I can hardly believe that it was three years ago tonight that I had spent the day tracking contractions. Tim and I ate breakfast at our favorite neighborhood restaurant. By evening, I was having such close, intense contractions that I couldn't eat dinner. We walked around our hilly San Francisco neighborhood instead and and I sat on the front steps to random houses while I had contractions. We hiked to the top of Corona Heights, believing the exercise would help my body do what it needed to do.
At this moment 3 years ago I knew that we would meet our daughter soon. I was ready, I felt prepared for whatever labor was about to bring my way. Tim went to bed for a while. I tried, but couldn't sleep so I got up and labored by myself for 6 hours. When it got to be too intense I woke him at about 4:30 in the morning. I sat in the shower for about an hour while he put a few final things into the hospital bag and then we went in. I remember that 1.2 mile drive - pushing my heels into the floorboard of the passenger side with each contraction.
She was born on a Friday afternoon at 5:30 pm. It's been 3 years since this beautiful creature slipped into our lives. She changed everything for the better.
She saved me in many ways. She made me a mother. I could never do enough to show just how incredibly thankful I am that this child is my child.
|Moments after birth, utterly depleted and so fulfilled.|
As her birthdays come year-by-year, each one has a new and different significance for me. I assume this is natural and depends entirely on not only what the previous year held but expectations for the coming year. It's the only period of a couple of days that I can recount nearly every moment of with details still intact. It's the single-most beautiful, transformative event of my entire life. Reliving it every year for myself is a personal yardstick for growth and progress.
The more obvious measure is her growth and progress! This year, her growing independence is starkly contrasted by the completely dependent baby still inside my belly. Three years ago she was still inside me, protected. Then in an instant she wasn't anymore - just like that she was a person in the world with a name and a number and a slew of worldly things already making their way to the brand new identity that was suddenly her own.
Babies are born. That is the natural order of things. But I clearly remember looking down at my deflated belly where my baby wasn't anymore. She had been there only seconds earlier in the only way I had ever known her. I looked past my empty body toward her. It seemed to me that she was exposed and vulnerable, out of my reach and flailing helplessly on a cold scale. In fact, she was apart from me now and on the other side of the room doing all the things she was supposed to be doing: breathing on her own, closing off routes of fetal cardiac blood flow, protesting the cold and screaming for me! Those few surreal seconds were the most bewildered I ever felt in my whole life. My daughter was doing beautifully while I looked on in disbelief, "but she was just here".
Sometimes it feels like that is still our relationship: She dances along effortlessly from one milestone to the next while I look on in amazement.
Kids are meant to grow into adults who go out into the world and function to their fullest all on their own. Preparing my kids for an adulthood without me is one of my main goals of parenting. I mean, I won't be around forever. Sooner or later they'll need to take care of themselves. I've only been successful as a parent to the degree to which I've prepared them to do that. The part of this that I think about A LOT is how to tell her and demonstrate for her that even though she may be on her own, her parents will always be the ones clutching the corners of her safety net.
I look at Ada and see her blossoming independence. She has spent the past three years exploring, stretching and learning. She insists to do some things herself and it's beautiful to watch her do well and be proud of herself. Meanwhile, I have spent these three years slowly, ever so slowly, learning to let her go bit by precious little bit. The process is gradual, as nature meant it to be. We all need time to adapt.
It's hard for us too when she falls and gets hurt, is rejected by another little kid on the playground or when she's frustrated that her body is still too little to follow her commands. She runs back to Tim and I when she needs comfort in these times. We are there every single time with open arms, kisses and the promise that we're right there to take care of her. Then, we let her borrow a little of our confidence and spin her back out to the world as many times as she needs to in order to 'get it'. This is what it's all about, right? Laying a supportive foundation now with little things like climbing and feeding herself with a spoon. I want this to be as much a part of her fundamental thinking as anything else: her parents love her unconditionally and will always be there to catch her when she falls.
For now, I can hear her at the end of her birthday day laying in her bed singing "Happy Birthday to you". So far she has sang happy birthday to herself, mama, daddy, grandma, Alicia, Colin and a tree. Now she is pretend snoring. I hope this means she is going take her three-year-old self and drift off to sleep. I know I'm about to drift off to sleep. It's just like it was 3 years ago.