The Story of You

Every year in the middle of July, my mom tells me the same story. The short version goes something like, “I ate an entire pizza, barfed it up, and ten minutes later gave birth to you.”

In her longer, more graphic version, my mom elaborates on how she and my dad drove like maniacs to the hospital during New Hampshire’s worst thunderstorm in decades, and how my dad was so nervous that he was smoking two cigarettes at once. But my favorite part is when she describes being rolled through the emergency room at Manchester’s Catholic Medical Center on a gurney with her doctor — a man who for the duration of my mom’s pregnancy refused to believe her intuition that she was having more than one baby — straddled on top of her trying to keep her uterus from clamping down on my twin brother Ben, wearing little more than a big “I told you so” smile.

Even after twenty-six years, I never get tired of hearing it. Listening to my mom retell my birth story makes me feel terribly special and incredibly happy to be alive for another year. And since becoming a mother myself, it makes me appreciate even more what she went through on that hot summer night to give me life.

Rainey is one year old today, and I’ve decided to start a storytelling tradition of my own to share with her every year to celebrate the day she entered and forever changed my world.

I’ll begin by describing how I waddled around for days in the earliest possible labor and how Scott and I missed half the subtitles of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon while we timed my contractions by the glow of the screen in the dark movie theater.

I’ll tell Rainey how I cruised down the corridor of the Birthing Center in a hospital gown and white socks at midnight, totally depressed that despite how much my contractions hurt, I was only two centimeters dilated and it looked as though the hospital staff was going to send me packing. Then I’ll describe how minutes later my water broke and how the contractions became so intense all I could do was lay in the bed, shaking like a wet dog, pleading barely above a whisper for Scott to “Help me.”

I’ll tell her how I watched Scott and my mom – both in the medical profession and standing militantly by my side – practice amazing restraint while they anxiously looked on as two nurses, an anesthesiologist, one nicked blood vessel and four attempts finally got the epidural to work its magic.

Next, I’ll describe the calm that came over me knowing my doctor was the OB on call and how tired he looked when he got to my room after one in the morning and how thankful I was that he stayed by my bedside all night, even when my body stalled for a couple hours at nine centimeters.

I’ll explain how terribly exhausted I felt after pushing like a champ for over an hour and how I was more concerned about going poo poo on the bed from all the effort than delivering her.

I’ll tell her how I screamed for my mom through the oxygen mask that was helping me breathe when I felt myself tear like a cheap suit, and how a second later my doctor told me to open my eyes and look at my baby, but how I yelled, “I can’t!” out of fear that if I opened my eyes and only saw her head I was going to die right there from exhaustion and pain, knowing that I still had more than half a baby to go.

Then I’ll elaborate on what it was like to hear her cry and my doctor say, “It’s a girl!” And I’ll try my hardest to put into words what I was feeling the moment they lay her on my chest, how she stared into my eyes and immediately stopped crying as I began to sing to her the only song I could think of at the moment, Jesus Loves Me.

I’ll go on to tell Rainey about how quickly Scott and I bonded with Julie, our amazing labor and delivery nurse, who was like a walking, talking instruction manual on how to nurse, diaper, bathe and comfort our new baby, and how she also took the time to make sure I was clean and comfortable, too.

I’ll also be sure to include what it was like to bring her home from the hospital, and how we introduced her to her animal siblings and slept with her in our bed that first night. And I’ll tell her about her first doctor’s appointment five days later when the pediatrician called her “exceptional” which I then managed to work into about three-fourths of all my conversations for the next week.

I doubt I’ll be able to keep myself from burbling on about the many weeks, months and milestones that followed in her first year of life. And how the miracles we witnessed unfold every day left us scratching our heads most of the time.

Just thinking about it now – how this beautiful, complicated, and messy baby was formed in my body, grew on my milk, and is now one grip of my finger away from walking on her own – I once again find myself gazing at her with a fearful wonder, waiting for it all to make sense.

But the story doesn’t end here.

Someday this birthday girl will be airborne, soaring as she’s meant to soar. And it’s my job to see that she gets off the ground and to assure her that someday she will fly. But after seeing how quickly her first year has gone by, I’m just happy to be walking finger-in-fist with her, taking baby steps towards the future.

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