We are at my husband’s company Christmas dinner. It’s always end of January, so that people don’t have to go to a holiday dinner over the holidays when they’re busy with family stuff. I appreciate this. There’s a very pregnant woman there and we end up eating dinner with her and her husband. She’s so excited about the delivery of her new son, talking about how she’s decorated the nursery, how her pregnancy has gone. Since it’s her first baby, she’s a cliché of herself and actually radiates; glowing adorably.
A veteran of seven pregnancies myself (three lost to miscarriage, and four great kids, ranging in age from 23-11), I’m thrilled for her, remembering that time of hope, wonder and awe, and complete unawareness for how much one’s life is about to change. It’ll be awhile before she becomes tired in any way by motherhood.
There are little reminders everywhere of how the years have passed. You pass the vending machines in the grocery store where your toddler would beg for coins for a plastic bubble purple glitter unicorn, only to be disappointed by a lame lion sticker. The Christmas tree piles are smaller each year since they’re aren’t huge plastic Fisher Price toys underneath them anymore. No more car seats.
Last week, I took my youngest to the doctor for a well-child visit. It had been two years since he’d been there, apparently a significant growth period—he’d grown three inches. Dr. Freddy explained to me that soon he’d experience a one-year growth spurt in which he would grow four-five inches. My mouth dropped in horror as I repeated the words back to him. “He’s going to grow four to five inches?” I asked in complete astonishment. “In one year?” Dr. Freddy laughed. “Oh, that’s right, you’ve raised three girls now, but this is your first boy. When boys go through puberty, they grow up to five inches in a year!”
I blink. I can’t believe he has used the “p” word in my presence regarding my infant son, who only moments ago I held in my arms and nursed, who broke my heart by going off to preschool the first day, practically yesterday hit his first grounder to first, sunk a three-pointer or pitched his first strikeout… what the hell was happening? I struggled to fight back tears. My son stared at me. I didn’t want to embarrass him.
He asked, “Mom are you crying?”
“No, honey, my allergies are just bothering my eyes right now,” I said, immediately pulling myself together. I took a deep breath and addressed the traitorous Dr. Why-Can’t-I-Remember-His-Last-Name, because I’m not calling him Dr. Freddy anymore, it’s too juvenile. “So, what is the age range for… that… to occur?” I asked.
“Puberty in boys occurs between the ages of nine and 14,“ answered the doctor who has seen all of my kids for dozens of years. “When I do his physical today I’ll know if there are any signs.”
Then I had a stroke and died, and now my husband is a single parent.
But, I had to come back as a zombie mother and get through this doctor visit on behalf of my son, who I’d already done the math and calculated, at 11, was firmly in the range Dr. Frankenshootme had declared. Also, the physical exam? I didn’t know whether to stay or leave! This was awful. I asked my son and he awkwardly said he wanted me to stay, so ignoring the PLEASE TURN OFF ALL CELL PHONES sign, I turned my chair to face the other way, showing him I’d be there but not watching. Meanwhile I made a mental note that there would be no more visits to the pediatrician for me. My daughters all go to regular family practitioners now, and from now on my husband was doing this chaperoning. Who knew what man-cave topics they were going to talk about at the next visit, but I sure as “I’ve already done three menstruation talks, thanks” wasn’t going to be there for it.
We left the office, and my son said, “You were going to cry because I’m gonna grow five inches!” and he laughed. I started to object, but he knew. He didn’t want to go back to school right away, because the art teacher is mean, so we got McDonald’s and went to the beach for a chilly walk before I brought him back.
I listened to people give the pregnant woman advice all night at the company dinner. They don’t mean it, but for some reason when mothers are around a pregnant woman, they do it all the time. I even heard my least favorite classic line “You just wait…” as she smiled. The only thing I wished I could say to her was to somehow slow time down so she could appreciate how precious those early moments are. When I said goodbye I told her there’s only one piece of advice I offer new mothers: “Don’t listen to anybody.”