Today’s cup of decaf is served with a piece of birthday cake.
Today is my baby’s birthday. She is ever adorable with giant blue eyes, curly blond hair, and an effervescent personality. Her equally as adorable, red headed, big sister was always commenting, “Mommy, she is making friends again,” because strangers loved to lean into the stroller to say hello to my smiling girl.
That baby is 20 years old today. Not sure how that is possible. I find myself cliché-ing things like, “Where did the time go?” and “Don’t blink, it will be over!” Well, it’s really true. Back when Clinton was still the president and just acquitted from impeachment, the world was getting ready for Y2K, and “Livin La Vida Loca” was the number one song, my little monkey was born. It’s striking for me to remember the era just weeks before the tragedy of the Columbine massacre, months before the start of this century, and a couple of years before 9/11. I was pregnant, had a two-year-old, and was in a completely different frame of mind than I am now. As was the world. A lot can happen in two decades.
We had become parents later than some, due to life, careers, and miscarriages. Our first born was absolutely an amazing baby and kept us very busy and happy, but we felt the urge for more and wanted to make it happen before my eggs turned 40. This time was totally different from the last. I was not glowing, just growing. I felt unrelenting nausea for the whole nine months. Food, of course was the only cure, so that’s what I did! I ate. I had a stack of iHop pancakes and a side of mashed potatoes with a vanilla milkshake once. I even had a nurse say to me, “Well, we want mothers to gain 20 pounds during their whole pregnancy. If you want to do it all during the first three months, you can.” Can you imagine??!! She is lucky I didn’t punch her!
(Side note, in 1955, my mother broke a nurse’s nose, while flailing her arms in the delivery room. The nurse was giving her the “twilight sleep” drug, apparently against my mother’s wishes, while she was in labor with my brother. My mother learned about the broken nose the following year, when she went to the hospital to deliver my sister. That same nurse saw my mother and went running in the opposite direction!)
No nurse today would dare speak with me that way. I remember firmly telling her that my mother had gained 50 lbs with us, my sister had gained 50 lbs in pregnancy, I had gained 50 lbs with my first, and I was likely to gain 50 lbs with my second. And that is exactly what I did. Some well-meaning male co-workers made room at a conference table for me one day, saying “Wide load coming through!” Men can be so hilarious, right?
Look At Me
In between work, dance class, and mommy life, I would take fabulous long naps with my oldest and snack throughout the day. So, when we were a few weeks away from delivery I had, what we refer to as, the explosive “Look At Me!” conversation, with my husband. It wasn’t really a conversation, it was more a me-shouting-and-him-looking-on-in-horror moment. It was triggered by the thought of living like that for another few weeks. I just didn’t think I could make it. I kept saying “Look At Me! Look At Me! Look At Me!” I guess I couldn’t believe how uncomfortable I was.
I really needed to give birth. Bad. One day, in the Sears parking lot after buying additional matching stuff that we didn’t need for the crib, I suddenly felt overwhelmed and anxious. I shared with my little red head in her car seat, that things would be different when the baby came. We might be a little sad because it would no longer just be the three of us, but that we would have to share our time, etc. And, in all her old soul wisdom, she said, “Don’t worry mommy, it will be alright.”
On a Tuesday, a few weeks before the due date, I was feeling fine and had a lovely visit from two old New York friends. But by Wednesday morning, at work, I felt faint. Luckily, I worked at a hospital, and the nurses checked me out and sent me off to see my doctor. She said I probably shouldn’t drive, and should start my maternity leave earlier than planned. So, I left my car in the lot and a friend drove me home. I cancelled my plans to join the in-laws for Passover that night, and sent the chicken off with my brother-in-law. I remember feeling like I was given a two-week vacation until my due date! Oh, the nesting I could do! On Thursday, while our beloved nanny, Grace, took care of my daughter, I purchased and wrapped a ton of gifts for the baby to give to her big sister. Grace promised to take care of our girl when I went into labor.
On Friday morning, our oldest accidentally knocked my husband’s Palm Pilot on to the floor, and it broke. Do you even know what a Palm Pilot was? It was one of the first personal organizer devices. Off he went without his toy, and off I went for a mani-pedi, the second one of my life. The first had been just before my oldest was born. I did some odd shopping with random gift certificates I had lying around, and packed in a million errands that day. I was exhausted, but had committed to taking my daughter to our friends’ house for a Passover Seder. I politely sat through the reading of the Haggadah, the discussion, the food, and the kids playing. I couldn’t wait to get home. I scooped up my girl after dinner and she fell asleep as soon as we got on the road. There I was on 880 South, when I had my first contraction. Hmm. Two weeks early, maybe I’m imagining it. There it was again.
I tucked my daughter into bed and debated if I should page my husband. Yes, we had borrowed a pager from a friend. Cell phones did not yet exist! My husband was gone all day, and would be over an hour away that night for a gig. He wouldn’t be home until at least 2:00 AM. As I continued to feel contractions, and sat on the couch debating the call, he walked in the door! Completely irritated and fried, my husband had driven the hour to the gig only to be told the club accidentally double booked two bands that night. So, he got sent home, and proceeded to share tales of woe about the myriad of things that went wrong for him that day.
When he was finished complaining, I told him I was in labor. He literally slapped his hands to his face and said emphatically, “NO! Not tonight!” He sank down to the floor and sat on the heater vent shaking his head. He spent the next couple of hours trying to talk me out of it. Describing how different I was behaving from the first time. Reminding me that we had two weeks to go. As if I had a choice. I just kept telling him to “Call Grace.” As I cleaned the bathrooms and the kitchen. “Call Grace.” I puttered and wrote notes and packed. “Call Grace.” I placed all the sister gifts on the table and around the house as surprises. “Call Grace.” Until finally I shouted at him to “CALL GRACE!”
He listened. Grace and her daughter came immediately and we went to the hospital. I delivered a few hours later. As rough as the pregnancy was, the delivery felt smooth and breezy. And surprise, another girl! No complications, no huge team of medical professionals crowding the delivery room! Just a regular old delivery, like in the sitcoms! Everything was VERY different from our first baby! I immediately announced that it was so easy, I could do it again!
It’s All Right
Of course, now, we can’t even fathom life before it was the four of us. Our number one daughter knew; everything was going to be both alright and all right. With 20 years passed since that day, I am happy to reflect on all that we have done for that baby girl, and all she has done for us. She obviously heard the “Look At Me” cries as a desperate plea for her to come early! I was ready, and she showed up for her mom! I know as parents we complain a lot about all we do for our kids, but we only do all that stuff because they do so much for us! Nothing compares to your toddler, or your adult child, hugging you and telling you everything will be alright. Nothing is as good as the pride you experience over all their triumphs, and the satisfaction you experience when you can help them with their challenges. Parenting really is a win-win, as far as I am concerned.
So, for all you young mothers who are so exhausted and don’t think you can manage another sleepless night, or deliver another baby, please don’t blink for too long. She will be 20 before you know it. She will grow and the world around her will be so altered. Share a cup of decaf with her now, and together, try to remember how that feels, for as long as you can.