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Four years ago right about now

2009 December 28
by Pamela


It’s a funny thing: the night before Mary Claire’s birthday, I can never sleep. I wonder if my body has some sort of flashback to where it was four years ago, right about now. Something like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder mixed with too much feta cheese (the american made, pasteurized kind that is safe to eat – I’m not that bad).

Three days before my due date, Bob and I headed to my last pre-natal. Our midwife said that labor was imminent, but she clearly did not know anything because I wasn’t having any contractions. And you must be having contractions to be in labor, duh…

So I did what I’ve done after both Mary Claire’s and Elizabeth’s last pre-natals: I went to Trader Joes. Something about that place just sets my labor into motion; maybe it’s the Hawaiian shirts. Bob and I had lunch at Whole Foods, picked up dinner and a lot of feta cheese, and headed home.

Bob had a root canal the night before Mary Claire was born. That’s really funny to me now. If the dentist didn’t give him any pain meds and slapped him in the face throughout the entire procedure, we would have been in the same amount of pain. Maybe.

But he got the meds and we somehow got into a minor tiff which neither of us can remember the reason for now (but clearly it must have been his fault because Hello! I was 9 months pregnant!). Bob went to bed and I laid down on the sofa in the office. I was reading that autobiography A Million Little Pieces, do you remember it? It was Oprah’s book club selection. The guy ended up fabricating most of it, but that wouldn’t come out for another month or so. I was in the middle of reading about his own root canal, the one he supposedly had with no pain medication because he was an addict in therapy and couldn’t have drugs. I was totally in the grips of his story – And then? And then I had the worst pain in my life. Our doula Bonnie had warned me some women have contractions for days before going into labor, so I tried to keep reading. That didn’t work so well.

Around 1:30 a.m. Bob woke up and came downstairs to use the bathroom. I told him that I thought I was in labor and he called Bonnie. She could hear me in the background and asked if that crying and whimpering was me. Uh, yes. That would be me. So she timed my contractions based on my voice and said she was coming right over.

We supposedly had everything ready. And by everything, I mean everything. I even had an extensive cd collection with every song I might want. There are certain songs that are very motivating, but not the kind of song that you want playing when your child makes her entrance, you know? The Black Eyed Peas might get you moving to push a baby out of, well you know, but that’s not what you want to tell your kid was on the cd player when she was born, right? So I had hymns and The Cure. A girl’s gotta do what she’s gotta do.

Besides the cd collection, we also had the suitcase I used for 3.5 months in Russia filled to the brim. Still it took Bob 45 minutes to pack the van. To this day I have no idea what he was doing during that time.

Bonnie sat in the backseat with me and Bob called all the Downriver fire departments to tell them that our minivan would be speeding through their cities. When we got to Ann Arbor, it was the middle of the night. It was freezing cold, incredibly quiet and peaceful. Except for me. I was anything but peaceful.

In the tub, out of the tub, time to push. And push. And push. It took me awhile to get the hang of it. I turned into a completely different person too. I demanded complete silence from everyone, for one thing. Silence from the midwife, doula, nurse, and my husband. If anyone said anything about anything, I asked them to please stop talking because I was trying to focus. Focus on not dying because I had decided against an epidural, I guess. Tom Cruise and all the Scientologists would have been so proud of me. Needless to say, no cds were played.

At one point Bob asked me if I wanted an ice chip after a contraction. Yes, I said. Then he asked the same thing after another contraction. Yes, I said. Finally after what seemed like the 800th time (but maybe it was the 3rd, who’s counting?) I snarled “I SAID I WANT AN ICE CHIP AFTER EVERY CONTRACTION WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU DON’T ASK ME AGAIN”. I still feel slightly guilty about that part of the story.

At 9:33 a.m. Mary Claire made her entrance into the world. Well more like she thrust herself into the world with all the power and might of a locomotive and I had the stitches to prove it, thank you very much. So I was dying of pain, they cleaned her off, brought her back and I looked at her with utter shock.

She had what looked like red hair. Surely they didn’t clean her very well and I told them so. But no, it turned out that red hair ran in Bob’s family, something I didn’t know until that very moment. I don’t know what else to say about her, even now. She seemed to inherit my acne, even as an infant. She was swollen in the face and was super blotchy. And did I mention she had red hair? The cliche “A face only a mother could love” seems to suffice. I was so confused that I just went through the worst pain possible to birth a child that looked like I wasn’t even in the room when she was conceived.

I asked for pain medication, everything possible. Why that seemed reasonable after birth and not before is another post. But I was sufficiently drugged and looking at this child that was mine, at least for my time on this Earth. Most women I’ve talked to told me that they felt this intense love for their child the instant that they held her or him. For me it was different. Honestly she looked like this foreign little infant whose face I never would have recognized. I’m not writing this to belittle Mary Claire. Clearly she’s the most beautiful child that’s ever walked the planet Earth; I know that now. But at the time I didn’t know her. Didn’t recognize her. I had no idea about her. I remember Bob being such a force then. He was so helpful during her birth. But after is when he really shined. My singular memory is being So Hungry. And Bob bringing me tons and tons of graham crackers and Smuckers creamy peanut butter, smuggled from the nurse’s station. Neither of us had every had that combo prior to the hospital but it was our snack du jour for both babies. Delish.

Oh, and the after-pain of childbirth? All you 1,500 women who felt compelled to tell me your birth stories, including the strangers in Kroger? Even you didn’t tell me about how bad it would hurt after the Little Engine That Could shoved her way out of my nether-regions. I thought that you had a baby and then it was just a teensie bit sore. Yeah, sore like after you get run over by a steam engine going 500 miles an hour. So I’m looking at a stranger who I might as well have adopted from Ireland that just pummelled me to near-death with a sledge hammer.

I write all this to say that we had a rough few days. I was terrified to be a mom, terrified to nurse her, scared to hold her, change her, burp her, everything. All that I thought would come naturally didn’t come to me at all. I had to learn it, methodically.

And then one day it just kind of felt natural. She was ours. And it was right.

God doesn’t make mistakes. That redheaded, swollen-faced, little cone-headed baby was exactly who God gave me for a reason. She and I are so much alike and she has been the most accurate mirror into the person I am and the person I dislike, and the person I wish to be. She is imaginative and passionate, prone to hyseria and tantrums, needs her sleep, delights in little wonders, loves to laugh but needs help getting there, thinks about people who are hurting, freaks out about incidentals, is responsible, offers small kindnesses, loves chocolate, pink, and everything sparkly.

For over a year, I sometimes stopped in shock at the fact that I was a Mom. Now I’m Mary Claire’s Mommy more than I am Pam. And that’s good by me.

Happy 4th Birthday Mary Claire Wright. You are a sparkly little girl who has brought so much to our lives and we love you so much.

3 Responses leave one →
  1. August 17, 2010

    You truly have a gift of writing! I loved this post and your humor and heart of a mother:)

  2. Ellen permalink
    September 25, 2010

    What a wonderful story!

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