“you were born a year ago this morning, munkin”

Today, our daughter, Clementine, will turn one year old. I just scrolled through the archives to see what I’d written about her birth and, surprisingly, there’s not much. (I pretty much just said that she came out of Linette and had big feet.) I guess, at the time, I thought that it should be private. I still do, to some extent, but I feel like sharing a little more now that a year’s gone by.

First, I want to mention, for the historical record, just how absolutely impressed I was watching Linette go through labor. It was amazing. (The thought that men of my father’s generation didn’t get to experience the birth of their children is absolutely heart-breaking.) Linette set the tone in those minutes leading up to Clementine’s birth that I think has carried through our first year with her, and I can only hope that things continue in that direction for the rest of our lives, and that our daughter shares her mother’s strength and confidence (in addition to her kindness, creativity, and beauty). I’m reminded every day of how lucky I am to be married to Linette, but watching her give birth made me especially thankful.

Clementine came a week late. She was due on the 4th of July, but came on the 11th, after Linette had sat through two solid days of ElvisFest, Ypsi’s annual cavalcade of Elvis impersonators (or, to be politically correct, “tribute artists”). I went with her the second night and took a photo of her with her favorite of the Elvi (see photo). We left at about midnight, right after the grand finale, during which six Elvis impersonators had taken the stage at once to perform a medley spanning the entirety of the King’s uneaven recording career. We walked home and went to bed. Then, at about 3:00 AM, I was awoken by Linette.

Her water had broken. I got up and changed the sheets, and we talked about going back to bed, which is something that everyone told us to do in our birth classes, as active labor could still be the better part of a day away, and as Linette would need her strength to get through it. Of course, that wasn’t a realistic option… not with the ghost of Elvis and his TCB outlook on life looming over us. So, Linette got into some serious hyper-nesting by proxy, pointing at things and telling me to clean them. I scrubbed the tub. I did laundry. I mopped. I cleaned the cat box. And, then, I got our bags into the car.

I can’t remember the specifics now, but it was a strange morning in Ypsi. At 4:00 AM I saw a car pull in down the street and a man get out to swap license plates. There was also a huge, screaming fight between a man and a woman in another car, parked in front of our house. (I imagine it was all ElvisFest related.) I can’t remember, but maybe there was a full moon that night.

Somewhere about this time, the labor pains started. As Linette could speak through them, and as she didn’t seem to be in excruciating pain, we thought at they were fairly mild. As they were getting pretty close together though, we decided to call the nurse-midwife on duty at the hospital at about 5:00 and asked what we should do. She said that if Linette could still speak through the contractions that we should just sit tight. We tried that for about five minutes, and then I called back to say that we’d be coming in anyway. The contractions by then, I think, were about five minutes apart… I then called our doula and told her that we’d meet her at the hospital.

By the time we got to the hospital, Linette was at 9 centimeters. Everyone was impressed as she’d walked in by herself and hadn’t been screaming like there was a nine-pound human being inside of her, hell-bent on getting out. The real pain, according to her, didn’t start until she was hooked up to the fetal heart monitor at the hospital, which required that she just sit still on a table for 20 minutes while they got a record (for liability reasons) of the health of the fetus upon admission. (This was, by the way, the only part of the birth process that we would have changed if we had it all to do over again.)

We were admitted at 7:00, right as Kathy, our favorite midwife, was coming on duty. (Linette just walked in and mentioned that she’s planning to write about this in more depth for the upcoming issue of Crimewave, so don’t worry if you find my telling of events a little superficial – you’ve got her much more interesting perspective to look forward to.) So, long story short, we got assigned a room and then, within the hour, we had our beautiful baby daughter, Clementine Lao Maynard. She was born at 8:27 AM, after just about four big pushes. It was so quick, and so perfect, that even some of the nurses were crying.

Linette gave birth standing up, next to the bed. I was standing beside her, going up and down with her as she went up and down into a squatting position while pushing. Our doula, Alicia, was on the other side of the bed, holding onto a piece of cloth what Linette was gripping onto. And our midwife, Kathy, was standing behind Linette, keeping an eye on Clementine. I was narrating for Linette. “There’s a fuzzy, little head… I see eyes… And, there’s the bridge of the nose.” Then, after one final push, she was in the world. Kathy caught her as she came shooting out, and was somehow able to bend her so that she didn’t hit the floor. Her head was purple and elongated, like an eggplant, but she was beautiful.

I can’t recall everything that happened then. Someone must have told us that we’d had a daughter, which made us happy. (We’d wanted a daughter, and had a feeling about it, but all the old wives tales seemed to be pointing toward a boy.) Nurses put towels on the floor and Linette sat down onto them. Kathy laid the baby on Linette’s chest, and I cut the cord. Then, after a few minutes, we helped Linette up into the bed. At that point, as we’d requested ahead of time, everyone just left us alone for an hour. No one took the baby away for a bath – no one gave her any shots – they just left us alone to be by ourselves for a while. It was incredible, and timeless in a way. Linette and I both kept commenting on the fact that, as there were no medical interventions involved, we could have done this anytime, anywhere… in a cave, in a jungle.

