Monday, April 25, 2011

Cheek to Cheek

The saddle block was wonderful. It allowed me to lie back and take in the unfolding scene, the birth of my daughter, my first child. I sometimes think that perhaps it was the first time I had truly found love.

It was a scene from a movie. It was someone else having the baby I watched being born. I felt no pain, only a tremendous sense of awe.

"You have a girl," Dr. Green announced. "A beautiful baby girl with a lot of hair."

The tiny baby made a mewling attempt to cry as she shook in the doctors hands. I looked at her feeling nothing. Who in the heck was this baby? I had trouble realizing that this baby I saw and the one I carried were one in the same. I had expected an instant maternal power to take over. Hm. I was crying with joy, but who was this baby?

The baby was placed in a tray beneath a warm light. Her head was turned toward her parents. I had as yet to touch her. Her teeny hands were pressed together as in prayer and tucked beneath her sleeping head. Dark hair clung to her tiny head. It was at that moment that I fell in love.

Back then, they didn't give you your baby until you were back in your room. We waited....and waited....and waited. Finally a nurse I secretly named Tugboat Annie (because she always carried two bundled babies into our room, one under each arm) brought the tightly bound little girl to my waiting arms. She gave us permission to unwrap the small package so we could check all working parts.

Two tiny fist, smaller than an egg, shook as we unwrapped her. Gingerly we checked her tiny feet marveling at the softness of her skin. She had her first tantrum as the cold hair touched her newborn skin, flesh that had not yet been touched by an outside world. I held her tiny head in the palm of my hand.

"She's mine," I said over and over to myself.

This was right before the realization hit me that I'd never taken care of a baby before. This maternal thing had still not yet clicked in. I was even afraid to turn her over unless I had permission from Tugboat. A bit of fear was niggling at my insides. Maybe I could send her back.

The next time the bundle came to the room packed like a loaf of bread, I was alone with her. I think it was a moment I share with any person who has a baby, be it by birth or by adoption. I introduced myself saying the word "mother" for the first time. Again, the butterflies attacked my stomach and expressed themselves by the tear on my face. I told her I didn't know what to do with her, but I would try my best. I told her I couldn't send her back, so she would have to cut me some slack now and then. Then I held her to my face, cheek to cheek, and told her that I would always love her.

We have come a long way since that day on April 25, 1972. The struggle for mother and daughter to co-exist began with a strong-willed toddler. The overwhelming joy of watching her grow from baby to adult has no words.

A child comes into a family asking for nothing more than unwavering love.

The day my daughter was born, a mother was born as well. Happy Birthday to us both.

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