Moms handle broken bones, gushing wounds, runny noses and bloody lips with calmness, confidence and flare. Somehow, we mothers display not the slightest bit of squeamishness, whether presented with a dead snake on a stick, or a finger nail dangling by a shred of skin.
We take it in stride, marking it up as another verification of our feminine virility.
That's why the recounting of the following episode will strike you as utterly unbelievable. But stick a needle in my sister's eye, I promise it's true.
One day I took my family on a "field trip" to their aunt's veterinary clinic. "Perfect," she said, when I called to make the arrangements. "I have a male cat scheduled for neutering that day."
So, after a tour of the facilities, meeting the staff, and viewing the animals in her care, we squeezed into a small room, reeking of sanitary solutions, where a black and white cat lay anesthetized and lifeless on a table, its tongue hanging out the side of its mouth. My children's fascination and enthusiasm blossomed into a variety of testicle questions.
I think, looking back, that my queasiness started here. And it magnified when my sister-in-law, all the while casually talking to her riveted audience, began plucking the patient's short hairs, so to speak.
My head separated from my shoulders, as if filled with helium, and floated up toward the ceiling. I couldn't concentrate on her lecture because my eyes, struggling against an intense haze, blurred in an effort to turn away from the light. The room shrank until I felt myself driven down a hot tunnel, closer to the victim on the gurney.
Nevertheless, I encouraged myself to remain strong, for the children. I resisted the strange sensation. I didn't want to frighten them or deter them from learning about castration.
My sister-in-law held up the scalpel, with a severe blade that sparkled in the harsh, bright light of the surgical area. In response to my throat closing, I could hear myself gasping. Muscles tightened in my chest, and I could hardly breathe.
The rising wave of breakfast burning my esophagus stimulated my mouth to water uncontrollably.
I fought it off, for the sake of the children.
Slice. Their aunt squeezed those doodads like little zits. Out popped one tiny, slimy something and then another.
To heck with the kids, I had to get out of there.
In slow motion, I searched for the escape hatch, an eject button, a door. My brain, discombobulated, floated in a fog and my knees had the tautness of noodles. I could barely get one foot in front of the other. But, at last, I emerged into the exterior examination room.
The atmosphere hung there, stagnate and sterile. I staggered past triage, where an idle technician offered me some cream puffs, to which I only raised a hand in protest. If I opened my mouth, more than words might spew.
Finally, in the canine waiting section the air thinned a bit. A long, low bench beckoned me hither and I sprawled upon it, laying my face against the cool, blue vinyl, where innumerable dog butts sit daily. Who knows how many poodles had dragged their hindquarters across my oasis.
I didn't care.
Shortly, my excited litter came out to rehash the whole darned operation, never noticing my pasty white countenance. "Mama has to get some fresh air," I rasped, weakly. They jabbered on.
And that's where tales of Moms with bellies of steel begin, because we sacrificially endure the unimaginable, for the betterment of our broods.