Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Bring home baby: Vera's voice in my head


Having a baby around is a game changer, especially when it comes to the adult parent and child relationship.

My own mother, Vera, and I had a complicated time together. Hugs and kisses were rare. It was more spit and spite.

If it were compared to a dance, I would say our relationship was more the Riverdance than the waltz.

We spent a good part of our lives jumping up and down or circling one another.

Vera and I developed a strange kind of intimacy in my teenage years that made her feel better but made me feel uncomfortable. I blame it on the fact she was a fairly heavy drinker, a lifer with a six pack a day habit.

As a result, she was prone to over-sharing.

Your father, he really could be a bastard.

I never wanted you; I threw myself down the stairs when I was pregnant.

I never wanted children, but I just couldn't figure out how NOT to get pregnant.

Did you know I had shock treatments?


That kind of thing.

Honestly, some of it bordered on child abuse.

But our relationship changed for the better when Nick was born.

I was not a natural mother, just didn't have the gene for it.

I didn't know the first thing about babies; I never took a babysitting course, and really had never even held a baby let alone changed a diaper.

So I reluctantly agreed to have Vera come out to Regina to help me.

For months we were together in an isolated little townhouse near the RCMP barracks, sitting on a block of ice, the only sign of life being the 6 a.m. band practice.

It was cold, bloody cold, and dark as a dead pool, so outings were rare.

Mr. Big travelled a lot, and brought us groceries between plane rides.

It was just me, Vera, Nick and Phil Donahue.

Thank God for Donahue.

Vera's encyclopedic knowledge of infant maintenance surprised me.

She taught me how to: wrap a severed penis; bath a boy without getting an eye full and; bundle a tiny soul like King Tut. We laughed and joked, we made food, drank much less than in the teenage years and most importantly, we healed our relationship.

Me in my 30s, she in her 60s managed to do something we could never have imagined. Vera learned to be a better mother and I learned to be a better daughter.

I was reminded of the Regina years when I spent most of the day with Nick and little Sky who yesterday arrived home in a basket less than two days after her expulsion. Nick held vigil over the tiny perfect infant while Shyla tried to catch some zees, a well deserved rest after nearly 72 hours of waterboard-like torture.

Like my mother before me, I gave Nick a Master Class in the art of swaddling, burping and feeding Little Peanut. I made him coffee and them lunch, then whipped up a nourishing yet fattening feed of Greek rice pilaf, chicken and salad for proud Auntie Marissa and Uncle Jeff.

By the end of it, I was tired, my sprained ankle still aching but I didn't mind.

All day, I felt like a cocktail weinier all snug in a warm blanket of family.

As I held Little Peanut she regarded me with those curious little blue eyes that newborns have, almost with a cold and skeptical glare. Meanwhile she tried to suck on my earlobe.

Nick was exhausted and grateful for the help. He sat uncomplaining on the sofa watching a rerun of Anderson Cooper, the show about his mother Gloria Vanderbilt.

It was like the Donahue days all over again.

And truth be told, I heard Vera's voice in my head.

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