Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The day before she was born

E and Roo

I thought I was going to have a baby in my arms on November 15, 2002. Actually November 15 was already a revised date; she was supposed to come on Halloween, but the holiday passed us without a sign. November 15 was the date of my induction, the pity birth I was going to get because my uncooperative body was becoming a nuisance. At nearly three weeks overdue, I was big as a semi truck and cranky as a wet cat.

What I remember about November 15 is the waiting. I remember sitting at the table in the egg-blue kitchen of our half-plex, starting at the yard from the sliding glass door until we could leave to go to the hospital. I remember pacing around, knowing that everything was going to be different when we came back with this kid, but not knowing what to do that morning to give appropriate respect to this unknown future. I remember stuffing things into a bag without any real idea about what I'd use. I remember excitement but also a very serious fear of what birth would require of my body.  What a strange thing pregnancy is.  You let this little being take shape inside you and you ignore the reality of its exit for as long as possible.  That morning I was happy but afraid.

My memories jump from the kitchen to the hospital bed, where I spent only moments until the doctor broke my water. Then I walked. I walked the track of the labor and delivery ward for hours. The tile was cold against my thin red socks. I felt uncomfortable among the clothed masses as I marched around in my purple robe, awkwardly shuffling in my pajamas as other people's families arrived.  Still, E and I were convinced we would have a baby by the end of the day, so I kept walking.  I waited some more.

But when an IV of Pitocin and inevitable epidural chained me to my bed, I felt angry.  More frustrated than tired (but tired, too), I wanted to give up.  Labor is the ultimate endurance test.  It prepared me for marathoning, that other experience when I was not finished by my goal time.  In both labor and my marathon I had to keep going when I felt delirious.  November 15, 2002 was a long day ending in tears and an oxygen mask rather than a baby.  Rather than holding my little bean of a kiddo, I was laying on my side, groaning, apologizing to the visitors who popped by to see a baby I couldn't get out.

Addie finally arrived by C-section on November 16 around 10:30 AM (though I am sure E will remember the exact time and correct my foggy estimation).  She was, as the doctor said, "sunny side up"--an accurate prediction of her disposition if I ever heard one.  I heard her cry and felt her skin against my cheek just as a black curtain closed across my eyes.  Our first hours together once I finally came to were those of shared exhaustion.  We both cried a lot.

A year later I stayed up all night before she turned one, hoping for it to not actually happen. I cried and cried because her babyhood was gone.  All the frustrations of being a new mother--all the cold meals, the sleepless nights, the chafing and the biting and the scars and the tired arms that couldn't hold her--those all fell away as I mourned the loss of the special, cozy time we had together.  I cut and glued pictures into a scrapbook for her and I wished I could do it again.  I wrote her a poem and dripped tears on the keyboard.  November 15, 2003 was a sad day because it meant she was done being tiny.

When we decided we were done having kids, it was this thought that sealed it for me:  I missed our kids being babies so badly.  I still wished I could go back and spend that time wrapped up in their every breath.  I wished I could feel their toes curl around my fingers and smell their baby heads.  But I wasn't missing some child that didn't exist yet.  What I really wanted a do-over with the ones I already had.  Having more babies wouldn't bring baby Addie back into my life.  I had to grow with her.

This morning I dropped her off and she ran up to Grandma's front door.  Now she's a big girl with a Nike sweatshirt and a long blonde ponytail.  I sighed to myself about how we seemed to be from the day in my tiny blue kitchen, waiting for our induction appointment.  In the hours I circled the hospital hallway, I could have never imagined nine year old Addie and how much I'd love her.  What I realize as she ages is how much of her baby personality was me and E, or at least what we hoped for her and wanted her to be.  Before babies speak they are bright, simple machines that eat and love.  When they grow, though, they are decided individuals.  I didn't know how much I'd celebrate her accomplishments and love her through the awkward times.  I didn't know how much grace I'd want to allow her to grow on her own.  Already she is entirely this unique being, and I love her for it.  She is strong and imaginative and creative and funny, with definite preferences for certain vegetables, books and people.  She is me and E, but not the parts we'd choose for her.  She's our genes asserting themselves in miraculous ways, the miles of code mixing and a new thing emerging.  God, she's awesome.


Happy 9th Birthday tomorrow, Roodle Noodle.  Love you ten million.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post, so beautiful and sweet! Your kids are going to love being able to go back and read these memories :)