I presume I came into the world from my mother's tummy (I say tummy because the words "my mother" and "vagina" should rarely, if ever, share the same sentence, unless you're speaking of someone else's mother, in which case it's totally hot and should be shared in explicit detail in comments about this post.)
I never looked back for evidence of where I'd just been. We may each know from whence we came, but a permanent mental picture of your mother's legs poised stiffly in a V-for-victory sign is tough for even those of the strongest stock to bear.
My parents have disputed the full accuracy of some minor points in my earlier narrative. In fairness, I’ll review our conversation here.
Remember that four-plus decades have passed, enough time for some of the sheen to have faded—even the finest sterling has been known to tarnish. So I’ll concede my parents may not have noticed, or may not remember, the many bluebirds (none of whom wrote memoirs--I checked). Chock it up to the passage of time, and the countless wonderful memories with which I’ve blessed my parents since then.
“But Dad, you must be mistaken. All babies are beautiful. Like puppies.”
“Most are.” His body spasms, and his whole body rides out the quake. “Not you.”
“Sorry, Brian…but you were a butt-ugly baby.” He looks like someone force-fed eight lemons into his mouth. “And to think we tried to make you.”
He trembles again, as though a stork has just airmailed a-10-pound baby-shaped turd of memory onto his forehead from a substantial altitude.
As I’m filing away my alleged ugliness in my massive cabinet of collected insecurities, under Self Image: Baby, he mumbles, as if mourning a lost opportunity, “They wouldn’t let me drown you.”
My Mom rubs my father gently on the arm, sympathetic. I make a mental note to move the information to the Baby: Close Calls folder.
My mother adds, “When I first saw you, I thought, ‘Oh my God, all that bother over this?’”
“You must be exaggerating! You’re just not remembering. Maybe I wasn’t finished yet.”
My Mom shakes her head. She can’t (and won't) help me.
“But Mom, no baby can be that…”
My father drops a black-and-white snapshot in front of me. I throw my body back in my chair, hard.
“JESUS! What IS that?”
I think I’m seeing a Salvador Dali impression of a hairless, bloated Shar Pei puppy drowning in a vegetable crisper. I suspect the afterbirth was breathtaking by comparison. Were it not for the provenance of the picture, I would have presumed I was seeing clever Photoshop trickery.
“Do you get it now?”
I do. Oh, I do. I don’t want to, but I do.
“But how? I mean, it's... How could…”
They just shrug, as if to say, We play the hand we’re dealt.
“Well, if I wasn’t a beautiful baby…” The evidence is growling out of the photo before me. “Was I at least a happy baby? A nice baby?”
Please don’t laugh. Please don’t laugh.
My Mom laughs. A little too hard, really, considering I’ve had only seconds to accept I’d started out more oversized mealworm than human.
“You were horrible. The nurses didn’t want us to visit you in the nursery.”
The photo is still looking at me. Why would anyone visit? I would deny ownership, or switch bracelets when nobody was looking.
Nice try, Mrs. Croft—put back the Asian baby.
“If the nurses moved you, even an inch, you would scream and scream for hours. They pleaded with us to look at you from afar.”
Surely, Mom and Dad, you wouldn’t stand for that.
“We were all good with that. You looked better in the distance. The rougher edges almost smoothed out.”
My Self Image: Baby file is now overflowing, and as thick as War and Peace.
Although I imagine my birth as a quick, efficient affair, my parents seem confident the process was somewhat more taxing. From what I’m told, my mother was admitted at midnight and spent the next seven hours trying to expel me while I flailed nobly against the current. I guess I feared change.
When I came home, the story goes, my older brother, then almost three, was indifferent to my arrival. I wasn’t a girl, as he had requested, so he wanted little to do with me. That’s okay; I don’t recall wanting much to do with him, either. If he was such a great sibling to me in infancy, wouldn’t I remember?
So, friends, you have some sorting out to do. You can accept my account, which seems much more palatable and doesn’t play like a rehash of the It’s Alive series. Besides, my take is romantic in a 50s-sitcom kind of way. Or you could take my parents’ word for it. Without bluebirds of happiness, what fun would that be?