Storytime Saturday: New Life

"You know, it was just this time, so many years ago, that I was waddling through a Wal-Mart searching for Hot Pockets." I say the same thing every year, in the same happy tone, just after dinner time. Because that's what I was doing the night before she was born - disobeying bedrest orders to pick up something that sounded good for dinner. Chicken and broccoli Hot Pockets, with juicy chicken and healthy vegetables and warm, delicious cheese. My daughter has heard this story every year of her life, and she is exasperated by it every time I tell her.

But her head cocks a little to the side; her long brown curls spill over her shoulder. She's listening, just like always.

"I wandered for a while after I got them though, and ended up at the back of the store, where the milk is. And that's where I met her." My daughter smiles a little to herself, still listening as I go on, and I delight, as I always do, in her bemused expression.

"That Mayfield lady seemed larger than life," I say, "in her big brown jacket with her wild hair." Gesturing to my daughter's own wild hair, I smile and go on. "It wasn't all that much different from yours really, except shorter. It was huge hair. Like, 80s hair." My daughter was born in the early 2000s - she doesn't know 80s hair like I do. But she rolls her eyes just like always and shakes her head, pursing her lips to contain a still-lingering smile.

"I was pretty big by then, I guess, and I drew her attention. We got to talking, and I told her how I had just left the hospital - they'd been checking on you because you were so still that day. I said they had told me to go home and go to bed, to rest up. You were breech, so you weren't scheduled for delivery for another week. But I was hungry." I shrug, just like I do every year. "Or you were."

She grins more fully this time, accepting my teasing. She eats like a linebacker, and her digestive capacity for packing in just about anything she wants to eat with no ill effect has become something of a family joke over the years. "Probably," she says. Her pretense of disinterested boredom is falling away now - she loves having a story just as much as I love telling it.

"And that big huge Mayfield woman looked me right in the eye, standing there next to the milk coolers, and she put her finger up to me and said, 'Oh no you don't. You don't need to go home right now into bed. You jus' need to walk 'round a while here and then go back to th' hospital. You're havin' that baby. Tonight.'" My daughter shakes her head at my raised voice, my higher pitch, the impersonated sass. She's used to it, but every year I do a worse job. Still, she listens.

I smile to myself, thankful for her patience and her secret enjoyment, and go on. "I thought she was a little crazy maybe, but it made me nervous, so I wrapped up the conversation and left, went home and made those Hot Pockets. It was one of those things where you want something so bad, you just know it's gonna taste like absolute heaven, you know?" Her eyes twinkle, because for her that's just about anything. My daughter will eat just about anything, so long as it won't eat her first - and as her hormones begin to come in fluctuating waves, she knows well the anticipation of a much-craved food.

"Ugh. But it was so nasty I couldn't eat it. Onions, ugh." I grimace remembering. Oddly enough, I almost like onions now, but back then, so many years ago, they'd make me gag. And that night, they did. "I choked down the first Hot Pocket because I was hungry and there wasn't anything else I wanted, but I threw the second one away - I just couldn't do it. But I paid for it though."

My daughter sits a little straighter as she listens now. We're getting to the good part - the part I never get to tell her at the right time, because the rest of the story spans the night hours - those long hours during which she lies sleeping and I stare at the ceiling in the dark, remembering.

"It was around 2 in the morning when I woke up, knowing those onion Hot Pockets were a mistake. I jumped out of bed and took off for the bathroom as fast I could, tripping over the dog, scared of not making it. That Hot Pocket was coming back up, and I didn't want a mess to clean up." Her smile widens, tightening a little at the corners as she tries to contain the laugh we both know is coming.

"You made me puke myself half to death the whole time I was pregnant," I remind her. "All day, all night. If I ate, if I didn't. Didn't matter." Now her eyes are twinkling, and I'm holding back an embarrassed laugh of my own as I say, "But it wouldn't have been so bad except that every time I threw up, I'd throw up so hard I'd piss myself." Luckily at that time, my bathroom was very small - the toilet and sink were beside each other.

"So I stumbled into the bathroom, dog tangled up in my feet, ripped my pants down, and barely made it to the toilet before I was leaning over the sink and that Hot Pocket was back with a vengeance. I threw up so hard I broke my own water." I can't imagine why this would be something anyone would be proud of, but I am, just a little. There are a lot of places in my life where I could be called weak, but vomiting isn't one of them. And all the same, it's awful. How fragile is a water, anyway?

My daughter snorts, imagining me swollen and miserable - and peeing myself - and her laugh is still contained but slightly more pronounced as I go on. "But that time ... the pee wouldn't stop coming. Like it would be a little gush and then nothing. And then a gush, and then nothing. It took me a minute to realize what had happened."

