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I Double-Dog Dare You To...

“Clogs! It’s got clogs in it!”

This incoherent specimen of verbal ballyhoo is what (I believe) I said to Gordon at approximately 3:42 a.m. on Monday morning. I was changing Thing Two’s diaper in her dimly lit room, and the very moment I got her diaper off, she shot a bowel movement across the room. More like a bowel Mach 3. It was everywhere.

“HEY.” I moaned.


“HEY!” I yelled.

Gordon hobbled in.

“Clogs! It’s got CLOGS.”

“Wha?” he mumbled.

“Poop. She. Pooped. The floor. Help.”


(Would you believe my husband majored in Speech Communication and I in English Lit?)

I think I meant “clods,” as in there were large clods everywhere, but the words came out as if my child had inexplicably relieved herself of Dutch footwear. Which would have been more interesting —“A fascinating choice,” as Angelina would say as she does of Shiloh’s clothing preferences.

When I signed up to be a mother for the second time, I hadn’t bargained on how much more TIRED I would be. And stupid. I’m definitely stupider, but really I’m mostly just more tired. And tiredness makes you do and say stupid, stupid things.

I was reading somewhere — probably the ever-reliable Wikipedia — that a mother sacrifices upwards of 800 HOURS of sleep in the first year of her baby’s life. That, by my feeble and unreliable calculations, comes to 33 DAYS of missed sleep a year.  A whole month, plus a long weekend. Really, there’s no way you WOULDN’T be stupider, so it’s not surprising we’re all stumbling along propped up on caffeine and antidepressants just trying to keep ourselves and our offspring trucking ahead, or — in technical terms — alive.

On the phone with my mom yesterday, I was trying to think of the world “turquoise.” As in, “I was wearing a turquoise necklace.” Instead I said something like, “I was wearing this blue…(you know, that kind of BRIGHT blue?)…thing…around my neck,” and it could have been an inner tube or a boa constrictor dipped in Benjamin Moore or a vile of Avatar blood (back to Angelina). But I think she gleaned my meaning. Context, as they say, is everything. And fellow mommies know how to interpret other mommies’ blathering, which is pretty remarkable because it’s a language of grunts and empty pauses and no written alphabet. Unless you count alphabet soup.

Besides not being able to find the words I need (although give me some credit, “turquoise” is kind of advanced English for someone in my state), and besides walking into rooms and then wondering why I went there in the first place, the rather nice side effect of this postpartum nonsense is a calm, undiluted focus on the very basic of human responsibilities: feed, clothe, and clean yourself and your babies. Repeat. No frenetically reading of world or local news; no preoccupation with the exotic Facebook status posts of others; no obsessing over social obligations or if I will look fat in pictures. All the nonessentials fall away. Only the cave woman endures. She is stupider, but she is, in a small way, steadier. Not “saner” because she feels half-crazy; but she is not the scattered, multitasking fool of a woman she has been up to this point. She just has to keep the fire burning in the cave. Oog. 

Except when she forgets to wear breastfeeding pads and lets down unexpectedly. Hold please.

Ok. I’m back.

Now, where were we?

Ah yes. The steady cave woman.

Realizing your new limitations makes you doubt yourself and feel all kinds of unattractive insecurity. We were at the hospital yesterday getting Thing Two the dreaded second round of heel pokes mandated by the State to test for a variety of genetic and blood disorders. This is probably the most traumatic of newborn tests because it involves squeezing blood out of their heels onto a card. The card has five circles on it and each circle must be totally saturated with blood. If the baby is a slow bleeder, the poor parents are forced to endure the wails until the nurse can squeeze out enough as if their baby were a dry lemon at a lobster boil. It was during this awful moment — Maddie was wailing, Gordon was holding her other leg and I had her arms — when I glanced up to the wall where they had posted a list of all the disorders they were testing for. You know, for some light reading.

And right up there with Sickle Cell Anemia was something called Maple Syrup Urine Disease. I blinked. Maybe I was reading this wrong. I mean, I knew I was talking all wrong and remembering stuff all wrong, so reading comprehension was the next likely skill to go. “Maple Syrup Urine Disease?” I said aloud.

“Eh?” said the nurse, her eyes fixed on the bloody card.

“Is that what it says?” I said lamely, loudly over Maddie’s cries.

She mumbled something I couldn’t hear and I appealed to my husband, who confirmed that’s what the wall said. OK. So I’m not crazy.

But I don’t know what would be worse, realizing you can’t read or realizing there’s a disease in the world named for a beloved breakfast food. Nothing is sacred anymore, I tell you. And Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD) is totally legit; Google it and see for yourself.

Then just try to make pancakes on Saturday. Wearing clogs. I double-dog dare you.