As I think I’ve mentioned here before, I have a panic disorder, and I tend to worry about things. As a result, I’m rarely “in the moment,” fully participating life. Usually, my mind’s at least partially somewhere else, worrying about the bills that need to be paid, the safety of my friends and family, the fact that someone could be plotting against me, etc. This, in contrast, was, at least in my recollection, the one time when I don’t remember caring about anything else. I just sat there with Linette and the baby, being a family… When I die, I’m pretty confident that this is the scene that will flash before my eyes… It was the one instance in which I was most connected with life.

So, it’s been a year now — a very lucky year. The baby is incredibly healthy and bright. She’s never really been sick. And, as of today, she can say “flower” (by scrunching up her nose), “fish” (by smacking her lips), “dog” (by panting), and “ball.” She can also say, “baaah,” and does so every time I ask her what a sheep says. She says, “mama” and “dada” too, but it doesn’t seem to be consistent yet.

We wanted to keep better records during the first year. We’d even gotten a book to record everything in. It came with a calendar and stickers. It seemed easy enough… Clementine would crawl and we’d stick on a sticker. She’d smile at us for the first time and we’d stick on a sticker. A tooth would erupt through her gums and we’d stick in another one. Somehow, though, it did work out that way. It was all too gradual. Everything just blended together. Pushing up on her hands led to back and forth rocking, which led to clumsy lunging, which led to a kind of “my lower half is numb as I’m crawling from the wreckage” kind of act, which led to the version we called “the gimp,” which was like crawling, but with the occasional spasm of the leg which was being dragged behind. There wasn’t, in other words, a definitive start. There wasn’t a date where she just started crawling. The same went for teeth, for waving, for eating and for everything else.

So, at this one-year mark, I just thought that I’d tell you where she is now… As of today, Clementine has two teeth in the middle of her lower jaw. They don’t quite sit at a 90% angle to each other, but it’s close. They’re extremely bright white, and sharp as hell. Her eyes are white too… at least the parts that are supposed to be white. She has the healthiest eyes I have ever seen. Her hair is wispy, but it’s growing in. She’s strong as an ox. She laughs like a manic alley cat. She’s afraid of water. She loves to crawl up stairs. We’ve started letting her watch Sesame Street, and she appears to like it. At a few months old, she figured out the word “clap” and how it translated into action. We’d say, “Clap, Clementine,” and she’d do it. (We did it at our 6-month checkup and our doctor seemed to be genuinely impressed.) After a while though, she stopped wanting to do it for us. Now, she only does it on occasion. It’s clear from her eyes that she knows exactly what we’re asking her to do, but she doesn’t care. She’s not one to be trifled with, and she’s easily bored.

She’s curious and attentive. She studies things like a robot intent on learning everything so that it can then destroy us.

She has more friends than I do.

She can, when she wants to, transform into solid rock.

Her poop goes through phases. Right now, it’s a paste.

She has a hundred nicknames, but my favorite is “munkin.” It’s a hybrid of monkey and pumpkin.

She let us bathe her for a while, but that stopped a few months ago. Now, she seems to hate water, something which I hope will change by this Saturday, when she and I start swimming class.

She’s apparently inherrited my dance moves.

According to her mom, she has “long, beautiful feet,” like mine. Most of everything else, except for the feet, the chubby cheeks, the bags under the eyes, and the hair, seem to come from Linette’s side of the family.

She’s more blond than we thought that she’d be, and her hair’s wavier. We weren’t expecting for my genes to make a showing of any kind, but I guess they’re more powerful than we thought.

I love her more than words can express.

She had three first birthday parties; one with the Maynards, one with the Laos, and one with her friends in Ypsi. Everyone was great, and she cleaned up when it came to presents. I know I shouldn’t pick a favorite, but our friend Beth (the creator of the world-famous Huhnar), created a new creature for her. (I can’t remember its name right now, but it means “little cat” in German.) It’s absolutely wonderful. (I think it might be made out of real cat fur, but I’m not going to ask.) “How,” I have to ask myself, “could a kid go wrong who has a stuffed cat-person in a fur vest?” (On the other side of the coin, I know that I absolutely should not single out a “worst gift,” but, if I was forced to, I’d have to say it was the giant brass cymbals. That, I’m almost positive, was a personal attack.)

UPDATE: She stood up three times in the middle of an empty room this morning, with nothing to support herself with. Walking cannot be more than a few days away now.

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25 Comments

  1. dorothy
    Posted July 11, 2005 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    i don’t think i ever saw a photo of linette before—she’s a genuine knockout. it’s easy to see why clementine is so gorgeous. no offense, mark. any chance of hooking her up with my 6 month old grandson, charlie? he likes older women.

  2. mark
    Posted July 11, 2005 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Are you talking about Linette or Clementine? Linette does have a fondness for younger men, but I think 6-months might be a bit too young.

  3. Posted July 11, 2005 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Your blog just jumped the shark! What, you ran out of ideas so you had to invent a new character, along with the requisite gratuitous birth scene? Eeewww. . . the concept of dilation is so eeewww.

