Saturday, April 23, 2011

Prayer for a Son

Tina Fey's hilarious and lovely "Prayer for a Daughter" has been kicking around the internet for a few weeks, so I thought I'd patch one together for a son. Specifically, mine. Here's hoping I landed on the side of 'tribute,' rather than 'rip-off.'

First, Lord: no contact sports. Though you did not deign to make me a morning person, it is not the 5am practice that I fear, but the risk of damage to his beautiful brain, because he is clearly a genius, and such potential would be a shameful thing to waste. I'll do my part to push him towards board games and Tolkein, if You'll do the rest. Just do whatever You did with me. 

Let him be confident, but not cocky, for it is a swollen head that draws contempt despite talent, and fails to see the strengths of others.

When challenges are issued in bars, let him know his limits and bow out, or at least pass out, before he pummels his liver or his pride by falling asleep under a urinal and being found the next morning by the cleaning crew. Actually, forget his pride if that's what it takes to teach the little fool a lesson. 

Guide him, protect him from stupid ideas like running with bulls, jumping out of planes, throwing himself off the edges of cliffs to land in bodies of water that are deceptively shallow, skiing out of bounds, swimming with sharks, playing with things that explode, donning a crotch harness and dumb little shoes to scramble up rock faces that are not meant to be scaled by anything but a mountain goat, ingesting food from street vendors in foreign countries and parts of downtown, joining expeditions to climb mountains that are so treacherous that they require the assistance of short, stocky locals who carry equipment and shake their heads at danger-seeking westerners, or being lured by the siren song of interest-free loans and no-money-down purchases. O Lord, when he does so choose to test his invincibility, mix me a shot of whatever it is that You drink when You're up there watching us get up to no good down here. This I pray. 

Lead him not into a never-ending PhD of Sociology, but do foster in him a thirst for knowledge and education, be it at a university, an internship, an apprenticeship, or other source of expertise. Give him the luxury of time and security to pursue said education, and not squander more than one semester on binge drinking and pranks. When he emerges from his training with fresh ideas and optimism, let him not become jaded, but find fulfilling work, and maintain a drive to become very good at his chosen profession, for it is in success that we find joy, hard work that we take pride, and hope that we make lasting change. It would also be great if he could support himself and put a little something away for his future, if it is not too much to ask of Your Beatificness.

Hear me, Lord, if he is bullied, grant me the grace to not drag those little shits home to their mothers demanding discipline and apologies, but focus my attention instead on my own son that I may fortify him with my love and overwhelming pride, as well as the knowledge that he is better than those insignificant little asses who will always be mean because they are unhappy. Let him not hesitate come to me with his troubles, so that I may assure him that things will get better, and that he is valuable, precious, and not deserving of such pain. (However, in Your Overwhelming Generosity, I trust that You will not begrudge me brief fantasies of the dragging and demanding and comeuppance for said little shits.)

Though he must feel the sharp sting of love unrequited, let him heal from those wounds with no lasting scars, especially not in the form of eternally-regretted tattoos. Dear Lord, this I pray. 

Let him understand that he is lucky, and foster empathy for those who are not so fortunate, that he may lessen burdens by taking up fights that are not necessarily his own. In Your Infinite Wisdom, please understand: I am not talking about storming oil tankers or moving to Tibet, for BP is formidable and China is unmoving, and surely there are worthwhile causes within a timezone of his mother, she who has absorbed the entire canon of Raffi, and sings Joshua Giraffe repeatedly at his sign language request of "more? moremoremoremore? more?"

May his childhood be long and spoiler-free, so he may have many years to believe in the magical powers of wondrous characters like the easter bunny, the tooth fairy, and me. Yes, knowledge is power, but wonder is invaluable, and there will be plenty of time for hard facts and controlled experiments as the years go by. O Lord, let him not be smarter than us until he is wise enough to navigate the treacherous waters of The Internet without the lifeboat of his father's watchful paranoia and sneaky nanny programs. 35 is probably a good target age for this one. Maybe 40. 

If one day, he should take on fatherhood, grant him solid arms for rocking, endurance for long nights, and a strong stomach for that first blueberry diaper. As he stares in terrified wonder at this little piece of amazingness that is his to cherish and protect, let him save a little wonder to consider that his father and I felt that same fierce love for him all those years ago, and briefly ponder how he could ever express the gratitude that he is feeling. But he won't have to. I'll just know, because I'm pretty sure my mother said this same prayer as she was holding me, and it's clear that You came through for her.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Dear Sam: You Were Born, For Real.

When I last left this story, I had just taken the epidural, and was beginning to appreciate the wonders of modern anesthesia. Actually, I wasn't quite at the appreciation stage yet, because your Granddad, my Dad, was busy learning the back story of the anesthesiologist who was in the process of jabbing a gigantic needle into my spine, and this was not helping me calm down. Forgive me if I wasn't interested in where he went to school or how he decided to go into pain management; I was a bit more concerned about how focused he was on the task at hand, and how steady those hands might be.

