By Daphne Biener
Today I held something precious, tiny and naked. I ached with tears that I couldn’t in good consciousness let fall. Pointy bones and little muscles barely contained within translucent, goose-pimply skin. Helpless and vulnerable. Different but familiar and just like that I was brought back: a first time mother holding my own five-pounder. Brand new and totally reliant on me despite my scant resume for the position. Now seven years in and still I’m rarely prepared for this swinging trapeze ride for which I willingly cashed in my life. I shifted the little one, and though my nipples have grown too cold for a sympathy leak, damn if I didn’t feel just an ounce of colostrum dribble out of my post-post partum heart.
Supporting the chilly body and resisting an urge to snuggle it closer to my chest, I set the baby down in the pan and sprinkled it with salt and paprika. For alas, this naked little thing is headed for our oven. It is a chicken, and cute or not in all its evocative nudity, its name is Dinner.
How do you know when it’s time to become a parent? How did I make that leap from unstained clothes, sleep-drenched nights, and dinners out to being completely owned by another creature? For me, it came in the form of a heavy-handed tap from the nature channel. Let’s call it the maternal call of the wild.
It started out predictably enough. I’d tear up and fork over large amounts of cash for that hungry little boy with big eyes and flies on his nose. But then it switched species. Soon I was oohing and aahing over anything pint-sized. The slide down the evolutionary chain was slippery, and I moved quickly from kittens and puppies to darling snakes and sweet crocodile hatchlings. I had to have my own little thing, and soon. Turns out my mothering instinct is a ticking reptile egg.
Month six of pregnancy number one: I was spending a leisurely Saturday afternoon making dinner. Chicken parmesan, my husband’s favorite and a staple of our diet. Something I had prepared countless times and yet I was struck immobile, one poultry bosom dangling inches from its egg bath. I screamed and Dave came running, legitimately concerned as I stood awash in chicken breast and tears. How could I, I gulped? How could I even consider bathing a mother’s breast in her own immature offspring? Dave, confused but stoic, offered to do the dunking but no that would not set me free. I couldn’t be party to such evil. Gripped with panic I started to reconsider the whole baby thing. Who the hell was I to reproduce? I, clearly capable of such unspeakable evil? We ordered a pizza.
And now, why once again am I being haunted by my fowl-feathered-friends? Maybe it has to do with that bridge we just burned (cauterized, actually.) One tiny zap of the surgeon’s laser and the link to our child-production days is forever severed. No more babies. No more late nights and no more stinky diapers. No more gigantic bag of tricks dragged along in a hopeless attempt to buy silence enough for a quick morning latte. No more tiny tushies raised to the sky in cribs. No more naked bodies fitted perfectly into the nook of my neck. No more sweet breath against my face.
Heads-up Dave, we’re having pizza again for dinner. There’s not going to be roasted chicken in our house for a while.
You can read more of Daphne’s work here on the mama bird diaries or visit her site, Sestina Queen.
This is 3 year-old Dylan’s opinion on things she put in her mouth today.
Cheese Quesadilla: “Very Yummy”
Boogers from her nose: “Yummy”
Wedge of Lemon: “Not good”
Pork Chop: “I don’t like it. Too spicy.”
So just to clarify, Dylan believes her boogers are better than a slice of lemon but not quite as delicious as a cheese quesadilla. Recently, Dylan has really committed herself to investigating her inner nostrils and sampling the contents. So far, she has been quite pleased with the findings. Her mother? Well, she’s completely grossed out. Referring to myself in the 3rd person must be a coping mechanism.
Parenthood often veers into territories that are unquestionably disgusting. A few days ago, Dylan pooped in the potty. Well, that’s a reason to celebrate. Oh wait, put away the party hats. Dylan, in her zest for wiping herself, has filled the toilet with heaps of toilet paper. The empty cardboard roll is the only thing that eventually put the brakes on this mad paper chase. So now, in an effort to prevent clogged pipes, I have to scoop the majority of the toilet paper out of the bowl, while trying to avoid floating excrement. Please. Gag me. With a spoon. With anything.
Poop isn’t even my real nemesis. It’s vomit I truly can’t take. The dreadful smell quickly pervades every nook of our apartment. Luckily, there hasn’t been a stomach virus to contend with in ages. So right now, I’m focused on putting a stop to the nose picking. I’m offering tissues at every opportunity. I’m physically removing her finger from her nostril and then trying to divert her attention to other festive, non-nose related activities. But Dylan is rebuffing my overtures. She is content to pick, inspect and ingest. Not cool Dylan. Not cool.
Saturday, November 2000: Rick and I have just started dating. We spend a Saturday at the Planetarium, looking up at the sparkling stars while holding hands in the dark. Gosh, I hope my hands don’t sweat. Afterwards, we emerge into the bright daylight, eyes squinting. He suggests Chinese food. Perfect, I say. I don’t really like Chinese Food (in fact, not at all) but in the swirl of romance, I am suddenly moo goo gah gah for it. After crunchy eggrolls and sticky rice, we meander around the city together, dropping in shops as quick reprieves from the cold weather. The day is intoxicating. Our time together is addictive. Our future is unknown. I wonder where all this will go.
Saturday, November 2007: It’s another Saturday, seven years later. Rick and I grab the girls and head to Bed, Bath and Beer. Well, that’s what it should be called. Beer would give it that extra boost of fun. We are in need of sexy things like a new trash can, a dust buster, a shower liner and curtains. Can’t you just feel the erotic energy?!
