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11/05/2004

Mama manifesto

As my pregnancy progresses, as we near that powerfully magical 28-week mark when most (most) babies survive their birth, I slowly edge closer to believing we'll soon have a child — a real live baby — in our arms and in our home.

I am bonding in my own twisted way. When the baby is kicking in an especially energetic manner, I sometimes urge Paul to put his hand against my abdomen so that he can feel it, too. Invariably, the kicking screeches to abrupt halt and Paul feels nothing. Either the baby is calmed by the pressure of Paul's hand, or he's fucking with us both. I hope it is the latter. That's what I mean by twisted.

I don't talk to the baby, not out loud. I figure if there's such a thing as telepathy, there is no more direct route than that between my brain and my baby's, via the cutting-edge fiber optic technology of my spinal column. So instead of talking I think to the baby.

I have begun making promises.

As foolish as it may be to attempt to cut deals with a creature who's still more gill than lung, I like to think we have an understanding. Here are some of the things I say:

I will not feed you Lunchables, as I believe it is unhealthy at worst and ill-mannered at best to eat sliced dead people. I may, at my sole discretion, cut funny shapes out of real food to encourage nourishment and delight, but then I already do that anyway.

I will be secretly amused when you call your seventh-grade math teacher a bitch, but you are gonna be so grounded for that.

Mostly I'll know when you're lying.

I will always take your side but it might not always look that way.

I will dress you in ridiculous getups as long as I possibly can. Coming from a woman who is currently clad in Polarfleece overalls with rainbow-striped knee socks, this is a promise you can depend on.

You will think I'm a dork but your friends will think I'm cool. Trust me on this.

The haircut you like is okay with me, as long as it's clean and out of your face. However, I cannot speak for your father.

I will turn an elaborately blind eye, much as my parents did, when you delve into Sidney Sheldon at age 10, as long as you have enough sense not to ask me what "fellatio" means. (Look, we have that OED for a reason, dig?)

I will buy funny Band-Aids.

I will try not to treat you as an experiment, no matter how adorable I think you'd look in a Skinner box. Any studies I do conduct will be performed before you are old enough to remember them. (Note to self: Test efficacy of Ministry's "Stigmata" as lullaby sooner rather than later.)

I will not display any photo of you that showcases your full frontal nudity, no matter how gloriously proud I am of your elephantine genitalia.

Most of the time I'll be laughing with you. Oh, sure, sometimes I'll be laughing at you, but I will not make it obvious.

Yes, you may join the Girl Scouts. No, you may not join the Boy Scouts. I do not feel this is inconsistent, and I'll be happy to tell you why.

I will mess with you. A lot. I will blow in your face to watch that bewildered squinty look that babies get when they feel that single surprising puff. When you cry, I will gently and rhythmically tap my hand over your mouth, so that you make that "bah-uhbah-uhbah-uhbahbahbahbahbah" noise, perhaps surprising you out of your wailing but at the very least entertaining myself enough to endure it.

I will try not to tell stories about you that embarrass you, but you have to let me know I'm doing it. Deal?

No, we will not get rid of the cat if he scratches you. Do you think it was a good idea to pull his tail? I wonder if you'll do it again.

I will surely annoy you by singing made-up words to songs. I do it on purpose. If you can't beat me — and on this, my dear, you cannot — I surely hope you'll join me.

As an addendum to the above, I am well aware that I sound nothing like Joan Armatrading. I will sing along nevertheless. To any complaints, I shall say, "Hard cheese."

I will hold your hand in public as long as you'll allow it.

I will try to remember not to say no unless it matters.

I will try really fucking hard not to swear in front of you. Or at least not quite as much.

Okay, look. I know I'm supposed to pledge that I'll protect this tiny creature born into our care. I'm supposed to give a solemn oath to help shape his young life into one of beauty and meaning. I'm supposed to vow to nurture and to encourage, to cherish and to love, unconditionally, without limit, beyond the bounds of reason.

But, jeez, I just said I would, didn't I?

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