My daughter was almost two when I became pregnant with my son. She was curious and fiery, sassy and sharp, creative and snuggly, and (although I may be biased) strikingly beautiful with her fair porcelain complexion that could sprinkle with freckles in even a drop of sunlight, red curls framing her face and hazel blue eyes.
All of these things were glorious. But my very favorite thing about my daughter is her kindness and her compassion (now I’m not saying all day, everyday–she is still human–and her brother may dispute this claim, but when it happens it is truly spectacular).
When my son arrived, it was earlier than expected, almost six weeks in fact. So my then-husband and I were in a bit of a scramble the morning I went into labor. We had not planned for his arrival this early… What to do with the baby (our daughter, in this case), so I was off to the hospital solo. And as I left the apartment, I could hear her crying “mama” as I entered the elevator.
I waddled onto the sidewalk, encountering my first big challenge: how to get a taxi to stop for a pregnant woman in pajama pants. My attire left no doubt that I was in labor and therefore an undesirable passenger–everything from the fare to the upholstery was at risk. Luckily a traffic cop took pity on me and forced a cabbie to halt, and off we went. My mind jumping between the baby that was trying to get out, and the other one who wanted me to come back to her. She had no idea that when I would see her again, we would have another addition to the family. Sure, we talked about it: “mommy has a baby in her belly” and “you’re going to be a sister” but she was two. What did that even mean? A doll? A puppy?
My son was breech, so I had to have a C-Section. We waited and waited for the right time to go into surgery because I had a bite of food that had to be fully digested. People were coming in and out of my room–family, nurses, doctors–to encourage, to check on me and the baby in-utero, to discreetly get information to pass on to those not in the room, and as we waited we chatted.
One maternity nurse in particular knew my brother-in-law, who was (still is) a teacher at a local elementary school. Meeting someone who knew my brother-in-law was quite common. In fact, on the Upper West Side, (with a heavy concentration between 66th and 72nd), most families with grade school children know and are quite fond of him. This nurse got very friendly with us as I waited things out and as we got to talking I told her about feeling torn between my baby still gestating and my baby still in a stroller.
Sometime after that I went into labor and delivery. By the time I was back in my room and holding my newborn, my daughter was with my mom–and would be sleeping away from me for the very first time. My daughter would be coming the next day. I asked someone to go get a copy of that book–I had to have it for her. Luckily, it is difficult to say no to a woman recovering from surgery who is also a hormonal mess, so I was obliged.
The next day she came and met her brother for the very first time and I watched her stroke his sweet, soft head and giggle with new big-sister glee. I gave her the book and for the first time read to her the line for that we would repeat over and over again many times for the next twelve years:
“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby (or mommy) you’ll be.”
Fast forward to now. My girl is fourteen, almost fifteen. She is a young lady. She is spectacular, she is complicated as most teenagers can be, she closes her door, she gets mad at me, she loves me. She needs me, then she doesn’t. Soon she will be going to college. I want so many things for her. I want them so much, it makes me ache sometimes. She makes me so proud. She makes me so happy, she makes me so mad sometimes too. The love for my children is so great it is blinding at times.
This week she texted me as I was on my way home from work:
“look on my dresser, there is something for you. happy bday”
This is what was inside: