I don't usually do personal posts but today I am making an exception.
My daughter was born fourteen years and one day ago.
Everyone talks about the memories of the day their child was born which, of course, is a huge day. There is so much anticipation, so much waiting and then what an outcome! I have lots of memories of the day she was born and like many children she loves that story and it has been oft repeated.
Where my waters broke (hardware store), how we then went to the hospital and they said I had to go for a walk to start labour (didn’t help), how we went out to dinner (still no action), how we watched Forrest Gump on the television (that’s why she liked Bubba Gump’s restaurants in America), how I spent the night alone at the maternity ward (super weird). She knows she was born at 6pm and that she was just over 6 pounds. She knows that I was in the shower when my parents arrived and that my husband had her tiny little self wrapped so tight my mother thought she’d been born without legs (probably would have mentioned that on the phone). She knows who visited that night (my folks and my sister and her husband and her 3 month old cousin) and she knows that I simply couldn’t sleep because I had to keep looking at her – and her legs of course.
So that was an amazing day twenty four hours.
This however is the story of the day after she was born which I will always remember as one of the loveliest days of my life. (Let’s face it the result is fabulous but lovely isn’t a phrase I would use to describe labour).
Before I go on, you need some background. I only have one child. I refer to her as my miracle. The miracle is not in her ongoing fabulousness but in the fact she exists at all. After a period of time best forgotten, I was told more than likely I wasn’t going to be able have kids. This was devastating for me, because I absolutely, one hundred percent wanted them. It was even more devastating because my husband is a kid magnet. He’s never met a kid he didn’t want to dangle by their ankles, chase around the yard or give a piggy back to. (In fact, true story, when we visit friends with small children they’re pretty sure he’s only come over to play with them, and so are their parents). So I layered that on the already large mound of Catholic guilt and sadness.
We were so convinced that we weren’t having them that we had a plan B which was fully worked out and involved moving to Europe (partly so I didn’t have to watch all my friends have kids). At the time we didn’t tell many people because it was sad and depressing and that’s not who we are. (And to be honest couldn’t discuss it without crying) And then we got pregnant and it was amazing. That euphoria was followed by the pregnancy from hell. The first twenty plus weeks carrying a plastic bucket everywhere and the last eight weeks, having Braxton Hick’s contractions every 10 minutes.
What we knew then were two things. I wasn’t good at getting pregnant or being pregnant. Still, we didn’t care because we were going to have a baby and we knew the odds were we were only having one so damn if we weren’t going to be grateful.
Anyway the day after my baby was born I sat in the hospital holding this perfect little human and waited. I waited for visiting hours because I knew that people were coming. I knew that the minute they could there would be people bursting through that door to meet her. It wasn’t about me (maybe a little) but it was about her.
And I wasn’t disappointed. There was my friend Kylie who waited with her face pressed to the glass of Australia’s fanciest baby shop till they opened to buy her the perfect outfit (which I still have), there was another friend who brought the baby some divine hot-pink sunglasses (which we still have) because what day old baby doesn’t need sunnies? There was my grandmother who came with my aunt and my 11 year-old cousin, who co-incidentally I had been a nanny for years earlier (which fed my love of infants). My grandmother was just shy of 90 at the time and lucky for us it was a lovely, tiny baby that even frail old ladies could lift and carry. Lucky for us it was a pretty big room. It even had a rocking chair nanna sat in to cuddle the baby.
You get the idea. And still they kept coming. School friends, college friends, relatives…
That tiny little human got handed to everyone in the room. She didn’t cry and she didn’t fuss and (neurotic mother of only child that I am) I was deliriously happy about that.
Some of the faces are a little blurry now, but the feeling and certain moments of that day shine like crystal in my memory. It was a day of love and joy. It was a welcoming to the human race. It was a celebration of her arrival. It was a show of community.
It was love.
I’ve always felt that day stamped the way that the people in our lives would treat her. Almost without exception the people in that room are still in our lives. Almost without exception their faces still light up at the sight or the mention of her. Many of them acknowledged her birthday yesterday.
Some of those people even though they’re in their forties and she certainly isn’t she describes as friends even now.
You can’t protect your child from the pains of growing up. You can’t stop the bullies or the mean girls. You can’t make their decisions for them and you certainly can’t change them (even if you wanted to).
For me knowing that however the rest of the world treats her she was welcomed in a circle of love has always given me strength and comfort, hopefully for her it’s done the same.