Josephine is sleeping on my lap, and man, she is huge, as was confirmed on Wednesday. She is in the 90th percentile for her age, weighing about thirty pounds and measuring thirty one and a half inches (I revert to the American habit here, because I don't get paid to do math any more). She is officially a grubby puppy. It's funny - she goes to bed all warm and clean and nice from her bath, and wakes up all puffy and pinky and rumpled and it's adorable. But after a few hours in the morning, the accumulated mess: orange juice down her shirt, cracker crumbs in her hair, crushed Cheerios between her toes, dried snot (because we're still sort of sick), eye boogers, newspaper ink on her forehead, dried applesauce on her hands, and coffee stains on her pants (Lukewarm, of course. You don't think I get to drink hot coffee any more, do you?) transform her into the kind of dirty little white trash baby I never thought I'd have. I have realized that I like her better when she is clean and neat and dressed like in clothes I like. Otherwise, as she appears right now, she could be anyone else's baby. A series of questions over on another blog got the wheels turning again, and I wanted to get back to how I turned into a mother, and Josephine's mother specifically. Then I'll answer those too. But after some thought - not in one big blurt like this. You've been warned.
Through the pregnancy I worked at the Antique Market, and in short, because it's a sunny day and I have no time for more bitterness, let's say I got screwed again. By September, I'd told my boss that I needed to be on the books so I could have enough hours under my belt (okay, a leather rope on a dress Steve said made me look like Friar Tuck) to collect my maternity benefits. I trusted her, and it didn't happen. Too reluctant to ask for what I deserved, to shy to speak up, and too rooted in my belief that people will do what is right because, um, it's the right thing to do - my pride cost us once again. That's how Steve and I had a baby, here in a really expensive city, on one income. My fault, I was stupid and didn't follow up. I've realized that people who work in Antiques and own their own businesses are often in that business for a reason. It's because they just don't want to deal with conventional work practices. Perhaps that includes me, but I don't like to think that.
Even I don't want to revisit the pregnancy. It was uneventful. I still don't see why people do this twice, even though I was lucky - lucky lucky lucky and it was all rather easy compared to what so many people go through. It wasn't particularly bad, just exhausting. I thought I had mono, then I was barfy and often had to get off the streetcar because the Queen Street Vomit Comet is notoriously skanky in certain stretches. I got huge, and was assaulted with comments and never given seats on public transportation; and the only nice thing was that I got to drink virgin lychee and so day thingies at Lobby for free. Clients thought it was funny to ask the giant pregnant woman to stand on a spindly step stool and take down expensive and fragile Moorcroft vases and Lalique perfume bottles. Steve's friends love pregnant women and made much of me, my women friends were very supportive, and Steve thought I was beautiful, and scary. My mom called me often with name suggestions like Stacey. I had a baby, and it hurt. I'm still not over the betrayal of no one ever telling me how much like a bowel movement it would feel like. And Steve, who wasn't supposed to see the gories, told me that it looked like someone threw a grenade in my pants. My first words to her were "Hello Josephine", like the song that in part inspired her name and that has now been memorialized in my tattoo, my first Mother's Day gift from Steve:
He has a matching one, his first Father's Day gift - to himself, because I can't afford to buy him tattoos.
While all of that is no more or less compelling than anyone else's story, it gets me to one of the things that happened the day Josephine was born and to where some of the mommy issues come in.
As much as my mom wanted to be with me during labour (but not delivery!), I felt the need for intense privacy and wanted only Steve with me. We agreed not to call my parents until I was close enough to delivering that they couldn't make it from Buffalo in time and so would go straight to our house and take care of Beauty. This happened as planned, but they phoned several times - to complain that our house was too cold. Now it's a hundred year old draughty beast, but despite careful instructions, they could not work the thermostat. Y'know, moving a lever from left to right. They slept in their coats, and I still hear about it. When Steve came home around nine that morning (Josephine was born just before four, and by the time I was moved into the very not private OHIP covered room despite having reserved a private suite and offering to pay the extra for it along with buying champagne, cupcakes and jewellery for the person that made that happen and that new room was so not the gorgeous room I'd given birth in!), he heard all about it. It was agreed that he'd come back with them when visiting hours started at twelve. He needed to sleep, bathe, contact people and eat. And by the way - I still love his email announcement:
"Hello all, excuse the blanket email. I'm too wiped to considered all the good friends we want to tell so here it goes....at 3:54 on Wednesday Feb. 25 sweet baby Joesphine miraculously squirted her way into the world. All 8 lbs 4ozs of her. No sleep for me these past two days, less for Marla. On that note Marla the Brave Soldier & Joesphine are resting comfortably."
It's sweet and just like him to get on the computer right away, all incoherent and with Josie's name spelled wrong. However, that led several of his college buddies to think that she was named after Joe Strummer, due to his recent and untimely passing. He likes to perpetuate that myth, but it's really so for several reasons. They are: he always performed "Hello Josephine" when getting up with our friend's bands; he and his friend Mark always called pretty girls Josephines, my grandmother's and great-great-grandmother's names are/were Josephine, and our imaginary baby that we used to see cute vintage baby clothes and mini cowboy boots for was called Josephine - the one we pretended to have when we never thought we actually would.
