Thursday, March 30, 2006

In Search of the Lost Chord

I have cut the umbilical chords of all five of my children. In Inuit tradition, this is an important rite: the cutter, called a sanaji, not only carries out this medically-necessary procedure, but makes a pronouncement of the future life and character of the newborn.

But my first time at bat, I somehow managed to turn a Madonna and Child moment into something straight out of a slasher film.

As with all our children, our first born was delivered by midwife in the birthing unit attached to the regional hospital in Puvirnituq. This unit is very low key - no delivery tables, no surgical gowns or masks, no obsessive rinsing of hands, no doctors or nurses - but a nice big queen size bed in a private room, with indirect dimmed track lighting and a few short steps away from the smoking balcony.

I had also managed to smuggle a six-pack of Molson into the room - for medicinal purposes, of course, in case I started to feel faint. Predictably, and fortunately, feeling faint I did become, and had polished off at least three cans before my son started crowning.

So when the moment came for me to cut the chord I was in a real funk, what with anxiety over the safety of mother and child, concerns over not passing out, and the importance of the task I was about to perform all combining with the beer. In short, I was just a few moments away from being admitted to the local mental ward down the hall.

I picked up the shears, positioning them appropriately between the two clamps on the umbilical chord, closed my eyes and squeezed. I then mumbled something about him being a great help to his mother and father during his life, and opened my eyes.

Flushed with success, nervousness, alcohol and over-exuberance I experienced what I can only describe as an idiot moment. For some still inexplicable reason, I unclamped the umbilical chord from the placenta end.

Bloody hell! Like some demented garden hose, the pressure still present in the placenta drove the chord spraying wildly about the room, splattering streaks of blood over the bed, wall, and all who were assembled in the room. I managed to dive for the twisted chord, grab it and reapply the clamp, but the damage was done.

I quickly repaired to the smoking balcony, with a beer can in each pocket of my parka, and toasted the arrival of my first born, who was to become our experimental model upon whom all manners of parenting mishaps befell, but who paved the way for easier child-rearing for his four subsequent siblings.

[Ed. Note: For those of you genuinely interested in traditional Inuit birthing and child-rearing practices, you can download a .pdf at this site.]


Blogger Anna said...

Having a first born of my own and nobody to really talk to about it... what do you do when he's outlived his usefulness? Do you sacrifice him to the gods of experimentation or let him live to serve as a horrible warning for others?

As you can see, I'm in a bit of a quandry here.

11:25 AM  
Blogger nanuk said...

Actually, despite all our efforts to do otherwise, my first born seems to be managing quite well with his life. He basically moved out of the house at age 16 (school), and I am getting glowing reports from everyone about how well he's doing. I think the fairies must have switched him for that miserable teenager which left the roost half a year ago.

I can affirm, though, that his success has little to do with how he was raised by us.

11:41 AM  
Blogger Tea and Books, etc said...


Well done, Nanuk! At least you 1/ gained experience for your next 4 tots and 2/ you didn't faint at any time during the traumatic spraying of blood. ;-)

Seriously, going to read the pdf that contains all the chapters... you won't test me, will you? :-O

3:15 PM  
Blogger nanuk said...

T&Betc: The reading's optional, of course, but can count for extra credit. My family has been raised half Inuit/half southern, so you can see what kinds of adaptations I've made.

5:48 PM  
Blogger Fuff said...

Cripes. I hope your wife saw the funny side. Brave stuff. Once, I saw my own blood spurting out of a vein after a blood test. The doctor was new and had forgotten to take the band off my arm. I passed out sharpish.

6:45 PM  
Blogger nanuk said...

fuff: I felt too foolish to feel queasy. But no, Mrs. Nanuk was not amused.

7:09 PM  
Blogger Belle said...

Five kids?! Holy shit! I can barely handle my two! Great story! I love hearing birthing stories from a man's perspective!

5:08 AM  
Blogger The Phosgene Kid said...

That'll make a great story to tell the kid's date before the big prom.

5:52 PM  

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