LaughLines: Love’s Labor Lost on Me

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I have two kids, and while giving birth was a truly wonderful experience, two labors were plenty. Okay, I had it pretty easy. Claire was born a mere five hours after my water broke – I pushed a few times and poof! Ben took the express lane, causing me to dilate from 3 to 10 centimeters in 45 minutes. For you men out there, that’s like someone taking your privates and tying them in a double knot. Who am I to complain? My great-grandmother on my mother’s side had seven children, apparently trying for a boy who, as luck would have it, was the seventh…My husband’s mother had eight children — six boys and two girls — and the woman maintained her sense of humor and a relatively chic hairstyle through it all. I don’t know how she kept track of everybody – I can’t remember two names, let alone 11 kids’ birthdays, ball games, piano recitals and the rest.

My sister-in-law Sharon comes from a family of 11. Her mother, Mrs. B, was one of the happiest women I ever met, but then again, I only met her when she had finished all those labors. Was it true happiness or total relief?

Mrs. B even managed to laugh about the time she lost one of the 11 on a cross-country trip. With her husband at the wheel of a giant RV, the group had stopped at a gas station and Mrs. B. sent 8-year-old Joey into the restroom to fill the baby’s bottle. After 10 minutes of bathroom trips, gassing up and soda refills, they hopped back into the RV after a quick head count. Half an hour later, Mrs. B. called out back to Joey for the bottle.

No bottle. No Joey.

During the mad dash back to the gas station, they spotted a sedan headed their way, headlights flashing. There, between an elderly couple, sat Joey, baby bottle in hand. (Mrs. B. gave Joey the keys every time they stopped for the remainder of the drive).

The star of the family is my great-grandmother on my dad’s side. She had 19 children (not a typo), before epidurals, breast pumps, disposable diapers, and Xanax. After the 11th or 12th, the excitement of a new arrival must get pretty stale, huh?

Compare Great-Grandma to my neighbor Carol, who just had her first baby, a beautiful little girl. Carol works from home, so she gets to spend quality time with her baby.

Did I say quality time? One morning, I spotted Carol loading up her car. Baby Emma in car seat, the family’s Dalmation Cleo in the back. Carol stopped to say hi, and I peeked in the car to see the baby. So cute.

Where was she off to? “I have to drop Emma at day care– See ya!” And off she drove, only to return home with Cleo. Dog stays, baby goes.

Hmmm…Great-Grandma might’ve gone for that.

About Cate Drew

I’m on the high side of 40, with three dogs, two teens and one husband, living in a small New England town in a house that’s never quiet. Ever. It’s not that I have a really colorful life – I just tend to write colorfully about it. And there’s plenty of material: marriage to the Man of a Thousand Bad Ideas,.. my mom, who moved Dad’s coffin closer to the street six months after he died so she could visit his grave as a kind of drive-up window…our dog posse…our kids…lots of siblings and in-laws, former co-workers, old boyfriends -- they’re all here. Toss in 14 years of Catholic school and you’ve got a lot of guilt, too. Which reminds me: forget “high side of 40.” I’m 51, damnit.