A snippet of conversation between a group of childless, twenty-something girls at my sister’s bachelorette party.
Gorgeous Girl 1: I saw a birth on Lifetime Health. So gross. The baby is covered in nasty slime when it comes out.
GG2: I know. I can’t believe people take pictures of babies right out of the box like that. Hello? No one wants to see your baby until it’s cuted up and washed.
GG1: When I have a baby, I don’t even want to hold it until they’ve cleaned it up.
GG3: Yeah, I’m with you. Why do they put it right onto the mom’s stomach like that?
GG1: That’s exactly what they did on this show. Put it right on her all smeary and gross.
GGs1-5: [Noises indicating general nastiness of newborns.]
Dear Gorgeous, Clueless Friends of My Sister:
I kept quiet at the party when you talked about how gross newborns are, but I had a good laugh inside. I was just like you ten years ago. Before HSSH and I had children, if birth came up, I would wax eloquent with the same beautiful, brazen, blind ignorance. No one would flop a slimy newborn baby up on my stomach. Gross. I didn’t want to hold it until it was clean and wrapped neatly in a soft snuggly blanket of appropriate color. (That was when I wasn’t claiming that I never wanted children at all because they were loud and annoying and because they could not be put in a kennel when I wanted to travel.)
I know this won’t mean anything to you now, but you’re wrong. No, really, you are. When you give birth (and oh, beautiful girls, I wish that for you, effortless conception, easy pregnancies and births without trouble, without loss, so that you will never know how lucky you really are), you won’t care. You will scream and cry and struggle and fear. You will labor and come out the other side a changed woman. They call it childbirth, but it is also motherbirth. When that slimy baby finally emerges, covered in blood and mucus and ooze, you won’t hesitate. Your only thoughts as you reach for it (him or her now, but we won’t know for years), like Bilbo stretching for the ring, will be “Give him to me. He’s mine. MY PRECIOUS. I want to hold him close. I want to feel his heartbeat and touch his face and keep him warm and safe with me forever.”
You will wrap your arms around him and kiss his slippery head and snap your teeth like a cornered badger at the nurses trying to wipe him down because you will never, ever have loved anything the way you love that tiny child. You will love him covered in ooze at birth and covered in poop at one and covered in mud at five. You will love him when he spits venom at you at ten and when he refuses to speak to you at sixteen. With a love that transcends gross and that is blind to ooze, no matter how nasty.
You call me in ten years. I’ll sell my children if it’s not true.
Love, Any Mommy