I started off Sunday morning cupping my hand so my son could vomit into it.
A few minutes later, back in fine spirits, he gazed at his father in the kitchen whisking batter for crepes.
“It’s a high-whisk activity,” SJ confided to him. “I like whisk-y business.”
Two weeks ago, a couple days before I was supposed to go back to work, I checked in on my work email. Since July 14, I’d had an out-of-office message letting people know I was on maternity leave. Now, I hovered my mouse over the “End Now” button on the message settings. That’s when it hit me: My maternity leave was over.
I gathered up the baby and sat on the bed and cried. No more of this. No more falling asleep with him on the couch for two hours, sweaty and radiant with pleasure, listening to the rain. No more rocking him to sleep in the front carrier to his favorite song on repeat, “Toothbrush” by DNCE. No more sitting with him in the backyard, gazing at the bees and the leaves of the loquat tree. No more walking around the de Young Museum as he nurses in the front carrier. No more slow mornings waking up to his big brown eyes staring at me, then watching his sweet face break into a grin. No more not being distracted by anything except the baby.
I held him and nursed him and cried and told him how grateful I was to have had this time with him.
At 2 a.m. that morning, I woke up with a sore throat so painful I could barely swallow. I slipped out of bed away from the baby, and SJ called the advice nurse at Kaiser. Later that day the doctor swabbed my throat, and early the next morning she gave me the very unspecific news that I had a virus.
So my return to work, after five months, was painful, but not for the reason I thought it would be! For two entire weeks I worked at home, suffocated by congestion, wracked with coughs, my skin aching, my throat raw, as SJ’s cousin took care of the Barnacle in the next room. Every couple of hours she brought him into the bedroom to nurse, which served the dual purpose of keeping him well (MOSTLY BUT THERE WAS THAT ONE NIGHT HE HAD A FEVER AND SCREAMED AND SCREAMED THAT SUCKED) and making me feel not exactly better but as if OH YOU THINK THE UNIVERSE COULDN’T SHIT ON YOU MORE AND FOR ONCE SOMEONE WOULD TAKE CARE OF YOU NO WHO CARES IF YOU CAN’T BREATHE MORE IS REQUIRED OF YOU FEED THIS BABY WITH YOUR SICK PUTRID BODY.
I like nursing. I do. But nursing a baby when you have some end-of-the-world virus and you’re beyond sleep-deprived because even when the baby falls asleep you’re coughing so hard you can’t fall asleep and then your coughing wakes the baby and he’s crying because your coughing is making him sleep-deprived so you have to nurse him again even thought there’s no fucking milk left and your nipples feel like someone’s been filing them with an emery board … is no fun.
But Sunday morning, the morning of the Barnacle vomiting into my hand, was a revelation. We slept for TWELVE HOURS the night before — which, of course, means minus the times the Barnacle nursed — but I fell asleep in all the in-between times, which NEVER HAPPENS. So we’re back on track. And although I would not voluntarily be that sick again, after two weeks of working with the baby within arm’s reach, I feel a little more ready for my first day back in the office.
Recently SJ found himself on a public school tour. A woman on the tour was asking question after question about the food. What was it? Where did it come from? The tour leader answered something like Sysco, and the woman said, “So it’s like prison food?”
“Oh, no,” SJ volunteered. “Prison food is way worse.”
And never got the chance to explain that he’d once tried a meal at San Quentin when he was volunteering there because everyone looked at their shoes and kept looking at their shoes.
BONUS LIST I FOUND ON MY PHONE:
Things I Want My Son to Know About:
The music of Prince
To make these mussels, you need to:
- Get a fishing license.
- Find a rock covered with mussels.
- Collect mussels.
- At home, rinse off outsides of mussels.
- Place a metal steamer in a large pot. Fill pot with water up to steamer.
- Add 2 TB Old Bay Seasoning to water.
- Bring water to a boil.
- Layer mussels on steamer (to kill as humanely as possible, wait until water is boiling to layer them on).
- Boil until mussels open, plus 5 minutes.
- Remove mussels and place in serving bowl. Carefully pour steaming Old Bay water over mussels, leaving debris in pot.
- In small saucepan, melt 4 TB butter and 2 cloves crushed garlic.
- In oven, toast half loaf French bread.
- Sit at table with baby on your lap. Pull beard out of a mussel. Dip bit of toasted French loaf in hot, Old Bay Seasoning water, then in hot garlic butter, then place mussel on top and STUFF IT IN YOUR MOUTH. Let baby play with a mussel shell because the internet says it’s not toxic.