It's also, unfortunately spitefully so, a name my mom hates. As mentioned, she'd often call with suggestions. "What do you think of Stacey?" and on that day "We should name her Ashley, because she was born on Ash Wednesday." I know that she does not like this name because she is not getting along with caring for my grandma, as written about here. But she'd never admit to that. I'd ask her why she didn't like the name, and she'd never answer. One day she finally came up with "It'll be too hard for her to learn how to spell." Oh. My. Goodness. THAT was the best she could come up with? Our response, that maybe then we should name her An, y'know, with one N because it's easier, only got me a remark on what a smart ass I am in return. So it's Josephine Blossom Good - the Blossom for the motel she was most likely conceived in, and because we wanted a B initial, and for Blossom Dearie. Josie B. Good is an excellent rock star moniker, for when she writes a hit like Sk8rboi and pays for her own education (some day I'll get into my belief that trade schools are a good thing). But most of all, because she is Josephine, the baby I knew I'd have.
Whoa! Did you get a load of that digression?
Noon came and went. Steve's wonderful parents came and went. So picture a tired CRANKY decaffeinated woman with this crying black goo oozing baby wedged into a corner by the bathroom in a hospital room with a curtain that didn't quite provide enough privacy. No one told me how to care for my baby. I was just thrown into the deep end, and all I knew was that I was never supposed to leave her unattended. I wheeled her into the bathroom with me when I was able to stagger in there. And, I must share this with the world: I think I am the only person in that group of four women there who was taught to wrap up my business before tossing it in the trash. There. It's been almost fourteen months, and it's finally out of me. I did not think that part of my new mother experience would contain repeated viewings of a trash can filled with other women's used pads.
Are you back from going to vomit? Good, me too. We're back in the cubicle, separated by a small curtain from a woman and her family of unknown ethnic derivation who still irritate me today when I think of them. First, six of them. All day and all night. Too many, and I was trying to be considerate of her experience and not be a bitch and have the nurse bounce them. Second, the clicking noise. Whenever the baby cried, everyone made a clk clk clk tsk tsk tsk noise at the baby. From across the room. Third, the crying? All the time. Her baby cried all the time, because she didn't feed it. She'd had a C-section, and lay there moaning. She didn't speak English. When her nurse came in to check, and asked her to point at the clock to tell her when she last fed the baby, it was found out that she hadn't. She wasn't going to breastfeed, and thought the nurses at the hospital would feed and provide the formula (yes, it was 2004 and in Toronto. This happened. I was right there, and had nothing better to do than observe, because as I'm trying to tell you, my parents and husband were nearly four hours late.) Fourth (because there's more), one of the men was sick and kept hoarking into a paper cup.
Steve's cel wasn't working. When they arrived, and the bitterness and venom spewed, I could only see that Steve wasn't himself. Well, I couldn't expect him to be, because he'd just seen something the size of our Sunday chicken dinner come out of a place he only wants to think good things about. But he was off. I got the full story when my parents left, and am amazed, still, that I speak to them. Family feuds are started from smaller seeds.
After arriving to find my parents sitting on the sofa with their coats on, he turned up the heat and explained he needed to clean up and so on. They mentioned that they'd like to have brunch before going to the hospital, and he agreed that was a good idea and so they'd leave at eleven. The Fox and Fiddle, a psuedo-pub with average food was the place of choice. Because God forbid my mom should make bacon and eggs and toast at home. She is notorious in my books for going to eat at restaurants food that could be made at home. Please note that in my nesting spree I'd fully stocked the fridge, washed every dish and knick-knack, organized the junk drawer, planned meals, left things handy and made everything convenient for visitors. This is important to remember, and I know you'll believe that I did this because every pregnant woman does this and every guide tells you this is so. This was a restaurant Steve would never choose, never just happen into, and it was chosen because it was closest to where my Dad found parking.
Parking is an issue, because my Dad is somewhat disabled from an accident he had a few years ago. He passed out at the wheel while bringing some take out home, then his car crossed three lanes of traffic and hit a car, a fence and then a tree. His injuries, which were many, included some damage to his spine. He's since had an operation on it, and had a defibrillator installed and is on medication. One of the lingering effects is that his leg is numb, as are his hand from the middle finger to the pinky. It was never determined what caused it, although I suspect the glass or two of wine he had while waiting for his food, after not eating all day, in conjunction with the sixteen medications he's on for his fifteen years of heart trouble had something to do with it. Oh, and he wasn't wearing his seatbelt and blames the airbag for injuring his spine. If you would like to spell me for a while in asserting to him that they're ment to be used in conjunction with each other, that air bags ARE dangerous WITHOUT seatbelts, I'd like that. No one else was hurt - unless you count everyone around him who has to help clean up after shit like that. This is the man who was upset that the scheister lawyers who advertise on billboards wouldn't take his claim to court, because his at fault percentage was too low for them to make money off him.
