As I imagine is the case for many people, my days often blend into one another, a sameness to them that brings some sense of security and occasionally edges into monotony. But not today. Today was one of those days that will stand out in my mind forever.
One of my best friends welcomed her second child into the world today. While it seems that every other week brings the news that another friend is expecting, this was different. This morning I went to the hospital with my friend for her scheduled c-section. I sat with her in pre-op, getting much more of a behind-the-scenes look at the whole birthing process than I’d ever gotten before. Met her doctors, heard all of the warnings, precautions and “what to expects”, and saw her off as she and her mom walked down the hall to the operating room.
Thinking we had an hour or so for the whole process to unfold, her dad, sister-in-law and myself went downstairs for a snack. As we walked out of the cafeteria a half hour later, the baby’s pediatrician passed us in the hall to report that he’d just examined a perfect, healthy little boy. That fast, he was here!
We rushed upstairs to the maternity ward, and peered into the nursery, trying to figure out which one was “ours”. And there he was–bearing a remarkable resemblence to his six year old brother, with a shock of black hair, little feet and fists flying in the air. A nurse confirmed it was him, and we all got on our phones to spread the news. It was almost surreal that only an hour earlier, this little person was this unknown “baby” that we were all looking forward to, and then in the time it took to eat a rubbery hamburger, there he was. And, save for the actual minutes in the operating room, I’d been there for the whole thing! It was a pretty awesome feeling to be there to welcome him into the world.
Now, my friend’s six year old is probably my biggest fan. I’m like an uncle to him and he just thinks I’m the coolest guy, and the feeling is mutual. Most kids his age would understandably have some reservations about suddenly having to share the spotlight with a new baby, but from the moment he learned he was going to be a big brother, he couldn’t wait to have a partner in crime to “pull pranks on mom!”
During my last visit to see them, another mutual friend and I went together for one of those all-in-one pack and play bassinet things for the baby. As we headed to their house, I wondered if we shouldn’t have gotten the six year old a little something so he wouldn’t feel left out. But when he saw the pack and play, his eyes lit up and he shouted “Look what they got for the baby!!” and ran to give us both hugs and very sincere thanks.
So today we were all very excited for the six year old to meet his new little brother. Once his mom could have visitors, I brought him to the hospital–dressed in an entirely too big “IM THE BIG BROTHER” t-shirt. The nursery was on the way to his mom’s room, and I lifted him up and pointed out his new brother. His face lit up–mouth dropped open in a huge smile, eyes as big as saucers.
“Awwww!” he said, “He’s so cute! He looks like me in the face!” In his mom’s room, the six year old was full of questions. “What’s this do? What’s that?” he asked, pointing to every tube, monitor, and device in the room. “Are you hurting?” he asked, “Did it hurt when they cut you?”
My friend had a few names in mind, and had said she wouldn’t make a final decision until she saw her new baby. When she told her six year old what his new brother’s name was, he said “But I wanna call him Braxton!” (Which was not a name that was ever under consideration) “Can I just call him Braxton for three days?” A few hundred more questions, and an explanation of the booby traps he and his new brother could now plant for their mom later, and he silenced the room with his next line of thought.
“When I’m bigger, can I have a baby?”
“Well, you can be a daddy when you’re bigger. But you boys don’t have babies.”
“Uh huh! They can!”
“No, baby, only girls can have a baby in their tummy.”
“But what about that one on TV? That boy had a baby.”
By now, we’ve all seen the story of Thomas Beaty, the transgendered person who lives as a man, but kept his female reproductive organs, and is now pregnant with his second child. The six year old apparently saw just enough of Mr. Beaty’s recent interview to be thoroughly confused. A look of “Dear God, how do I explain this one?” came over my friend’s face, but she did a a better job than I ever could have:
“Well, he was born a girl, and has girl parts, so he could have a baby.”
“But is she a boy?”
“Well…she looks like a man, and feels like a man inside, but she has girl parts.” (which pronouns to use became a very confusing thing)
“He has a beard.”
“Yes honey. She feels inside like a boy so she grew a beard.”
“I wanna grow a beard!”
“Well when you get older you can.”
“But I can’t have a baby?”
“No, honey, you have boy parts, and you can’t have a baby unless you have girl parts.”
“I can be a dad though?”
“Is that pee?” he suddenly, and thankfully, noticed the catheter bag. And then he was off telling us all about his Bakugan toys–his curiosity about the pregnant man hopefully satisfied.