    That said, Clementine is a great person so far. She has a way of making people happy.

    Just keep her away from those fake Elvises. They’ve been after me for years. They’re a devious, secretive sect hellbent on cloning the world in the likeness of Elvis. They are in league with Wayne Newton, perhaps the second-most evil person in the world after Elvis. Just giving you the heads up.

  4. Jim
    Posted July 11, 2005 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    A quick google for Cousin Oliver reveals that “New Kid in Town” is a whole subgenre of Jumping the Shark:
    http://www.jumptheshark.com/newkidintown.htm

    Nonetheless, great story! Reminiscent of the birth story of the Buddha, who was also born while his mother stood, and whose birth caused his mother no pain.

    PS: I think that H

  5. Posted July 11, 2005 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Happy birthday Clementine!

  6. Posted July 11, 2005 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    How fun to read — both your account of the birth (I’ve been waiting a year!) and a snapshot of Clementine at age one.

    For the record, not only was Linette as awesome as you describe in labor, you were fabulous, too. You were low key but very keyed in to Linette and her mood/needs.

    I only learned of your OCD after the fact and then felt badly that I’d given you a hug before leaving. I hope you didn’t feel contaminated or anything.

    Happy Birthday Clementine! Happy Birth Day Mark and Linette!

  7. ChelseaL
    Posted July 11, 2005 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Happy birthday, Clementine!

    Well written, Mark.

    In Yiddish, which is very similar to German, “ketzeleh” is “little cat” or “kitten.”

    Cheers, dears.

  8. Posted July 11, 2005 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    Happy b-day, Clementine!

    Man to man, hope you ran that by Linette before hittin’ the post button ;^)

  9. Posted July 11, 2005 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    See- we knew you could do it, and quite successfully apparently, many happy returns of the day to the whole family.
    (I can’t believe I’ve been hanging around here well over a year……)

  10. john galt
    Posted July 11, 2005 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    Even us “hate filled trolls” wish Clem a happy B-Day.

  11. mark
    Posted July 11, 2005 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, everyone. Your words on this occasion are very much appreciated, and I’ll make sure they find their way into her scrapbook.

    One kind of depressing thing though

  12. john galt
    Posted July 11, 2005 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    Those are dolls right? Real kids don’t look like that.. I call airbrush shenanigans on that site. And on a creepy note who has a most beautiful children site anyways???

  13. mark
    Posted July 11, 2005 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    It’s a disease – “Jean Benet-ism.” It primarily strikes the daughters of the wealthy mentally ill.

  14. chris
    Posted July 11, 2005 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Again I agree with John, those are creepy pics.

    What a beautiful child Clementine is. Congratuations on your/her first year. She too is lucky to have such wonderful and attractive parents as you and Linette.

  15. chris
    Posted July 11, 2005 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    BTW, please don’t go all Doocey on us now.

  16. mark
    Posted July 11, 2005 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    How about Douchey? Can I do that?

  17. Stella
    Posted July 11, 2005 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    And here is those poor childrens future:
    (Strong warning- in my eyes this material is truly obscene, however, it appears that it is somehow considered acceptable by the mainstream)

    http://www.childsupermodels.com/

    and I’m guessing their parents are pimping them all the way to the bank

  18. mark
    Posted July 11, 2005 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    Stella, I’d heard years ago that one of the major sources for income when you run one of these “pre-teen beauty shows” is the fees you collect from so-called “amateur photographers.” Apparently men will pay quite a bit for a day-long pass to photograph the girls. It’s thinly-veiled child porn. And, if anyone doubts it, they can follow that link you just posted. Clearly, at least this half of the industry (the other half caters to stage moms willing to spend anything to vicariously become famous through their daughters), isn’t about product modeling, but selling the idea of sex with underaged girls. The fact that parents willingly participate in this makes me want to vomit.

  19. Posted July 12, 2005 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    I agree with John on this – those looked like dolls, not real live children. Sad and completely pathetic. Clementine is much more beautiful than any of them.

  20. pat
    Posted July 12, 2005 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Happy Birthday to an amazing and special granddaughter. She truly completes Mark and Linette – it’s wonderful to see.
    A beautiful family, even if I do say so myself.

  21. Doug Skinner
    Posted July 13, 2005 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    Happy birthday, Clementine! I can’t wait until you’re old enough to start making fun of your parents. And don’t let them put you in one of those Elvis suits!

  22. Posted July 13, 2005 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    I wasn’t allowed to go to http://www.childsupermodels.com/ here at work because it features “Swimwear, lingerie and/or nudity.” That’s just wrong!!! Not that I wasn’t allowed to go there, but that a website featuring children contains such things and could be “Forbidden.”

  23. Me
    Posted July 15, 2005 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    John you are correct! You get an A++ in German. Macht’s gut, Beth.

  24. Me
    Posted July 15, 2005 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Oh sorry that was Jim…..

  25. Posted July 15, 2005 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    kathleen I’m not surprised the work filter stopped it, I’m tellin you, its really quite despicable

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