An open letter to my baby girl on her first birthday
It was a Friday night.
We thought we'd have one more weekend to sleep in. Planned to get up at our own pace and enjoy a leisurely breakfast at The Guv'nor – one last weekend to ourselves before you rocked our world.
It was that weekend you communicated to us that no, in fact we would not be enjoying a leisurely breakfast at The Guv'nor after a luscious sleep-in. You didn't tell us that what we would actually be doing was sitting in the hospital at about 4am that Saturday morning – me sitting in a chair peeing amniotic fluid all over the floor, your father sitting next to me lamenting his forever lost sleep-in.
There's not much to tell about the labour. Basically, as I slipped into my very sexy nightie, which was stretched to the point of repulsion, I got the sensation that I was peeing myself. A few hours later, we figured we should see if it was amniotic fluid, and guess what? It was! So after I spent some time sitting in the chair and peeing amniotic fluid on the floor, they decided to move me to the bed to pee all over that for a while, so I could try and get some sleep.
I walked around for a little while, breathing through those guttoral pains that made me feel like my uterus was being pulled from my body yet the relief wouldn't fully come because, of course, my uterus wasn't being yanked out through my bowels. Then one of the nurses told me, “Sure if you're in this much pain now, I don't know what yer gonna do when ya reaches full on labour, sure you're only at a two now.” She had a neck and chin like Beaker on the Muppets, and her eyes bugged out just like his.
Jeez, thanks missis. Way to pump me up. So I said, “well I guess since I'm such a little girl, you might as well hook me up to the epidural.” Half-joking. But off she went! No pep talks or encouraging me to resist the drugs for a while from this one. A little, “you're strong, you can do it” woulda been nice. But the nice lady instead scuttled off to find that Saint who is also known as the anesthesiologist (The Drug Angel, as I like to remember him).
So there I lay, like a beached whale, peeing on the bed in one steady stream until the fluid was gone from my body. Swollen up like a hot air balloon from the fake fluid that was being injected into me, I was. You sure didn't seem like you were going anywhere anytime soon.
Hours and hours and hours and hours passed (about 24, in fact). Every three hours, I'd ask the nurse to check me again, to see if I was any further dilated. She checked and said, “you're fully dilated!”.
I was all like, yessssss, let's get this show on the road!
And then she said, “Oh, wait now, sorry. You're still only five.”
And I wanted to punch her in the face, but instead I laid there and started weeping. This nurse didn't say anything but an uncaring, “Are you OK?”
No, I'm not OK. I've been sitting here waiting for something to emerge from my vagina for over 24 hours. I'm exhausted. I'm scared. I'm wondering if this is EV-ER going to happen. I'm bawling here. What about this situation makes you think I'm OK? And can you act like you care about how I'm feeling, maybe?
That's what I wanted to say, but instead I just whinnied, “I'm just so tired.”
Finally, your heart rate spiked and after monitoring it for a little while, they decided to slice me open and pull you on outta there. Sorry, missy! It's time to go to school! Let's open those blinds.
I was so out of it by the time they decided to do this, I felt like I was in A Clockwork Orange-like experiment (FYI - that's a movie that you won't be allowed to see until you're at least 25). The lights of the operating room were bright and unnatural, and I was shaking uncontrollably, like Axl Rose at the end of the Don't Cry video (someday I'll show you the man with the wee white biking shorts, but not until you're at least 30).
I figured that when they passed you to me you'd be as stoned as former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford in the video of him smoking crack, what with all the drugs they'd been pumping into your little den in there.
But when I heard your little baby lamb cry it was the best sound I'd ever heard. Before they passed me to you there were bets flying around the room about how much you weighed.
“9 pounds!” I heard someone yell.
Shit, it's a good thing they did cut you out, I thought.
The nurse passed you to me, all wrapped up like a burrito. Your eyes were wide and bright, and you were blinking and staring at me in wonder, waiting for me to fill you in on what's been going on out here.
“Hi,” I said, and I kissed your tiny little cheek.
In my mind, I said 'hi' really cute and sweet, but in the video your dad played back to me afterwards, I warbled the words so that I sounded like Barney Gumble on The Simpsons, and I looked kind of like him too, all swollen with googly eyes that couldn't really focus on anything because they were too tired and drugged up.
Don't do drugs.
