Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wally's Story

Last month without really thinking about it or planning for it, I became a mother again--three months after my first was born.
While I decided to spare the Twitterverse the details of my first birth, I tweeted pictures and daily updates of this one.

Which thankfully for the Twitterverse was more of a metamorphosis than a birth.

Here's my second-born:But let's get too far ahead of ourselves. In this era of oversharing and TMI, I need to tell you about his conception. Award-winning blogger and great garden party host Renee gave birth to him, or at least carried him over to me on some of her fennel in a tomato swap: her Cherokee purple for my Lemon Boy. The fennel was a happy extra. Renee pointed out two tiny caterpillars to me. My sleep-deprived brain decided to tear off the fronds and stick them in a cup in my kitchen window. One drowned almost immediately--oops, Mother Nature can be a beast inside or outside--but the other thrived.

My decision was so spontaneous that I didn't even take a picture of those early days. And then when i did get some shots of the caterpillar my husband named Wally, short for swallowtail, they were these:Wally, the prodigous eater, and Wally, the prodigous pooper. (Did I really just post a picture of my Wally's frass? And I thought I couldn't sink any lower than anole lovin' on this blog. Can I still blame my actions on sleep deprivation? Or can I just explain that much of my day is already spent celebrating the miracle of pooping and everything else the baby does so why not glorify #2's #2's? Please someone intervene now!)

I had no birthing plan for Wally. I had no midwife, although one later appeared in form of Linda Lehmusvirta who is an experienced butterfly-birther. In those early days I just watched and cleaned up the poop.

A couple of times Wally wondered off up the window or the curtain. I wondered if he was trying to pick his spot to pupate, but after noticing how dejected his fennel fronds were looking, I decided he was just off in search of better grub. Fortuitously for Wally, I had just received more fennel (and its fronds) in my Greenling Local Box. After refreshing his water and fronds, he returned to his cup. I took the fennel delivery as another sign that Wally was meant to pupate with us. Had I needed to pack up the baby human and drive to the store to buy something to feed Wally, I would have instead tossed him and his poop water outside.

And then one day I awoke to find Wally had attached himself to the side of our dishsoap bottle, proving that Seventh Generation products are green in a whole new way.I missed the moment where he split his caterpillar skin and wriggled it off of him. My husband saw it, but I was busy feeding baby #1. (Just a bit of foreshadowing: missing important events in Wally's life is a theme here.)
With that attachment began Wally Watch 2010. I posted daily photos of Wally on Twitter and his thousands of several fans cheered his fortnight of inaction.

Around day 11, I began to worry that Wally was a goner but Annie, Rachel, and butterfly doula Linda reassured me that Wally's time would come.

(I could also just paid closer attention to the book I was reading the baby, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, which clearly states that it takes two weeks for a caterpillar to become a butterfly. The book also states that a caterpillar forms a cocoon, and not a chrysalis, so maybe it isn't the best source of accurate gestational length information.)

And then on Wally Watch Day 14, I saw that he was making his move:
I thought his darkening skin meant I had just another 24 hours to wait. I wandered into the other room to watch the World Cup.

At halftime, I walked into the kitchen and found this:

Yep. After two weeks of assiduous attention, I missed the big moment. I searched frantically for Wally the butterfly and found him drying off his wings up in the curtains:
As he dried his wings and tested them out, I saw that he was actually a she, Wally-mena. We set out some cut-up fruit and water for the gal to gain her strength. She was still a bit too weak when she tried to drink some water and fell in the bowl. My husband rescued her from drowning.

A few short hours after metamorphosizing, Wally, now Wally-mena, was ready to leave us. She tried going straight through the kitchen window without luck so I decided to give her a helping hand.
I didn't succeed in getting her on my hand. I guess it was too crazy, what with my holding my first-born on my hip while trying to send my second-born out into the world while my husband videotaped it and the dog eyed her new playmate.

Finally, my husband caught Wally loosely in his hands and escorted her out. She flew off so quickly that I didn't even get a picture.

I pretty sure though that a month later the swallowtail butterfly that occasionally buzzes my head is Wally, letting me know how she is doing.


  1. Congrats! She's a beauty and so is her story~It's my understanding that the first born always has more photos of his/her life then the next born! gail

  2. How did I miss the tweets? I really do need to pay more attention. Anyway, Congratulations, she looks just like... well, she's pretty.

  3. Wonderful post! I was laughing about Carle's book as a resource! Fun post! Best of luck to Wallymena!

  4. This is so good! I bet Wally's story would be a bestseller if you put it in a childrens' book. I'm proud to have played a tiny part in Wally's big kitchen adventure.

  5. Fun story, Vertie... hope you do better at catching the actual first-born's first steps LOL


  6. Great story! I guess I missed out on what type of swallowtail likes fennel. I'm guessing it's a black swallowtail? We have the spicebush swallowtails here, but yours has even more striking colors.
    Thanks for the post. Our whole family reeaaaly enjoys your garden blog..even my teenager. :-)
    David (Tropical Texana~Houston)

  7. A beautiful, beautiful story. It's thrilling reading the recap and reliving the moments you shared with us on Twitter.

  8. Haha, this is the best story! What a treat to have witnessed this process and been host to your new special friend.

  9. No butterfly ever had a better story written about her. I'm so happy for your year of births! Wally-mena will make you a grandma, soon, too, so you get it ALL in one year!

  10. What a great story. Surely you will read this one to your first born as a bedtime story? I also had one of those in the house and I waited and waited. i went away for the weekend and meant to take him but forgot. While there a visit to the butterfly house in Dallas taught me about the darkening phase. Phew! He was very green when I left. Back home, still green, then in the twinkling of an eye dark and out. I had the lid on the box so he stayed inside. It was the first chrysalis find in the garden as I cut down some plants. I brought him in for safety. Like you I really enjoyed the experience.