“See you at nine,” said Gordon, grabbing his keys and heading for the door. He was going to BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) Monday night, as usual. I was late making dinner and was just firing up the wok; he would have to eat when he got back. “Are you sure you shouldn’t call the doctor?” he asked on his way out.
“I’ll call tomorrow if she hasn’t pooped by then,” I said. I was in my workout gear, chopping green onions.
It had been since Friday. I had heard this was normal.
After Gordon left, I dropped a tablespoon of butter down into the wok — the auspicious beginning to my apricot-sauced-pork medallions — when the whole thing collapsed in a bubbly brown explosion of burning froth. How long had the wok been on, anyway? The onions hadn’t taken THAT long to chop, had they? But then again, my mind was elsewhere — the mysterious world of Thing Two’s digestive processes.
I stirred the raw pork into the brown mess, thinking I might regret it, but committed to seeing this dinner through because did I want Drew to see his mommy quit when the going got tough? When the pork got tough, no less? Is that a message to send today’s youth? The message he got, however, was that the Fort Worth Fire Department is prompt. And friendly.
The alarm went off to my complete and total surprise and it began to occur to me that I was just a little behind the curve on everything happening this evening and that perhaps I should remove myself quietly from human society. Drew came running in, bawling at the high-pitched shrieking of the alarm combined with the whining of our home security system (to which it is linked) and clung to me like a crab as I disarmed both.
We sat down to eat the smoking remains of the wok. The doorbell rang. The last time I had seen five firefighters at any one time was when we hired them to move us into the new house. But this time they brought their truck with the sparkly, embarrassing lights.
“Everything’s fine,” I said casually, leaning on the doorframe.
“Are you sure?” asked the Big Mustache.
Short Mustache appeared from the side of the house (they were already in my backyard?) and seemed to ask the same question with his expression.
“Oh yes. Everything’s fine. Well, except the pork, which is burned.” I produced a self-deprecating laugh. They looked skeptical. What? Do they think I am lying? “Do you want to look around?” I asked lamely.
“Maybe,” said Big Mustache, waiting for In Charge Mustache to emerge. He gave the “all clear” sign with a wave of his hand and they withdrew.
“I’m sorry!” I called after them. I think they were disappointed it wasn’t something more exciting. Bet they see a hundred burning pork medallions a night.
Curtain rises, 8:16 p.m.: Drew is down for the night. I am nursing on the couch. Gordon is still out. The lingering smell of smoldering erstwhile dinner lingers. I am starting to relax; I am letting down and Maddie settles into a nursing rhythm. Warmth begins to spread where our bodies are joined, and for a moment I think how sweet it is that just holding her heats my heart like a coal. Wait. Not that much.
I pull her away, and realize the fascinating truth: I would not need to call the doctor after all. Her onesie and my nightgown are now the epicenter of an ever-expanding circle of bright yellow infant poop, its circumferences growing at breakneck speed. It’s Frisbee size! Now Jupiter! By the time I jump up, the couch is sporting a widening poop blotch. Yak! I pull Maddie off, yank a pad onto the floor to set her on, gingerly pull my nightgown up over my head and proceed to remove Thing Two’s clothes and irrelevant diaper, all while trying not to smear poop on her head and arms. (Unsuccessfully.) Now we are both naked; she is wailing, hungry, and I am raining milk down over our poop-spackled bodies like Tabasco over a stew. Then she spits up an impressive white puddle, a puddle that collects around her head like a moat and soaks her wispy black hair in a curdled broth.
Have you ever read the book of Revelation? Darling, whimsical, that book.
I schlep Thing Two into the closest bathroom — the guest bathroom — to bathe her in the sink. Wet wipes look a little too precious for this job, and I remember a travel-size bottle of Johnson’s shampoo I have in the diaper bag. With one hand I hold her head above water, and with the other I try to unscrew the tiny yellow cap. Nope. Too tight. I clamp my teeth around it and twist. Viola! And then, what’s this? An even tinier, teensier foil seal!! Oh how it mocks me, this evil foil seal. Why me, Baby Jesus, why me? Thing Two is still screaming. We are both still naked, shivering. Poop particles are floating in the sink; I can feel poop moisture cooling my skin as it evaporates.
Do I try to poke the tiny foil seal with my incisor? Is the fingernail on my pinky up to the challenge? Better go for the hand soap.
By the time Gordon gets home at nine, I have just finished nursing Madeline. The siege of bodily fluids is now at a tenuous cease-fire. She is all smiles and goodwill-toward-men, as if ready to bestow world peace with a twitch of her prissy little nose. I had been sending Gordon updates via text message, of course — because no Bible study on the book of Isaiah is complete without corresponding apocalyptic illustrations — and he enters like a soldier arriving late to battle. There is a wild look in his eyes. And yet so tender.
After he is made to understand I will not be on the next bus to California, he relaxes and sits next to me on the couch.
“So,” he says, flipping the TV channel up a few notches and sniffing the air, “What’s for dinner?”