But you were so CUTE!!! You had a full head of fuzzy blonde hair that stuck up in the back like a little duckling, and I wanted to just eat you for every meal of the day. My jaw is now perennially sore from constant clenching. This issue has become progressively worse over the past year, because you keep getting cuter and cuter every single day.
In the hospital, I thought you had a really nice, kind of a tan-like complexion. But actually, you were a bit jaundiced. And it took you a while to gain weight (which is ironic, because now you're quite rotund, in a really cute way). And I was afraid you had epilepsy because you were being a bit spastic at times, which is normal for newborns, but I was extra afraid because I have epilepsy and I really didn't want you to have it.
So because I was a brand new mom and I was kind of freaking out a little bit, they kept us in the hospital for a little longer than normal.
But I'll let you in on a little secret – I kind of liked being in the hospital with you for a little longer than normal.
Fact – hospitals are gross and smell like urine and feces and Mr. Clean. And the food is terrible (what is the deal with that toast they wrap in tin foil that is like it's wet when you open it up??). But, it was just me and you in there. I would watch you sleep in your little glass box right next to my bed, and I'd pick you up to feed you and you'd blink your little bug eyes at me and you did this little thing with your tongue like you were eating a banana in a really gross way and pushing the chewed up fruit out to show it to me with your tongue. It was sooooooo cute! Every time you did it your dad and I would crack up.
It would be the middle of the night and it was really quiet and it was just you and me. Staring at each other, cuddling into the stinky, stiff, not-very-cozy hospital blankies.
Quite an emotional time, it was.
Someday, you'll hear about the baby blues. Again, this better not be until you're considering having a baby, at approximately the age of 40.
The baby blues makes women very emotional after their burrito is born.
Your dad snuck a beer into the hospital for me, because beer helps the milk come in.
I cracked that Guinness and I took a long, cold sip, and I burst into tears.
“This is the best beer I've ever tasted!” I wailed, emitting loud sobs that sounded like a donkey hee-haw-ing.
Finally, we got to go home. We were so nervous putting you in your car seat. I tried to strap you in and I couldn't. I didn't know how. Naturally, I burst into tears.
“How am I supposed to be a good mother if I can't even strap my own baby into her car seat???” more sobs, as my mother and your father rolled their eyes at each other.
Because my feet were too portly to fit into my over-sized winter boots, I put on my slippers and we scuffed off to the car. I sat in the back seat with you to make sure your head didn't snap off and roll under the driver's seat on the way home. You know what it's like under there? A forgotten Smartie could be under there for YEARS! We just couldn't run the risk of having your pretty little head snap off, only to have it lost underneath the driver's seat for all of eternity.
When we got home, I had the opportunity to learn first-hand what an industrialized cow must feel like. When I say industrialized cow, I don't mean a businessperson-type cow who goes to work in the city every day, checking her watch and straightening her pant-suit as she steps onto the subway.
No, when I say industrialized cow, I mean the kind that is hooked up to a milking machine 24-7, plunked in one spot, just giving milk away. A milk machine.
It didn't take long for a sizeable indent to form on the couch cushion that sat next to the nursing pillow and breast pump. I formed my little (Ok, Ok...my BIGASS) nest there – with my remote controls, water, Mad Men season five all cued up and ready to go.
For the first three weeks, it was pretty much this:
Wake, feed, change, pump (I was trying to get a milk supply so I could go out drinking at some point), wash and disinfect bottles and pumping gear), sleep for 10 minutes, feed, change, pump, shower? (sometimes), try to eat something, repeat.
Then, when you were two weeks old, your dad went to the hospital to get his neck sliced open.
He had a compressed vertebrae and for years his shoulder strength had been deteriorating. So he finally gets a date for the surgery – and it's two weeks after you were born.
Of course, I imagined him dying on the operating table, and me having to explain to you how much your daddy loved you and was so excited that you were here. I'd have to tell you what he was like, what he did for fun, what things that you do that he used to do, ways that you're like him...I tried to come to terms with the fact that I was about to be a single mom – all that optimistic stuff that moms with the baby blues think about.
But now, I did look at the positive too. There was a chance that the surgery may have altered his voice. So in the event that he didn't die, I imagined him coming home talking like James Earl Jones, or Tom Waits, or better yet – Leonard Cohen (YUM!). There's always a silver lining, little one!
