Your 10th birthday was yesterday, and I hope it was all you ever dreamed of and more. I hope you thought your slumber party was a blast, and I hope you enjoyed all your birthday gifts. I also hope you are not thoroughly sick of me getting all up in your grill and joyfully yelling, "DOUBLE DIGITS, BABY!" over and over and over throughout the day.
In my defense, I waited ten years to do that, and I would not be denied.
Your birthday was all about you, but of course, I have found a way to also make it about me, because your birthday was also the tenth anniversary of me becoming a mother. (Let's not leave Dad out of this either.)
A decade of parenthood.
That's kind of a big deal.
When I found out I was pregnant with you, almost 11 years ago, I was 25-years old, married to Daddy for a little over a year, and completely ecstatic at the news that we were going to become parents. Wanting to be the best mother I could possibly be, I devoured books about parenting, and subscribed to websites. I thought that these were the places that had all the answers. The more I read, I also thought, the more I knew about parenting.
I was prepared. PRE. PARED. Nothing was going to surprise me! Parenthood? Bring. It. On.
And then, you were born.
But more about that later. Let's backtrack.
You were three days overdue, and I was contracting heavily without so much as a centimeter of progress when my obstetrician sent me to the hospital with a wave and a, "Get outta here! Time to go to the hospital to have this baby!"
Huh? Today? But isn't it supposed to be like on those TV shows when I contract once, clutch my stomach, burst into happy tears and say to my husband, "Honey! It's time!"
Not so much.
After checking in and settling into the hospital, the nurse came to administer my Pitocin, so as to kick up my contractions a notch, and get my labor officially started. As she worked around the room getting my IV bags set up, she casually said, "Honey, do ya think you're gonna want the epidural?"
With all my 26-year old
Because, you know. The books said it can be done. And if the books said it, then it must be true.
And darn it all if I wasn't going to be a good mom.
At that moment, with all her experienced nurse bravado she spun around, and came to sit on the edge of my hospital bed. I could tell that she sensed my fear and my hesitation. She looked at me and said in her sweetest voice as she took my hand in hers, "Honey, do whatever you want. We'll help you. But I just want you to know that if you choose the epidural route, nobody will think you're a failure. You do realize that we don't walk around this hospital hanging award ribbons on the outside of the doors of the mothers who manage to give birth naturally. Whichever way you choose to get through your labor is just fine. I just want you to think about that."
No awards? No accolades? No extra cup of green jello? No ticker tape parade? No announcement on the hospital loudspeakers of, "MANY CONGRATULATIONS TO CLARE, THE MOTHER OF THE YEAR, WHO MANAGED TO GIVE BIRTH WITHOUT THE AID OF A SINGLE, DINGLE DRUG. WOO HOO AND MANY SNAPS TO HER! CAN ALL OF YOU PATIENTS JUST TAKE A MOMENT OUT OF YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED PAIN AND SUFFERING TO GIVE HER A ROUND OF APPLAUSE, PLEASE? THANK YOU!"
Dude. Some serious re-thinking was in order. My world had just been rocked with this should-have-been-quite-obvious-to-me revelation.
Her words hit me like a ton of bricks, and I still remember them to this day. Now, I know that every single day, there are many women in the world who give birth completely and 100% naturally. I have the utmost admiration for all of them. I do not know how they do/did it. Respect, yo.
But I soon realized after a mere two hours of Pitocin-driven labor, that I most definitely would not be one of those women. And surprisingly, I was totally okay with that. Birth plan, schmirth plan.
As they say, you plan, and God laughs.
Thank goodness for the epidural, because I have no idea how I would have survived the 12 + hours of hard, active labor, what with you being almost 9 pounds at birth.
Anyway, long story short, you were born, and you were healthy, and I was floating on the Sea of Epidural. Life was good, and the best part? I still felt like a good mom.
Then we took you home from the hospital. Me being me and all, I was prepared. Prepared, I tell ya! PREPARED!
We put you in your car seat. Check! We drove home safely. Check! We took you out of the car seat. Check! We showed you around your home. Check! You let out a mighty wail that shook the walls of our small, Chicago 2-flat. Um...no check.
Alright. Alright. I said to Dad, "I can totally handle this! I bet he's hungry! I know I just fed him 30 minutes ago, right before we left the hospital, and the books said they're supposed to eat about every 2 hours or so, but I'll feed him, because I bet he's hungry."
So I nursed you. And you ate. And ate. And ate. Then you ate 30 minutes later. And then you ate 45 minutes after that. And then you ate. And ate. And ate.
You were like the baby who ate the world. I couldn't keep up. I would finish feeding you, hand you to Daddy who would burp you, and then you would lay on him for what seemed like 10 seconds, until you would start wailing, shoving your little fists in your mouth, and looking for some food, which, WHADDYA KNOW? Lucky-Duck Daddy could not provide for you.
"Um...Clare?" Dad would say to me just as I would almost doze off to dreamland, "Um...I think he's hungry again."
After the 2,475th time of feeding you in one day (you should know by now that your mother is prone to exaggeration at times) I started crying. In my hormonal, post-pregnancy, completely exhausted brain, I cried to Daddy, "I'M DOING SOMETHING WROOOOOONG! HE'S BROKEN OR SOMETHING! HE JUST WON'T STOP EEEEATTTTTINGGGG!!!! THE BOOKS SAY HE'S SUPPOSED TO EAT EVERY TWO HOURS, AND HE EATS EVERY TWO SECONDSSSSSS!!!"
It was at that moment that a lightbulb went off in my brain. The books were all stinkin' liars.
Well, maybe they weren't so much stinkin' liars as I realized that they were just guidelines for how to do this job. Yet, I was taking their contents for fact, and as a result, setting myself up for feelings of total failure. Sure, the average newborn eats every two hours. But clearly, you were an exception, and you were not "broken".
To the contrary, you (as are all your siblings) are positively perfect in your own little way.
As we moved through the days and weeks and months together, we perfected our little dance. I understood your cries. I learned your cues. I knew when you were hungry. Or upset. Or tired. You taught me more about being a mother than any book ever could. Yes, the books know a thing or two, but I learned to trust my instincts and relax. As our family grew, my confidence grew. Your two brothers came along over a few years, and then, eventually, so did your sister.
The four of you are the best teachers that Dad and I could ever hope for. We often have moments where we stop, look at all of you and think, "Wow. We did that."
It is our pleasure and honor to be your parents. Your kind heart and sensitive soul gives me hope for the future. Thank you for being born.
This decade has been the most monumental one of my life. Here's to the next one. Bring it on.