Socks, Books and Chap Stick
In 2001, twenty days before planes crashed into World Trade Towers one and two, Mrs. Duf and I were at a breastfeeding class in a building adjacent to the hospital where we’d arranged for our daughter to be born at some point in late September or early October. That night I learned a lesson that I’d learned before and that I’ve learned many times since: because a thing is natural does not mean that it is easy; in fact, natural things can be quite complicated. Breastfeeding is endlessly complicated, and numerous challenges can arise associated with this act, this thing that mothers (and not just human mothers) and their offspring are designed to do.
Just as the class ended, Mrs. Duf turned to me and, in an understated tone that was familiar to me then but is second nature to me now said “I think I’m having contractions.”
Because we were close to the hospital, we walked over and checked in for an examination. We met with a midwife, though not the midwife who presided over her pre-natal care. Mrs. Duf was in a tremendous amount of pain and said so. Two remarkable things. My wife works a full day with a migraine and collapses in a dark room when she’s finally at home. She can tolerate pain and is not one to complain. After the standard exam, the mid-wife advised us that all was well and that we should go home. Mrs. Duf was told that perhaps she should take it easy for a few days.
We did so. We planned to do so.
When we arrived home, we ascended the stairs to our back porch, and I put the key in the door to unlock it. In the false way that there seems to be a causal relationship between to things which are, in fact, not at all related, it seemed that my placing the key into the key hole caused Mrs. Duf’s water to break.
We raced upstairs. Karen changed clothes and I packed for our hospital stay. I chose a large duffel bag and filled it with socks, books, chap stick and nothing else. No camera, no change of clothes, no toiletries, nothing else: socks, books, chap stick.
We returned to the hospital, and forty-five minutes later, our precious angel was released into the harsh world, with only a tired mother, a stunned father and a few nurses and doctors to protect her. TinyE wasn’t planning to wait around for a more suitable time to be born. She took things on her own schedule and on her own terms just as she does everyday, and just as I imagine she will continue to do.
We woke this morning and teased her about being taller. Did she grow overnight as her milestone arrived? For breakfast, we gave her a few powdered-sugar donut holes (her favorite) and sang to her. We were off key and sincere. We always are I suppose. It turned out that having babies, though natural, is neither easy nor simple, in fact, it is quite complicated.
It turns out that parenting, though natural, is neither easy nor simple, in fact, it is quite complicated.
And there are times when I feel I’m almost on the verge of understanding how little I know, how precariously everything is balanced, how fragile it all is. And, there are days like today, when I cast aside all my doubts and fears and shortcomings to acknowledge simple and wonderful facts.
Like now, when I know that the sun is shining, that chap stick can be a nice thing to have when your lips are dry and that, in spite of everything, our little girl is five years old today.