Ciernan Eóghan O'Donnell
The Last Leg of the Family
Word of the Day: Meconium
It had been six years since Tanis was born. Plenty of time to get that last child out the door and off the production floor. We tried for 3 1/2 years to have another child a few years after Tanis with no success. It was like you were both sprinting, running well, running long, just like the coach told you, but the yellow tape marking the end of the race never stretched out in front of you. You wonder: is it you? Is it her? Does it matter to have a second child? Isn't it ok to want only one child? The questions are endless and there doesn't seem to be peace on the horizon. Pretty soon, sex turns into watching the calendar, taking the temperature and getting ovulation kits. You begin to feel like a piece of reproductive meat that is taken out of the refrigerator every day and set out in the blazing sun all day, having salt rock rubbed into you and all the moisture sucked from your marbley goodnees. I had more fun being a failure than anything I ever failed at before.
The fact that, just like your old football coach told you, you keep running the same play over and over again isn't that big of a deal, but sex shouldn't feel like the sex is the by-product of trying to reproduce. Not that I mind being looked at like a piece of meat, hell, I might even be more attractive as meat.
So, like most couples who started seeing the window for the second child closing, we started slowly selling off the baby stuff in one garage sale here and another there. The crib gets given to someone else, the highchair gets sold, until you have a house that is free and clear of anything resembling a poop-maker. We sold the very last pieces, a fantastic kids backpack which we had carried Tanis all over Oregon, Colorado and Utah, and a great bike trailer for the little tyke. We sold them in June. Tanis went on an extended vacation to Linda's parents in July...well, you know that irony only presents itself when it can be as glaring as possible, so you know we got pregnant weeks after selling the last expensive piece of crap we are now going to have to buy again. Weeks!
We quickly settled on a first name. Ciernan. It means "Dark Skinned" in gaelic. I think Linda is subtlety preparing me for an awkward moment in the delivery room. The middle name took a bit more time. With Tanis, it was easy, each family has to have a boy with the middle name James. Jody James. Dennis James. Russel James. Tanis James.
Ciernan was a bit tougher. We wanted to do for Linda's side of the family with what we had done for mine. The problem was, their names were very ENGLISH, not so much Gaelic. Eugene Walter Bliven is tough to match with Ciernan O'Donnell. We went back and forth on all kinds of names; Rory, Riley, and my personal favorite, Donegal. Ciernan Donegal O'Donnell has a fantastic ring to it. Probably get his ass kicked a lot as a kid with a name like that. We found out Ewen is scottish for Eugene, and Eóghan is Gaelic for Eugene. Owen. Whudda thunk?
The last eight months have gone by in a blur of massive amounts of work and family with bouts of climbing and snow in between. It's not that preparation has been all that tough on me. The best part about being a guy is the woman actually wants to do all this shit. To me, that stuff is just details, I am more concerned that the shelves don't sit above the changing station so I don't drop something on his head when I'm scrubbing his ass. For a man, the color of the baby's room is a no-brainer: what's wrong with white? Of course, this to a woman is like her saying: why does there need to be six star wars movies? Yeah, that type of difference. I leave all this to Linda, nodding my head, using emphasis in my voice, smiling a lot, commenting on it, discussing it, changing my mind when she changes her mind, discussing it some more, you get the point. I just want to play with the little buddha. Chuck him under the chin and wonder why they have a name for your first poop, but not a special word for your first step, or first word, or first grin. Nope, just one for the first poop. It is called meconium, and it is a liquid metal substance that is part tar heroin and part adhesive tape. You need special mechanical, rubber arms you slide your hands into and manipulate to change that diaper.
After realizing we were really pregnant, the realization of what was to come rolled over us like someone had turned on the light after weeks of darkness. Total care. Twenty-Four Seven. Three-Sixty-Five. Numbers and numbers, hours and hours, all taken from a life where our only child was becoming relatively independent. We were starting over. The walk, the long walk, from infancy to first steps to potty training to discovery of the word No. I wasn't freaking out, but I was feeling my heart race when I thought about it. My older brother put the entire picture into place for me, he laughed at me while I was talking about all the work ahead and said "The only thing you have is a beautiful little person who you get to love without condition for the rest of your life, there is nothing better in this world."
