Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places


6 September 2011

Occupational health and safety

About 10 days ago, I put my back out.

And while I could dedicate an entire post to how wimpy that sounds (“Her baby weighs 11 pounds and she puts her back out! Pffft!”), I’d like to talk about how terrifying it all was for the millisecond I realised I couldn’t be there for my baby.

By “there”, I mean functioning 100%. You need your back to take the pram in and out of the car. To twist and negotiate the baby capsule in and out of its pod without flinging its contents (i.e. baby and blanket) onto the backseat or oncoming traffic. To carry baby out of the cot and to NOT drop your baby to sleep quite literally.

The day I put my back out, Arddun’s sleeping and eating patterns took a turn for the funny. Mostly because as soon as she was near dropping off to la-la-land, I’d try and lower her back in her cot or any flat surface and end up dropping her instead.

I’d like to say it was funny har-har. But no one was laughing that day.

Here’s the rub: while I have, in the last 7 years, a heightened measure of self-preservation because I’m now answerable to myself AND a man who loves me, having Arddun has completely upped the ante. Because no mommy = no honey. For once in my life, I have someone who really needs me. Who literally cannot stand up without my help. And that means that I need to think seriously about how I take care of myself.

Where once I’d turned a half-deaf ear to all the safety training on box-lifting at work, I’m now paying attention. I’m eating a little better. I’m praying more fervently. I’m driving a little less like a stereotypical Asian woman (heh!). Where once I had scoffed at fuel-guzzling soccer-mum cars, I now see the huge appeal. HUGE being very much the operative word. Between my car and another in a road accident, I’d like us to emerge with not so much as a scratch on our foreheads. If the turning circle didn’t take after the moon, if it came in prettier colours AND if it wasn’t such a doozy to park in Canberra Centre, the Manic Mommy in me would like to get a humvee, thankyouverymuch. Anything that could secure our safety just that little bit more.

There’s a scene in Steel Magnolias where Dylan McDermott’s character comes home from work to find his infant son screaming blue murder and his Julia Roberts wife sprawled on the back porch, unconscious. That scene terrifies me now. It’s the reason I don’t climb ladders alone in the house, for fear of losing my balance (the klutz that I am) and either landing on Arddun or bashing my head on the carpet and Tony only realising this when he walks through the back door at the day’s end. Paranoia. I think we’re all allowed some kind of neurosis now and then. This one’s mine.

I think I’m starting to understand what it feels like to live for someone else. Whoa!

“Luuuucy! I’m ‘ome!”

So as it turns out. Arddun’s wearing a lot of pink.

See, I started out with every intention of not girlifying my daughter too much. Made sure that I got some gender-neutral pieces in her wardrobe so that I get her on the straight and narrow early – no sequins, no insipid butterflies, no tutus, no fairy dust. As a name, “Arddun” sounds pretty strong and that was deliberate. We wanted our girl to be proud of her sex, but we didn’t want to live with a human candy floss either.

All well and good, until you go out into the Big Bad World, and everyone starts referring to your gorgeous girl as a Beautiful Baby Boy.

Related this tale of woe to several friends, as follows:

Me: Perfect strangers keep asking me how old my son is!

Friend: What was Arddun wearing at the time?

Me: Purple, mostly. Oh, and her onesie was white with polka dots – purple, red and blue.

Friend: Ah. There’s your problem. The outfit wasn’t girly enough.

Me: Well, what self-respecting man wears polka dots!

But point taken – “neutral” somehow translates to “male” more often than not. So we tried other things. But I still ended up with a similar result. When a stranger – an older man – referred to Arddun as my precious baby boy the other day, I admit it took some measure of self-control not to snap back the obvious:

“The child is wearing a hot-pink onesie. With bunny rabbits. Each sporting a hideous fringe of eyelashes that would make any Patpong lady-boy weep with delight and envy. If that baby is indeed a boy after all that, what are you trying to tell me exactly?

I wonder why I’m so deeply affected. It’s not like a loathe little boys – far from it. But it does strike at some core, some fundamental truth when your offspring cannot be recognised for who she actually is. It feels as ridiculous and offensive as if someone came right up to me and insisted I wasn’t Chinese but Indian. NOTHING against Indians. I’m just not one, that’s all.

Anyway – strike one on the trendy girl-dots. Strike two on the hot-pink rabbit-haunted onesie. After a particularly galling outing at Woden Mall the other day where four – four – strangers referred to Arddun as a boy, I marched into David Jones and bought the third-girliest hairband I could find.

Result: a mini rendition of Lucille Ball.

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