Now, you are very, very fond of your grandfather, as am I, but there's something you need to know, if you haven't figured it out already. Get ready for a Life Lesson: Sometimes, the traits you love and respect the most about a person might drive you to want to kill them under extraordinary circumstances. Your grandfather has a commendable appetite for information. He watches the news at 5:00, 6:00 and 11:00, and he reads two newspapers a day (I'll explain what a "newspaper" is another time). Most importantly, he is eager to learn from the people he meets on a daily basis, and he truly is interested in what they have to say. When I was a teenager and therefore self-conscious beyond belief, I was horrified by benign trips to the grocery store, where he could not resist chatting with the cashier (I thought he was holding up the line), or stopping to catch up with the parent of one of my friends (dear god, what if that parent went home and told their son/daughter?? I could ask teenage Kathryn 'what if' indeed, but she was too focused on feeling simultaneously conspicuous and unappreciated to think of anything that abstract). 

These days, I'm proud to think that he passed that interest in the stories of others on to me, and I do enjoy talking to the people I come across on a daily basis. Prepare to be mortified, teenage Sam. However, in that moment, with that needle poised to go where no needle is really meant to go, I couldn't care less if that anesthesiologist had lived in a submarine, interviewed J.D. Salinger, or seen a double rainbow in Yosemite Park, so long as his aim was true. As far as I was concerned, your Granddad was NOT HELPING in that regard, and my mother took note of my desperate death glare and diverted my father enough to let me breathe deeply, as the nurse who was kindly letting me crush her hands was instructing me to do.

Shortly after that, when your Dad and I settled down to sleep for a few hours and get some dearly needed rest, as was the purpose of the epidural, your Granddad and Gamma headed home, where I knew they would be thinking of me all night, and eagerly awaiting news of your arrival. Before they left, they told me that they knew I could do it, and that meant a lot.

When we woke up an hour or two later, I assessed the changes, and found that I definitely wasn't steady enough to walk anywhere, but I could feel the contractions, and still had enough sensation to push effectively. That was good thing, because I pushed for four hours. FOUR HOURS. I'll spare you the gritty details and just say that some parts were uncomfortable (good lord, the nausea) and some were precious (but that's between me and your Dad), and just tell you that the overarching theme was how damn long you took to make your appearance. The experienced and knowledgeable nurse kept assuring me that I was so close, and told me at least three times that I probably had less than an hour to go. On the less encouraging front, the OB resident would pop in every hour or so to judge my progress, shake her head discouragingly, and remind me that I was on a deadline: if I couldn't get you out by 4am, she was going to take matters into her own hands, and bring out The Forceps. Yes, I capitalize them in my brain. Like the epidural, I had a great fear of the forceps. Unlike the epidural, I'm still pretty convinced that that fear was justified. Now, I know women who have had forcep deliveries, and came out of it just fine, but I also know that they bring certain risks to both the baby and the Mom, and besides all that, they are just friggin huge. Really. So big. Visceral recoilingly big. So anyway, I was on a deadline, and despite a lifetime of being late for everything, I was determined to get you out on time.

The fact was, you were stuck. You weren't breech - that would have required a C-Section - no, your head was down, as it was supposed to be, but you were laying sideways. That meant that you were butting up against my pubic bone, and couldn't slide under it the way a properly aligned baby is designed to do. Besides requiring extra work on my part, you were under stress. Our wonderful nurse did a commendable job of shielding me from that information, but your Dad could tell you that he wasn't missing anything that had to do with monitors going off and your heart rate dropping. He bore all of that fear, while I just kept thinking "Wow, it's so nice of them to give me oxygen to help me breathe," totally unaware that it was for you, because you were struggling. So, that's why I had a deadline. As uninspired as her bedside manner might have been, the OB resident did not have some kind of twisted eagerness hone her mad forcep skills on my delicate bits (sorry), so much as she knew what could happen if you were pushed beyond your limit. Due to my work in the neurology clinic, I also know, and I am grateful for her inclination to move things along.

And that is why I know without a doubt that you were born at 3:59, not 4:00 as your birth certificate would attest. I made one last big effort, and the OB who was standing there with her forceps at the ready dropped them and caught you, and after that, nothing else mattered, because I was holding my baby, and you were so beautiful. I tore my eyes away from you to look at your Dad and confirm that you were to be Sam, and in that moment I remember thinking that there's no way I could have done it without him. If you're going to be all logic loving and fact-y like your Dad you'll ruin that sentiment by saying "well yes, because you wouldn't have had to," but draw on my side of your brain for a minute and go with what I really mean, ok? 


You were 7 and a half pounds, which is a good healthy weight, but you felt like so much more than that laying on my chest. I thought I could be crushed by the force of my love, and I knew that everything I had, I would gladly give to you. I was pretty much ready to burst, and I've never been so happy in my life. You were born.