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18 october 2007

The Initiation
By Jessica Lind

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I sleep with a baby monitor in my bed.  The volume is cranked to high, the steady stream of static blasting in my ear keeps me alert and ready to bolt at the slightest stirring of my four-month-old son.

Nevermind that his room is right next door.  Nevermind that I keep the door open and could probably hear his cry perfectly well without the monitor jammed in my face.  But I like to be on top of things.

If his binkie drops out of his mouth, I like to know about it.  If he grunts or yawns or passes a bit of gas, I like to be involved.  I enjoy being woken up every fifteen minutes to eavesdrop on his nightly pontifications.  When he cries I sprint to his room as if it’s on fire, tripping over the dog and banging my shin on the dresser.  I stumble into the nursery panting, gasping for breath (not because of the smoke from the fire but because I tripped on the dog and banged my shin on the dresser) only to find his arms are in need of re-swaddling.  I bend over his crib, maneuvering the blanket with the expertise of a surgeon, pulling it taut, smoothing the crinkles, and tucking in his green, fuzzy bunny-shaped feet.  I stand back, and gaze lovingly at my sweet little son, wrapped like a Chipoltle burrito, soft sleepy whistles escaping through his baby lips with each breath.  Crisis averted.

Before I had my son I heard that new moms sometimes suffer from a special kind of baby anxiety, holding their fingers under their babies’ noses to check their breathing while they sleep, blow-drying their butts after each diaper change to prevent diaper rash, pushing hand sanitizer on any unsuspecting stranger within a five-mile radius—things of that sort.  What a bunch of hypochondriacs.  

Several of my girlfriends with babies were notorious for crashing nearly every conversation with the subject of their baby’s poop.  Why it had turned from yellow to green in the last few weeks, why was it mucousy, how long was too long to go between poops?  How could these moms live like this, working themselves into a frenzy over the color and consistency of their baby’s poop?  I didn’t want to participate in their daily gnoshings about baby excrement.  I still wanted to discuss adult things like last week’s Oprah on re-organizing your closet.  I vowed to be the laid-back, relaxed mom who never gave my son’s poop a second glance.  I would accept and embrace it in whatever shape and form it arrived.  I would be the cool, untainted new mom who still drank caffeinated lattes and ordered extra garlic on my manicotti.

 And then my son was born.  From the very first moment I looked into his big brown eyes I knew I was in trouble.  As he rested in the crook of my arm, a tiny yellow knit cap squished over his crinkled forehead, his puckered lips opening and closing softly as if to blow me his first kiss,  I felt an overwhelming primordial new-mother instinct rise up from somewhere inside and squash the unsuspecting old me like a caterpillar on the pavement.  I was now a pile of mush.  I reached across the bed to where, behind the box of Kleenex, sat a gleaming, brand new bottle of Purell hand sanitizer--no longer an object of distain, but a shining beacon of deliverance--and baptized myself into new motherhood.

Jessica Lind has recently moved to the Twin Cities to pursue her interests in acting and playwriting. She and her husband also wanted to be near their extended family while raising their baby boy!

Congratulations Jessica, on winning our essay contest!





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