As soon as we arrive, we realize our list is way too limited. I mean, there is so much to buy. We didn’t even know. A Pedicure Spa Salon Foot Bath beckons from the right. Wow, that must feel like a personal foot massage. What a steal at $49.99! Then a Lint Wizard Self Cleaning Lint Brush calls out from the left. A lint brush that cleans ITSELF. It’s genius. Absolutely genius. What about this Hollywood Fashion Tape just ahead. That would be perfect for when I’m in Hollywood and jonesin to tape fabric to my body. And look, they sell art. We are definitely going to need a bigger cart. Honey, find us a bigger cart!
Suddenly, the prospect of buying a piece of art at Bed, Bath and Beyond has jarred me back to my rational self. My god, we aren’t NYU college students. What the heck is going on? We’ve got to stick to the list. Just the essentials. You take Summer and get the dust buster. I’ve got Dylan. Meet us by the trash cans. Break. Within an hour, we have extricated ourselves from the winding maze of aisles and shiny, sleek products. We have safely made it to lunch. The City Bakery on 18th street is a frenzy of people, strollers and bags. We secure a high chair and spot to eat. Yum. Food. No eggrolls. We are happy.
I’m feeling a bit emotional and off balance right now. I’m trying to wean my 11 month-old baby Summer. I feel ready to do it but I’m completely unready to do it. I want to let go but I don’t want to lose our thing. Because you know, it’s what we do. She nurses. I watch “Gossip Girl.” We’re connected. We’re happy. And I fear the moment she stops nursing, she will transform from this sweet, magical, butter cream cupcake into a ranting, irrational toddler. Tell me it’s not true. I probably won’t believe you.
As a result, everything is unsettling me. Summer climbed onto Dylan’s activity table, fell off and whacked the back of head. She recovered and quickly refocused on trying to capture a piece of Dylan’s Halloween candy that was just out of her grasp. But I was still rattled. And I could not believe my husband Rick was so calm about the whole thing. I mean, shouldn’t he join my hysteria?! SHE FELL OFF THE TABLE. I KNOW SHE’S FINE NOW BUT I’M STILL WORRIED.
This past weekend, I unintentionally insulted someone that I admire and my upset continued long after my apology was accepted. I’m bothered by Abby’s descent into an alcoholic tailspin. Um.. that’s Abby from “ER.” That’s right – the fictional television show. Really, I gotta buck up. What is my problem? 3 year-old Dylan is starting to have some competition for the title of “craziest person in the house.”
I guess it’s always hard to see the baby fade away. And Summer is not exactly championing this weaning thing. The girl hates milk – any milk that doesn’t come from my breast. I even went against every organic bone in my being and added artificially flavored strawberry syrup to the whole milk. It was DE-lish. I could drink a pint of it. It tasted about 10 thousand times, actually make that 40 thousand times, better than breast milk. Summer? Speak to the hand. Not going there sista. Thanks for trying. Maybe she’s holding out for a chocolate milkshake.
I remember when I stopped nursing Dylan at a year-old, I was melancholy for a few days and then I just felt so free. My body was wholly and completely my own again. So a little freedom will feel good. Won’t it? Tell me it’s true. I promise to believe you.
By the way, if you’re counting…
3 days til Wednesday’s Project Runway debut. My obsession for this show is deep. Every season, I’m convinced that I can be the next Cynthia Rowley despite the fact that I’m A) not on the show, B) don’t know how to sew and C) have never designed anything. Of course, I’m still hoping to be an Olympic ice skater too, so big dreams die hard.
7 days since the writer’s strike started. Oh people, just hammer something out. And then the writers can scribe a riveting movie of the week on all the drama in the back room negotiations. Or just go back to writing smart, clever commentary for Jon Stewart. Oh, I miss that man. He’s just not the same in repeats.
and 17 days since I ordered the Pilates core work-out DVD. Still unopened.
What’s with all the naked people at the gym? You may be thinking – I have no idea because I can’t get myself to actually go to the gym. Well, this information is not going to motivate you to get there.
Every week, I see these women who are enormously comfortable baring all amongst complete strangers. They stand there in the buck, with their lady parts all hanging out, while they mindlessly talk on their cell phones or blow dry their hair or apply mascara. Really?! You can’t throw on a towel? Maybe underwear?
It’s not like these ladies are super models. Oh no. Interestingly, it is often the ones with the cellulite dimpled behinds and extra generous waistlines that seem most at ease in the buff. Maybe they’ve come to some kind of peace with their bodies. Well, I’m not at peace as I attempt to throw on my yoga clothes without bumping into their exposed fannies.
Nudity in the ladies locker room is nothing new. I distinctly remember when I was a teenager running into my best friend’s MOM at our local YMCA. She was completely naked.
She stood there and actually chatted with me. “How are you? How’s school? I just ran into your mother at the CVS.” That kind of thing. I just kept uttering moronic replies like, “I’m good. School’s good. My mom is good.” I kept trying to focus on her face. I did not want my eyes to slip downward and find out whether she waxed or not.
And when I was in my twenties, I once went to a nude beach with my dad. We were on Martha’s Vineyard and I thought it would be funny to take a walk on Gay Head beach (yes, real name). I had never been to a nude beach before and I was a bit intrigued. So we went (fully clothed).
Well, there was nothing funny about it. Especially with my dad. Or any dad, for that matter. On our very short, uncomfortable walk, we ran into a naked family of four (mom, dad and two kids) all playing frisbee. Lots of running.
I don’t have a problem with nudity in the right context. My children love to be naked. My girls like to dance naked, eat naked, and conveniently, bathe naked. One of their favorite books is “In the Night Kitchen” by Maurice Sendak. The little boy, Mickey, pretty much spends the whole book nude – in fact that’s the only thing I actually understand about this weird, trippy children’s story.
So it’s natural to bear all. I love being naked – as long as I’m wearing a t-shirt and jeans too.