Note From Senior Food Editor, Libbie Summers: Having witnessed Andrea in action as a wonderful mom, and in honor of Mother’s Day, I asked her to put her cooking attempts aside for a week (to give the fire department and her family a break) and write a small piece about motherhood. I hope you are as touched by this piece as I was. The Culinary Coward will be back in the kitchen next week attempting Paula’s Strawberry Pretzel Salad…what could possibly go wrong?
Four years ago I was lying in bed watching The Daily Show. Jon Stewart was going to be interviewing Charles Barkley after the commercial break. Just as Barkley loped across the stage and up to Stewart’s desk—before a single joke was cracked—my unborn daughter decided that she, too, would enjoy seeing the Barkley interview.
I felt a single, mind-numbing cramp, something not unlike being eviscerated.
“Ray! I think I’m going into labor!” I yelled to my husband.
Let me assure you, no one “thinks” they are going into labor. You know. Which is what I wanted to tell the doctor-on-call when he condescendingly asked, “Are you sure?” I could go into deal about the “proof” of my labor, but I will spare you the graphic details. Just know that I wanted to hurl the said proof at the doctor on the other end of the line.
Already packed for the hospital, I waited impatiently at the front door for my husband. When he didn’t come I went to the bedroom to physically remove him (oh, the Amazonian strength of a woman in labor!). There he stood, lint-rolling his backpack.
“What the hell are you doing?!”
“There’s cat hair on my backpack.”
By the grace of God, his life was spared. A mere two hours later, at 1 a.m. on February 1, Ray held our daughter, Ava, in his arms. I will never forget her Uber-Asian features, her scratched up little face and her freakishly long fingers that assured me she would someday be a successful surgeon.
That was the first blissful moment I had with my child. I didn’t experience another one for about nine months.
Today, the bliss comes at more frequent intervals. Children make sense to me. Babies do not. With each fleeting year, my love and respect for Ava deepens—sometimes it’s so thick I think I just may choke on it. She’s turned out to be nothing like I expected, and yet she’s everything I’ve ever wanted.
I’ve made some mistakes along the way. I made the near-fatal error of letting her sleep with us when she didn’t like the toddler bed. I bought her a Disney Princess doll and nearly had to foreclose on our house (you can’t have just one, and then they go and make a new version of the same damn doll, “different” only because she’s wearing blue eyeshadow instead of green. We have triplet Auroras). I let her try chocolate milk.
Usually I try to right my wrongs once they adversely affect my life. I knew it was time to get Ava out of our bed the night I woke to her lying horizontal with one big toe hooked into my underwear, the other lodged into my bellybutton.
Today, Ava sleeps in her own bed. We negotiated a deal. I’ve agreed to sit in her bedroom and work on my computer until she falls asleep. I get some much needed quiet time to check my e-mail and she gets the pleasure of my presence.
It doesn’t always work. Sometimes she announces, “Mommy, I’m having a hard time sleeping.” My help comes in the form of lying down with her. I do it reluctantly, knowing that this will undoubtedly start up some new bad habit that I will have to work up the energy to break.
But these days, I find myself telling Ava that I want to lie with her as she falls asleep.
“But don’t you have to do work on your computer?” she asks.
I assure her that it can wait. And it can. This can’t.
I drape my arm over her and I press my face into her back, just between her bird-like shoulder blades. I breathe in her shampooed hair, still damp on the ends. She’s comfortable and safe with me there. She prefers it this way.
I do too.