Mommy Chronicles

A funny look at motherhood and the mayhem it causes.

October 01, 2001

Lucy gives me a name

You give up a lot to become a mother. This week, for example, I gave up on personal hygiene.

Though it makes me feel itchy to admit, I only showered five out of seven possible showering days. Instead of getting clean, I chose to wash the kitchen floor, which was littered with rice, Cheerios, cheese shreds, banana slices, bread crusts and all sorts of things Lucy decided she did not want to eat. The floor was so dirty, you could eat off of it, which is not a good thing, unless you are a dog. And even our dog had decided she’d had enough of the baby scraps.

I actually can’t remember why I missed the second shower. Even though I can remember exactly where Lucy left her toothbrush and how many diapers are left in the cupboard, my brain capacity for most other things has withered like an old tangerine. In fact, I can’t even remember what I was just talking about. It’s a good thing I wrote it down, so I can refer back to it.

Ah, yes. I was talking about the sacrifices of motherhood. Fathers make sacrifices too, of course. Adam hasn’t played a computer game for more than a year, and he’s been very understanding about my giant “leave me alone” underwear. But let’s face it: Fathers can become parents without barfing, and so it’s only right that baby’s first word should be Mama.

From the time she was five weeks old, I’ve been introducing myself to Lucy, just to get her good and ready. “I’m Mama,” I’d say, patting my chest. “Mama, mama, mama.” I said it so much, my lips hurt. The very word started to sound like gibberish.

Given that, it was quite humbling when Lucy’s first word was “bird.” She really put me in my place by saying cat, dog, flower, book, bee and woof before she finally said my name.

But one morning, she finally said it. Mama. And she patted my chest, just as I had done all those many times I introduced myself.

The gears inside my head started to click and turn. I wanted to remember the moment and how it felt. I also wanted to understand what it meant now that Lucy had a name for me.

All my life, I’ve had just one name: Martha. Because I met so few Marthas, it often felt like the name was all mine. I even kept my original last name when I got married, in part because I couldn’t imagine being called something else. It would be too weird.

I do get a chuckle every month, though, when Better Homes and Gardens comes addressed to Martha Berliant, a thoughtful gift from my mother-in-law. I’ve come to think of Martha Berliant as my cleaner, more organized evil twin. When someone finally comes out with Worse Homes and Gardens, I will subscribe to it using my maiden name, and balance will once again be restored to the world.

Thanks to Lucy, I finally have a new name. It could be the most common name in the world: Mama. Where I grew up with a name that few had, and even fewer could pronounce, Lucy’s growing capacity for words has initiated me into the universal tribe of motherhood. Now, instead of being one, I am one of many.

As reluctant as I was to change the name my parents gave me, I have officially become Mama. I am proud of it. I devour the very sound of the word coming from Lucy’s mouth. She says it all the time – even when I’m not in the room. Just a few days ago, when Adam was letting me sleep in, I heard her say it all the way up the stairs. It made getting out of bed that much easier.

It didn’t stay easy for long, though.

This is because Adam told me that he while I was sleeping, and while he was downstairs playing with Lucy, he wasn’t wearing a shirt. In a tender gesture, Lucy reached up, parted her lips, patted his bare chest, and said, slowly and sweetly, “Mama.”

So, Lucy has given me a name, even though it doesn’t mean what I thought it meant at first. That name, I’m afraid, is Nipple. I am Nipple. Hear me leak.

It’s almost enough to make me want to subscribe to a new magazine, just to see how it looks on the label. Then again, maybe I should just wean her.


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