That first stage of parenting settled in and we were aware we had to look out for Baby’s every little need. I worried someone had finally given me my big chance and I was going to screw up the most perfect thing I had ever been given. I would only use bottled water for the formula since I had no idea if hotel sink water is clean. The sink is right next to the toilet, for god’s sake. I worried about SIDS. I worried he missed the sound of his birth mom. My overarching worry was that I’d hurt him. He’d fall when I bathed him. He’d choke. I’d drop him or cut him. At one point I remember thinking “what if I rip out his umbilical cord by mistake and he bleeds and it won’t stop?”
“Fear of horrendous mothering failure” would be the basic message, here.
At this point we have been living in the casino hotel for about two weeks. We have a good routine, if possible at that stage. Diaper station happens on the coffee bar, laptop is on the desk, minifridge stocked with grocery basics to avoid eating out every meal. The pantry (top shelf of the coffee bar) is where we store food. Eddie’s essentials: formula. Sarah’s essentials: chocolate and granola bars. Husband Mac’s essentials: Pop Tarts and scotch. Mac, actually of Scottish ancestry, drinks nice scotch to celebrate big life moments . He will only eat Pop Tarts if we are on a trip out of town. At the intersection of “having a son” and “we’re in a hotel” is my husband, having Pop Tarts and a 14 year old single malt.
The days went by in a pleasant haze of staring the baby and accepting the congratulations of our friends and family as our adoption was made public. We got cards, our students shared wonderful stories of how they cried when they saw the news on Facebook. Mac’s auntie started knitting a sweater for the baby. My in-laws Skyped with the three of us and never, not once, looked at their son or myself. They said, quite rightly, that he was a very beautiful baby and looked quite intellectually advanced for his age, too.
Then one morning I went to pick up the baby and discovered he had been mauled by Wolverine. My first thought was that this meant Hugh Jackman had been in my hotel room in the middle of the night and I’d missed it. That would really suck because like most women my ultimate fantasy is to have one night with Hugh in a hotel room. In my fantasy he’s arranging a a sitdown with his agent so I can sign a seven year deal to write as well as appear onscreen. I assume yours is much the same.
But what the hell happened to my child’s face? It was Death by a Thousand Papercuts. Then I see he’s not wearing mittens. That meant the scratches were from his nails. Right! This is one of those new parenting things I AM actually equipped to handle. One of the things we got as a gift was a little baby grooming set. There was a comb (pointless, his hair stood straight up all the time), snotsucker (pointless, the stupid little bulb was so hard to squeeze I needed two hands thus leaving no hands free to corral raging, angry newborn head) and a nailclipper. This is awesome, because after diapering, umbilical cord care and foreskin hygiene it was a relief to do something to the baby that I had at least done to myself.
This confidence lasted exactly nine seconds. Seven seconds to pick Baby up, one second to grab his chubby little fist and one more second to discover babies are not born with human fingernails. They are born with microscopic razors a millimeter thick that could scratch a diamond. I try to position the clippers but he suddenly moves his hands. What if I cut him? What if I miss? I can’t even see a pinky nail. It looks like a grain of rice. What the hell are my options here? I’ll bite my own nails but not his. Will I? Oh hell, I’ll try. Nope, I can’t get my teeth to work on something that tiny.
This is when, I’m not proud of myself but it’s true, this when I stopped. I didn’t even try. I put his mittens back on and did that whistling thing people do when they’re trying to act like there’s nothing to see here, officer. See, I knew eventually Mac would see the nails. Mac would try. If there was going to be a fingertip bloodbath it wasn’t on my conscience. This is, you will have guessed, exactly what happened.
One morning I bolt upright out of bed frantically heading towards my baby because I can hear he’s being murdered. I rush around the corner and Baby’s wailing while my husband is holding him. In the saddest, most heartwrenching little voice you’ve ever heard from a grown man Mac says “I cut him.” He felt miserable. He had taken the world’s tiniest sliver of flesh from my son’s finger and there was a little drop of blood. I think my husband would have cut off his own finger right there if it would undo this nightmarish scene.
And this, dear readers, is my shameful co-parenting confession. My very first thought was not to look at the finger or comfort my husband. I sort of did those on autopilot but they weren’t my first thought. My first thought, in its entirety, was
OH THANK GOD I AM NOT THE FIRST ONE TO MAKE THE BABY BLEED.