My initial foray into fatherhood was successful. The Terrible Twos and the Tantrum Threes were clever alliterations fabricated by failing parents to conceal their inadequacies as caregivers. I met my wife right about the time I self-proclaimed myself father of the year. On May 23rd 2009, we caught The National in concert, sang/laughed/danced in unison with Matt Berninger, drove back home, put on a slow show, and fomented the maelstrom that was to be our daughter.
When we discovered my wife was pregnant, our daughter was around the size of a poppy seed, or so said the website. Baby was going to be a girl, thought my wife… She would be Lenore. She would be Rain. She would be Rain-Lenore. The next day, she would be named after deceased and beloved family members. Rain-Lenore, meet Laurie-Claude. All throughout the pregnancy, Laurie-Claude was affectionately referred to as our Poppy Seed, even when she was as big as a honeydew melon, drawing from her womb—tiny fingers for paint brushes, and her mother’s belly for a canvas.
The conventional medicine route was not one for us. Early on, my wife and I met with an OB/GYN in a sterile downtown office. The joy of expecting had a hefty dollar sign to it: from the price of the fetal imaging DVD to the integrated prenatal screening, peace of mind did not come cheap. The OB/GYN and I sat in a small cubicle, with our clothes on, while my wife laid on her back on an exam table, in a hospital gown. Pap smear, cervical culture, urine and blood tests, prodding of the belly: Congratulations, it seems like you’re having a baby. Take an appointment here ($), there ($$), and I’ll see you again in 4 weeks with the results ($$$). Next! This would be our last visit.
We opted for a natural birth with a midwife, in a birthing center—It was a wonderful experience. We met strong and empathetic midwives, women who empowered us during the pregnancy by giving us choices, and by demystifying some of the mandatory birthing procedures that modern medicine will often impose. We met semimonthly, to listen to the heartbeat of our Poppy Seed, to talk about the risks of postpartum blues, and to strengthen the relationship with our midwives. A peaceful pregnancy which ended up nonetheless in a hospital, with a C-section, with our midwife standing by our side, as a spectator…
Poppy was born three years ago today, and absolutely nothing went according to plan. Our daughter was in a breech position, and my wife and I were informed that a natural birth was consequently impossible. After seven months of bliss with the midwives, we were rushed to an operating room, where my wife delivered our baby under a scalpel. A vitamin K shot was routinely administered to our newborn, and mummy spent her first moments with our baby under the influence of morphine. It was a 48-hour stay in a shared hospital room where nurses and doctors took turns probing mom and daughter, until the very morning we were sent back home, with a hasty good luck from the medical team, and a governmental guide on how to be good parents, in seven easy steps.
Things I have learned (or were reminded of) as a second-time dad: sleep doesn’t live with you when you welcome a newborn to your home, breastfeeding is as easy as caring for a bonsai tree, and the greatest lesson of all: every child is different and unique. My daughter was the bulldozer that smashed the park to smithereens, reconstructed the playground to her liking, and proclaimed herself Unruly Ruler of the Queendom. It was not a democracy. Our family marched to a new beat, and by marched, I mean hustled, head down, ego in check, unrolling the red carpet for the Queen.
It’s not that the girl formerly known as Lord Evil Poppy is a bad seed. I Me Mine: she has a mind of her own, which means she will sleep when she decides it’s time for some shuteye, she will eat if it’s tofu dessert, and she will play nice when all toys of the world are declared hers. Our daughter is a creative child with a vivid imagination, and has developed her special lingo: let me down, I don’t want it, feed me your soul. Remember The Flintstones? Think Bamm-Bamm, with a hint of Galactus. Occasionally, she will sit on my lap, kiss me with her pacifier in her mouth, and coerce me into giving her the remote by using the dark side of the Force. She’s her father’s daughter all right.
This is how I remember your story. We haven’t slept in three years, and we’ve gone gray, but I look much wiser because of it. You’ve been through so much in so little time. You sit beside me with an ear infection as I write these last words, grumpy, fussing, kicking me… and I want to kick you back, be grumpy, make a fuss about my lower back pain, and steal the remote control from you… But I won’t, because you’re the birthday girl. And I love you. Happy birthday, Poppy.
Related Post: My wife’s letter to our daughter on her third birthday.