At this point I omit the parts of her story that would make her sad. I tell her that since I had nothing else to use, I stuffed a clean sock in my panties to absorb the still-leaking amniotic fluid, hauled my clothes back on, rinsed the sink in a panic. I don't tell her that when I rushed into the living room to wake her biological father, he could hardly be bothered to even turn over until I threatened to head for the hospital without him. I don't tell her that he was probably sleeping off that day's high and was simply unable to wake up enough to realize what I was saying. I simply condense that part of the story -

"- and we jumped in the car and headed for the hospital, calling your Aunt to meet us there. She answered the phone about the time we pulled in by the emergency room; I guess it was about one or so. But she couldn't drive to meet us there because she broke her toe that day, so I pulled right out again and ran over to get her." She hasn't realized yet by the verbage, I'm telling her I drove myself to the hospital while in the beginning stages of labor, with my still high, half-asleep young husband in the seat beside me. She won't think until she's older about what this was like - and I'm glad for that, because I love the telling of her story and how I can see the excitement of it bloom on her face.

"We made it back to the hospital, but the whole time the water was still leaking in little gushes, so as we made our way into the hospital and up to the delivery floor, I kept randomly scaring everyone because I'd jerk when the leak would hit, and I screech, 'Ew ew ew ew ewwwww!' And then it would stop and I'd go quiet again." My daughter shakes her head again, amused. In this respect, nothing has changed; I still don't like anything that feels wet, sticky, or dirty, and am often teased because I will often even use silverware to eat finger foods. I don't like stuff getting under my fingernails.

I omit the scary parts of the story - my terror over her breech status, my very real notice of how few contractions I was having, how weak and virtually painless they were, my fear over the epidural needle and the way the anesthesiologist had to work around scar tissue in my back. I was afraid it wouldn't work - or that some vital nerve would be hit or damaged accidentally, that there would be some sort of lasting, permanent impact. I was afraid it would hurt. It did.

I also omit the way her biological father looked, tall and lanky and finally awake, looking strong and ready in surgical scrubs only slightly bluer than his eyes. This would pain her, to know he was there to see her come into the world with such pomp and circumstance ... and that despite this, he was able to walk away from her forever with barely a look back. It pains me too; he missed out on so much - such a beautiful smart girl, a gem with infinite facets yet uncut by the world. He cheated them both.

"I'll never forget laying there though, with my arms out like a cross, strapped to that table, listening to the doctor say, 'Okay, I'm gonna put your uterus back in now. You'll feel the movement, some pressure, but there shouldn't be pain.'" Her mouth always opens a little in surprise at this, no matter how many times she hears the story. Fair enough - those words were surprising to hear back then for me, too. 

"I saw just your little feet when they took you away to be cleaned and checked over, and then when they brought you back you were all wrapped up and perfect." She smiles at this - she has rarely ever thought herself anything even close to perfect, and yet she accepts that this is what a mother must see.

I tell her lot of other things too - the way the post-surgical morphine shots had me so doped up I was hilarious, the way I fell so in love with the little rosebud of her mouth that I would tickle her lips just to make her pucker them. The way I wouldn't let the nurses take her away so that I could rest, the way she spent those first three days of her life almost exclusively resting in the security of my arms. But mostly, by the time I get to this place in her story, we're well beyond the bedtime she still respectfully abides by, and there's only one last thing to say.

"Goodnight - and sleep well, because in the morning you'll be one year older."

Last year when I told my daughter this story, she was leaving childhood behind and embracing everything the teen years might offer. She was already in middle school, already so very grown up, but she was ready for the changes to come and open to the experience. In five days when I tell her this story again, she'll be leaving thirteen, leaving behind the first of her teen years and moving confidently into the next. And in six days, she'll wake up fourteen years old, looking excitedly toward the end of middle school, her first summer job search, the beginning of high school, and all that might come after.

And I? I will be watching - just as proudly tearful as always, as the girl who made me a mother fades away behind the young woman I have so carefully raised.

Did your parents ever share your birth story with you? If so, what's the most memorable or funny part of the story? And if you're a parent now, do you share your children's birth stories with them? If you do, what do they think of it? Share your stories with me in the comments!

Don't forget, this BLOGuary is a writing partnership! David Elliott from the Single Dad's Guide to Life has been partnering with me this month to balance my single mom perspective with the single dad side of everything from fitness to travel to music and movies. Make sure you check out David's blog - he did a beautiful job of sharing a fictionalized account of his daughter's birth as well.

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