe. How could something so big come out of an area so little? One more look at him and I had to throw up. Not so romantic, but true. In my defense, seconds later, I looked at that adorable, hairy little baby with the big, gorgeous eyes. He looked like a little Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street. At that moment, my husband and I fell in love with Hans. (Oh, I remember my husband being there, so I must have had the child while married at a later age. Maybe I was 28.) Anyway, when a grown man and woman look past the unibrow and into the beautiful eyes of their newborn, the connection that is formed at moment and the emotions it evokes is called true love. I knew God blessed us with the greatest gift he could give a couple. Later, as I looked at some poor, ugly babies that were born the next day, I realized that not only was our child special, so was I.

Once you have your first baby, the next week is overflowing with emotion – love, exhaustion, happiness, and, my personal favorite, panic. The panic comes from having no idea what you’re doing. I came from a family of three girls, so it was very scary for me when the doctors looked at my sonogram and told me I was going to have a boy. I didn’t know how boys think or what to do with a boy. I wasn’t the athlete I am today, so I didn’t even know about sports. All I knew was girly stuff – that David Cassidy and Robert Redford were cute, that you shouldn't store an electric toaster near the bathtub, and that you should always act like a lady. How could I teach that to my baby? I didn’t even know how to hold a baby. What if he jumped from my hands? What if I broke the baby? What if my girliness made him effeminate? Those are the fears that danced through my brain when brain activity did occur. My husband, a very wise person, assured me that I’d learn as I went along and said he was certain the baby would come out as an infant, not a full-grown man. He also reminded me that he would be the male role model and that I wasn’t expected to play both roles. (I had an acting background.)

When we brought little Hans home from the hospital, I showed him the house for the first time. We showed him each room, his crib, where we keep the car keys, and where he was to store his shoes when he came in from the rain or snow. Then I read him a long list of rules about curfew, household expectations, the equal sharing of chores – all the standard stuff new parents do when bringing a baby into the house. I threw a pack of cigarettes out the front door as a visual symbol that smoking would not be tolerated in the house. Our orientation went well. The baby didn’t argue or appear to be surprised by any of the house rules. I had a warm feeling in my heart. I knew we succeeded at our first act of parenting.

We soon discovered that little Hans was a very hungry person. Not at all like me or my husband. We ate three good, square meals each day, but this tiny one had a ravenous appetite! He ate every couple hours and sometimes even more. Joe and I exchanged worried looks when Hans ate an entire turkey breast and then wanted crushed pears and Gerber sweet potatoes just an hour later. He was just a newborn, but here he was, developing unhealthy eating habits after a few days at home. We had to put an end to it or at least hide this peculiarity from others. We didn’t take him out in public, embarrassed by his gluttonous behavior. It took us almost two years, but we finally got Hans’s eating issues under control.

There were other, more sensitive issues too. The child couldn’t use the restroom until well after he learned to walk. He had so many accidents. Ashamed, we discreetly bought adult diapers for small women at the all-night drug store. We were able to cope using them. Again, we didn’t tell others about this problem, but I look back and realize it must have been related to the overeating issue.

Hans wasn’t very verbal either. He didn’t speak for a full year. We looked to our past experiences to figure out what to do. My husband remembered from his childhood that he had a dog that started barking within hours of bringing him home as a puppy. Joe didn't recall teaching the animal how to bark, but we had to give it a try. We barked a few times, but the baby didn’t respond. In fact, this child didn’t say a word. He probably felt fear or nervousness about the eating issue. We decided to play it cool and not mention it again. Within a year, our prayers were answered. He began saying small words like Mama, jew (for juice), ball, and some curse words he picked up at the local pub. We were so proud.

Now our son is 16. He's smart as a whip, sweet, kind, and we love him to death. We had two other sons we love just a much, but, sadly, I don’t remember anything about when they were babies or young kids. I just tell them stories about their brother and pretend it was about them. Sometimes I tell them stories about my own childhood and substitute their names. This doesn’t always work out. My second son now has false memories about when he was a ballerina in the first-grade play. Rather than tell him I'm a liar, I let it go. He can work it out in therapy during his 40s.

Having multiple children also challenges your brain capacity. You remember stuff about the first, but then you get confused a lot. Soon, you find yourself calling the boys by each other's names, and eventually, you start calling them the dog's name. They won’t tell you this in Planned Parenthood. It’s one of those big secrets, like Area 51, UFOs, and whether lunar landings actually occurred.

Anyway, I hope my friend, Dawn, has a good delivery. (She was so worried that I would use her real name, Karen Schwartz, in my blog, but I didn’t. I have a post-it note on my computer that says, “Do not put Karen Schwartz’s name in blog.”) Anway, I hope Dawn has a good delivery and has better luck in the first few months with her baby than Joe and I did.

Happy Groundhog Day to all of you, and, mostly, happy birthday and a rousing “welcome to earth” to baby Punxsatawney Phil. Congratulations Dawn and husband Sven! We are praying for a quick delivery and a healthy, happy little boy!