As you started to grow, you just got cuter and cuter, and fatter and fatter. You looked like Cartman from South Park at one point.
And then, you started to smile. You REALLY started to smile. And laugh. And squeal. And then I REALLY fell in love with you.
We became good buds, didn't we?
We'd go for walks, sit on the deck in the summertime, swing in your swing, sit in your pool, you'd do my toenails (well, study my toes in great depth and try to stick them in your mouth...you are soooo gross!).
We went to the Y, we went to stroller fitness class, we visited some friends, we hung out with your Gran. We'd sit on the couch and cuddle and look at books and sing songs.
I'll admit it – we even went to a bar a couple times. But as you'll understand when you're old enough to appreciate this, when it's a hot and sunny summer day in St. John's, it's pretty much a requirement to hit the Sundance deck if you're not at work. So we did, with some buddies.
I started to see what your personality might be like, and guess what? You're NUTS!
You became super silly.
You were always laughing and giggling and getting excited - sometimes about nothing, but quite often when someone coughed or sneezed. For some reason, you found the misfortune of others quite entertaining, and your little mouth would extend into an ear-to-ear grin every time someone would cough or sneeze. One of the first ways you learned to communicate was by doing a fake cough and then laughing.
You learned how to make all kinds of new sounds and then you'd repeat them. A LOT.
Dad-dad-dad-dad-dad-dad-dad-dad-dad-dad ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba mom-mom-mom-mom-mom.
You'd climb in the Costco bag while I was trying to put groceries away.
You'd get in the turkey roaster while I was trying to cook the Thanksgiving turkey.
Ok, ok, I admit it, that's not true. You didn't crawl in there yourself, I put you in there because I thought it would make a funny picture. And I didn't cook a damn turkey, either!
You came up with new expressions.
Soon enough, you were standing up, following me around the kitchen (now get tall enough to do the dishes, will ya?).
By the time you were 10 months old, you were full-on walking. Tearing around the house, bolting for the stairs, trying to put your hands in the toilet and throwing EVERYTHING on the floor.
You really entertained us. After you went to bed, your dad and I would pull up our phones and show each other cute pictures we'd taken of you that day. Sometimes we'd look at the baby monitor to see how you were doing up there.
You're always watching!
Now you're making new sounds and learning to do new things every single minute. At one-year-old, you're 24 pounds, fully walking (almost running), with an impressive number of little chompers. You love avocados and mozzarella cheese.
And birthday cupcakes, apparently.
You love to clap your hands and wave "bye-bye", give high fives, roll a ball, build towers out of blocks (well, short block towers...we'll pick up Jenga in a couple more months). You love going in the pantry and closing the door behind you, pretending it's your own little house. I knock on the door and say, "Hello? Elise, are you home? Can I come into your house please?" And you open the door with a big old grin on your face.
You love to walk on the snow in your real, outdoor winter boots and hear the crunch-crunch-crunch underneath your feet. You love playing with Lily, Gran's puppy dog.
On occasion, I've seen you pick up the phone and mimic a sentence, pretending to have a grand old yarn with whoever's on the other line.
You love strumming the guitar and plunking on piano keys. My hope is that you'll be in a super cool girl band in a few years (maybe a Christian rock band though, or whatever it takes to keep the boys from sniffin' around.)
I don't turn on the TV much, but for some reason, you love Family Feud. You become entranced when the theme music comes on. Who can blame you, I suppose. Steve Harvey is one funny mofo.
You still think coughing and sneezing are freakin' hilarious. And I've seen you fart and laugh at yourself, too. There's a time and a place for that, missy, you'll learn that soon enough.
So from little, to bigger, I love you more than I ever could have imagined was possible, and your goofy little smile makes my chest hurt because I love you so much.
I will forever cherish the first year we spent together, as best buds. You have changed my world in the best way possible. You are the light of my life.
You are silly and loveable and chubby and squishy. I have loved watching you grow over this past year, and I can't wait to watch you grow more. I can't wait to draw pictures with you, have conversations with you, bring you to your first movie. I hope from reading this that you can tell how special you are to me.
And I really hope you read this when you're 13, and aren't too evil with teenage girl hormones to see the humanity in your poor mother.
I love you with all of my heart and soul.
Your Mom. XOXOXOXO