I hope you all enjoyed your Labor Days. I haven’t had mine yet as this year it occurs on September 18th. Say what, you say? September 18th is the day my baby is born.
My friend had a baby a few weeks ago. A real baby—not a book baby. About a month prior she confessed what I expect most soon-to-be mothers feel—I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS ANYMORE! She was terrified. Like I-changed-my-mind-can-we-pretend-this-never-happened-terrified. She ran—or rather waddled being that she was 8 1/2 months preggers—outside to where her husband was watering the dahlias and explained they had made a terrible mistake. Having a baby was not in fact a good idea. What with all those lead paint laden toys and choking hazards and cougars making their way into downtown shopping centers and boy scouts getting lost on hikes and shark attacks! Don’t even get her started on shark attacks! They’re practically happening on land now-a-days! There was simply no way they would be able to keep this kid safe and surely they would both lose their minds in the process. She likes to sleep in on weekends and gets queasy cleaning out the cat’s litter box. Just the other day she came home from the grocery store with four cracked eggs in her carton. She KNOWS she checked before she put them in her cart and if she DIDN’T check doesn’t that just prove how irresponsible and impetuous she really is? Much too much so to be someone’s mother!
Her husband calmed her down, admitted his own fears, and reminded her of the closet full of sun dresses and overalls and the pink and yellow velour track suits folded in the newly assembled Land of Nod armoire. He pointed out the high chair that sits between the two grown up chairs at the kitchen table and the velveteen Eeyore that’s been propped on the fireplace mantel for six months like he’s been casing the joint. They laughed about the four weeks she lovingly spent mixing just the right shade of celadon for the nursery, convinced she was getting a “cool-toned” vibe from the baby. Her and Don are both “cool-tones” so of course their baby would be too.
“I mean, obviously,” she said. “Right?”
She didn’t just feel better; she regained all her enthusiasm towards motherhood and then some. She repainted the nursery yet again because it still wasn’t the right shade of celadon. It’s beyond perfection now. Cool and almost as green as a cucumber.
Granted, I won’t need to feed my book or change it or burp it. It won’t wake me up in the middle of the night or cause me to get shamed out of restaurants because it throws Cheerios on the carpet and screams bloody hell when I try to take cutlery away from it. But in a way I will need to keep it alive. I brought it into this world. I created it, nursed it, fawned and feared over it. And now, in just under 2 weeks, it will be out there in the real world. I CHANGED MY MIND CAN WE PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED?
What if someone makes fun of it? What if no one wants to sit by it at lunch or pick it for his or her kickball team? What if no one takes it to the prom or accepts it into college or offers it a job or considers it for a promotion? What if it’s always a bridesmaid and never…well, you get the picture. How did our parents ever let us out of the hospital nurseries?
Even with all the books and videos and hospital-sponsored classes, my friend said nothing really tells you how to take care of your new baby and they certainly don’t tell you how to take care of you. They’re still absolutely paralyzed with fear every second in the company of their newborn. But at some point instinct takes over and you find your groove. You just have to trust that it will happen. (She read that in a book.)
Yeah, yeah, I know it’s not the same as having an actual baby but I can relate to what my friend was saying. Writers could benefit from a class in swaddling too. Our egos are very fragile. We’re very used to sharing our work with other fragile writers, and teacher’s we pay to tell us we’ve got potential and mothers who think we write Pulitzer Prize winning grocery-lists. Maybe I should have taken that food writing course offered through the local community college or joined a critique group instead of writing a book people who are not related to me could potentially read. They don’t have to like it!
Don’t get me wrong. It’s exciting beyond belief and I can’t believe how lucky I am. But I’m also feeling incredibly schizophrenic. I’m bouncing like Pong between elation and desolation, fighting the urge to tell every human being and most dogs I encounter that I’ve written a book, “go me!” and then daydreaming about moving into my parent’s basement with a cozy down comforter and an air mattress, and making my mom leave Saltines and diet green tea for me at the top of the stairs. I could hang out there until this whole thing blows over. It’s a nice basement. They even have a treadmill. And wireless internet. And cable TV! Wait a minute. Their basement has better amenities than my house.
Today I heard the first batch of books have been delivered. They’re hanging out in warehouses and backrooms awaiting the sound of a packing knife slicing through cardboard. Soon they will find their way onto bookshelves in all their pink and white glory. I know we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers, but in this case please do. It really is quite beautiful.
I can’t be there with my book every day (although I’ll try) so maybe if you’re ever at a bookstore you could stroll on over to the Roleplaying game section and visit. Maybe stand her up straight if she’s slouching, or face her forward if she’s hiding in a corner. Maybe give her a nudge and a smile and embarrass her in front of The Monster Manual and The Player’s Handbook by telling her Mommy loves her. I hope those boys take care of her.
Thankfully I’ll have some distractions. My new mommy friend needs me to help her paint the nursery yet again. Even before she can fully process colors, little Stella has rejected her almost-celadon nursery.
“She’s warm-toned,” my panicked friend says. “How can this happen?”
We’re going with Golden Apricot. I hope Stella approves.
I don’t know if I’m warm or cool or even what it means, really. But I do know it’s clear babies—human and otherwise—will always make their parents loose their cool.
Godspeed, Astrid! (Who by the way is most definitely cool-toned. I mean, obviously. Right?)