Linda started prepping very quickly. Gathering tools, utensils, stands, shelves, doors, painting and decorating, networking the families and mining all of the baby equipment they hadn't parted with yet, ordering custom shelves from her father, maternity clothes, diaper bags, strollers, video camera, and all the other billions of minutia that goes into preparation for having a baby in the twenty-first century. Tanis and I just tried to stand in place and not get dizzy by watching this woman flying around everywhere at all times.
Linda had a great pregnancy with no real physical issues except for a persistently painful tail bone. The coccyx. Hehehe. Cocksicks. Doodie. Diarhea. Anyways, she had a pain in her ass and for the first time in eleven years, it wasn't me. While I was secretly celebrating this little known piece of trivia, outwardly I was trying to be sympathetic to the cause. I could tell this pregnancy was harder both physically and emotionally than with Tanis. There were a couple of...episodes. But they were short and we don't talk about them anymore...except in therapy...three days a week. She was healthy and happy most of the time with a dark period around the second trimester. After that, it has been smooth sailing. She has that sheen in her cheeks and she smiles all the way to her toes. Her belly has been growing steadily until this last month where it is in it's final stages of "You thought it was big then?? Ho, laddy, you are in for a big friggin' surprise." You can see when the baby is shifted and snuggled up all on one side because her belly is crooked when she stands up. And if you can imagine swallowing a medicine ball and have it magnetically sit perpetually under your ribs and belly on one side, well, I think you get the picture.
Our first picture of Ciernan was the ultra sound where the nurse excitedly asks you if you want to know. When we went in for Tanis, the lady asked us, we nodded and she pointed to the screen. We couldn't see shit. She says she sees a penis. I saw a dot. I was hoping he was a grower and not a show'er because if that hadn't been the case, the boy was in for a harder life. Neither my wife nor I could discern a penis on that screen. But we trusted the expert and she was quite correct. We went in for Ciernan and let me tell you; the technology advances in six years is amazing. The computer display was so clear when she asked us if we wanted to know, I didn't need her to tell me that was a set of tackleberries in front of my eyes. She said it was a boy, Linda and I both smiled from ear to ear, Tanis pounded his chest like an ape and Ciernan reached down and started playing with his penis. The nurse caught it too because she stops the video feed, rewinds it and confirms exactly what I thought I had seen; in uetero masturbation. We all laughed like crazy and I told the nurse that's when we start and we end the day we die. Tanis wanted to know what we were laughing about and that brought on those familiar smiles of "You want to field this question, dear?"
The doctor visits are weekly now and the fake contractions are starting to kick in. We have the bags packed and waiting at the front door. The diaper bag is filled with all the overkill you think you need. Your mind is ragged when you think of what is to come. The reality of the cataclysmic event that is about to earthquake into your life. The nights of walking, pacing, holding and cuddling the child, watching him giggle and grin, plugging your ears with your eyes staring up at the ceiling, the nose plugged and the eyes staring wide in sheer terror and disbelief at the steaming presents, the warmth and smoothness of the skin and the wild, driving heartbeat, the puking, the pooping, the peeing, the feeding and the idea that your footprint in this world is more marked within your child than ever winthin your fellow man, to your boss or your co-workers, to your estate or your legacy. Your children are a reflection of who you are, where you have been and who you want to be. The child is a vessel that sails forever on a chaotic sea with your love as its permanent cargo.
My beautiful wife is doing something I am not sure I would ever do a first time, let alone repeat it. But she is a stronger person than I, and she has already given me a gift with her love and our other son that I could never repay. I love her with all of my heart. I remember the first delivery when they asked if I wanted the mirror angled towards me so I could see Tanis coming out of the Play-Doh Fun Factory of Life, and of course I am curious to a fault, so I said sure. I am thinking this time I might decline on that offer. It's one of those things you may only need to see once in your life.