December 15, 2012 by The Citron Review
My daughter has a big head. When the baby was small and mostly bald, a friend said she resembled Sinead O’Connor, which, she clarified, she intended to be a compliment. Her skull was perfectly round, with a throbbing fontanel, the spot where the bones of the skull fuse. My daughter’s didn’t close until well after she turned two, and I wondered for a long time if there wasn’t enough bone to close the gap, wondered if I’d have to worry for the rest of her life about that mushy place where her brain lay just under the skin, like a bad spot on a cantaloupe left on the counter too long. It nauseated me just thinking about it.
My daughter’s head has been in the eightieth percentile or higher since her two-month checkup. This in itself is not significant. But, currently, she has a ninetieth percentile head on a twenty-fifth percentile body. In other words, she is a relatively short, skinny kid with a big head.
This has several consequences, notably:
1. The head makes her appear older than she is. Someone recently mistook her for an ill-behaved five-year-old, still sucking on a pink pacifier and sporting an Elmo diaper under her shorts.
2. The head makes those around her vulnerable to injury. Her skull has collided with my top lip more times than I can count, splitting it until it bleeds and swells. The last time, when she nearly cracked my tooth, I borrowed her Boo-Boo Kitty Ice Pack to soothe my face.
3. The head makes her vulnerable to injury. She whacks it on doors, on the floor, on the windowsill next to the bed.
4. The head makes dressing difficult. When she was one, she cried “big head! big head!” while I tried to pull a t-shirt down over her. It didn’t go. I pulled the shirt off, stretched it, tried a slightly different angle, and gave up, both of us close to tears. I thought about giving birth, the doctor making an incision to let her head pass through my body, unzipping my skin like the top of a shirt.
I labored for twenty-one hours. Cephalopelvic disproportion, my doctor said. My daughter was not large. Her head circumference was an average 13.5 inches at birth. Still, my body thought her head big enough that she never descended into my pelvis, the first step into the birth canal on the way into the world.
When my doctor checked my progress during labor, she said the baby kept moving back, like a child hiding behind her mother’s legs at a party. At the end of it, numbed from the chest down, I was wheeled into the operating room for a cesarean. All I remember of my daughter’s birth is a popsicle-colored voice asking, “What does she look like?”
Every day, when the crown of her head emerges, her eyes are bright, her brown curls wild and abundant.
Robin Silbergleid is author of the chapbook Pas de Deux: Prose and Other Poems. Her work has appeared in journals including Dislocate, The Prose-Poem Project, Crab Orchard Review, and The Cream City Review, for which she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in East Lansing, Michigan, where she teaches at Michigan State University.