That, by the way, was an important digression. Because guess what happened at the restaurant? No prizes, but you're right! He passed out cold, with no warning and no apparent reason at the table. Steve, in a fog and trying to keep things moving, was snapped out of it by my mother screaming "PLEASE GOD DON'T TAKE HIM NOW!". There was my dad, slack and grayish and slumped and my mother sobbing. My. poor. husband.
He called 911, tried to relay information, and tried to believe that this was really happening to him, as sirens raced toward him and the busy Danforth became clogged as Fire, Police and Ambulance responded. At one point, he asked the ambulance crew if they were going to take my dad to TEGH if he could get a ride with them, because his wife who just had a baby was there. When did our lives turn into a John Travolta/Kirstie Alley vehicle?
Eventually, my dad was revived, and to my horror as I later found out, drove Steve and my mom to the hospital to see me. My mom made Steve promise not to tell me what happened - so she could. This is the type of thing she does that sends me around the bend. She really and truly and heartily believes that he and I will not tell the truth to each other, or discuss things at length. Never mind that one for now, let's move on to where I've forbidden anyone I love except for my mother to get in a car with my father. Steve did offer to have a cab take them and have CAA tow the car back home, but just gave up in the desire to come and see his wife and baby as quickly as possible, because it was now after three o'clock.
To get beyond this point, and to the rest of the issue part, because sometimes I digress, how about this: my mom now blames our cold house and Steve's playing on the computer for my dad's passing out. No, it's not because, once again, he didn't eat anything between six and eleven a.m., and then had a glass of wine with brunch. It's never his fault.
Why yes, I am still a bit bitter that the day Josephine was born was tarnished for us by pure stupidity. But because that happened, I pulled my family around me tighter - Steve and Josephine are my chosen family. They were given to me as much as my parents (who adopted me) were given to me; but I want to believe I deserve their goodness more than I deserve the badness and hurt that comes with my parents. I am surrounded by love from all parties, but on one side it is generous and kind and on the other it is measured and possessive. With Steve and Josephine, we are entwined in this supportive relationship - we all live and feed and become more of ourselves with the help of each other. It is hard and it is beautiful and it isn't perfect but I choose it with every chance I get to make their lives better. I take care of myself because Josephine needs me. I take care of Steve because we need him. He takes care of us because he loves us. We realize, on every level, at which point our stability becomes endangered. From keeping the dryer vent clean so we don't die in a fire to driving safely. Perhaps because Josephine's life is so new and precious, we care more. And so I wonder how my parents can claim to love us and love life, when at any time my dad could pass out at the wheel again and kill himself, my mother, or someone else. It's all about the choices, and they continually make bad choices. Those choices, those bad decisions and their willingness to continue with their other poor health habits, along with their hobby of fostering bad relationships negate the good things they do, and in my eyes, that'll be harder to explain to Josephine when it's time. I resent that it will be a complicated relationship.
So I'm at the point where I not only gave birth to Josephine, but am her mother because those instincts were roused on day one. I liken it to becoming the Sedna though. Remember that picture?
It's called Fingers Cut Off, by Normee Ekoomiak. I'd mentioned that I bought it for a donation to Action Volunteers for Animals after Mrs. Chong thought it was ugly and was going to throw it out, but I rescued it for their garage sale. It appealed to me because it was shocking and primitive and ugly. It was one of those items that lives in my laundry room, because if Steve sees it, he'll make snotty comments about how I seem to like badly painted things that no one else wants. For someone who made a living researching and identifying and valuing items, you'd think I would have at least Googled the artist's name, no? After showing it to my friend the European and American Art expert, who said it looked like "something" and that I should, I found "this".
So it is something, and he is somebody. How very cool. Mr. Ekoomiak is more known for his work in fabric, as paintings and illustrations are rare for the Inuit. There is no auction market record for him, and the price that got pulled out of a specialist's ass as an estimate for a general auction was a few hundred dollars. While this painting wasn't in the book, the story of it is.
To paraphrase it, from his story of Mermaids and the Narwhal:
Off Cape Jones, a father threw his daughter over the side of the boat. The was frightened, and hung on so he cut off her fingers. She sank to the sea bottom, where she became the Sedna, the sea goddess who is now a mermaid. The fish, the polar bear, the seal and the narwhal (her son who is a king) were created from her fingers. She uses her mind to help those endangered in the water, because she cannot use her hands. Mermaids will not bother those who go hunting on the sea, but if people kill the wrong animal (anything on land), the mermaids could kill them if they wanted to, because the people did the wrong thing.
And so, I am the Sedna. When I'd posted earlier about how I collect items based on how they seem to find me and act as totems, I meant it. This painting came into my life just as I was about to conceive Josephine. Pushed out of the boat and my fingers cut off - oh, how it represents being pushed out of my old life; and cutting off my fingers to let me know I must let go of the past - how true! I am not the daughter my parents wanted me to be. And the fingers - they became Josephine, and motherhood, and maybe my blog, and there are some still to grow into maybe a new business or a new direction. The idea of using your mind instead of your hands to help people - I am trying to be happy and healthy and smart for my family, as well as working hard to have a good life. Having the to kill people because they do the wrong thing, yet not bothering those who only go about their business, well...
I am the Sedna, and that painting is now in a place of honour where I cannot miss it.