Today is Mary Ann’s birthday. Ten years ago today, at 9 in the morning, I was laying in a hospital bed trying not to hyperventilate as I silently dreaded the spinal anesthesia and thought about how hungry I was.
Actually, I thought about that most of my pregnancy. From the second I found out I was expecting, I was so very sick. As a new grad nurse in the emergency department on night shift, I routinely puked at work. And everywhere else until I was about 24 weeks. Turns out, I had gall stones. This resulted in my being on a low-fat diet throughout my pregnancy. Any time I consumed any food with more than 5 fat grams, I would be writhing on the floor in pain, begging God to take me. But I wouldn’t go to the ER. Oh no. Absolutely not. For reasons defying logic, I automatically assumed that if I went to the ER, all the people I worked with would have to see me naked, or put in a Foley catheter, and I would rather die than have either of those things happen, so I laid in the bathroom floor every time my will power faltered and I ate a corn dog. Some women feel beautiful when they’re pregnant. I just felt hungry.
Finally, in my last trimester, I had the ultrasound of my gall bladder to confirm my OB/GYN’s suspicions. The ultrasound tech said, “Can you roll over on your side a little more? Her head’s in the way.” So I was no expert, but even with my first year nurse knowledge, I knew that by 34 weeks, the baby’s head should not be near my gall bladder. I said, “No, you must be mistaken. She’s head down. They told me at my last appointment.” To which the ultrasound tech replied, “Not anymore!”
This was followed by a visit to my OB, and I was given the “bad news” that I would need a scheduled c-section because Mary Ann was trying to make her debut butt-first (Frank Breech for all you politically correct ones out there). Both of her little feet were up by her ears, which was near my gall bladder apparently. I think the midwife was hesitant to tell me I needed a c-section. First time pregnancy and all. Most women have these fantasies about birth plans, and minimizing pain medications, and the beauty of a child entering this world assisted by persistence, determination, and a yoga ball. I’m not that person. I HATE the unknown with a burning passion. That lady telling me that I needed to have a scheduled c-section was music to my ears.
What she basically said was, “Be here by 9. We’ll plan to have you scheduled around 11, and as long as you’re not bumped by any emergent cases, you’ll be holding your baby by shortly after lunch.” What I heard was, “You don’t have to have contractions for hours and hours, or worry about your water breaking at Wal-Mart, and you can pick your child’s birthday.” (Yes. I’m aware this amounts to some type of personality disorder, and no, I don’t want you to fix it).
So, by 12:15 on 4/15, I was holding my sweet little girl. I had never really pictured my life with kids. I didn’t have strong feelings one way or the other about having them at all. But as soon as they put her in my arms, I knew right then I would die for her if I had to. Almost immediately, I thought, “I need another one!” ( I know—part of the disorder).
When I left the hospital, my Other Half would get up in the morning and leave me on our bed with a yogurt, granola bar, bottle of water, stack of diapers/wipes, and Mary Ann. And he would say, “Don’t move until your mom gets here.” I tried to follow the parenting dos and don’ts. I was fanatical about everything. I needed it all to be perfect. This kid was going to have the best childhood ever, and the best of everything and everyone in her life. And we would always be happy and smiling. In short, I was nuts.
Fast forward 10 years. I leave Mary Ann asleep in her bed at 10 AM and go to Chick-Fil-A to pick up birthday breakfast, stop by Krispy Kreme and Starbucks on the way back. We spend the day cleaning out her room because she wants to paint and re-decorate into a more pre-teen type pattern. Although we can’t go anywhere, or plan any kind of a party because of all the pandemic restrictions, her dad ordered her a beautiful cake (thanks Jen), and we let her pick what we would do for the evening. The cake was a surprise. He picked it out himself so she would still have some birthday fun, even without the party and normal activities. She loved it. She said it was perfect. We eat dinner, everything is going great. The time comes to unbox the cake and “blow out the candles.”
That’s when I realize, I didn’t buy any candles. I rummaged through “the drawer”— you know, that one everyone has in their kitchen where they put tape measures, ink pens, scotch tape, greeting cards— and I came up with a FortNite candle that said “Battle Royale” or an “8”.
Mary Ann said that the only way a FortNite candle that Benjamin Button had probably spit all over was going on her cake was over her dead body. So we used the 8. (Sorry Mom. But really, are you surprised?) Somewhere between giving birth and the 153rd night that I woke up every 2 hours before going in the next morning to work a 12 hour shift, I fell right off my pedestal. As Christina Yang would say, “The mighty have fallen, and there was a very loud thud.
Fortunately, if motherhood has taught me anything, it’s that kids don’t really care what you buy them or if you remember candles. They just want you to be there. Show up. Listen when they talk. And let them be themselves. She ate the cake, didn’t care about the candle, and we went on to watch Home Alone 2: Lost in New York because that’s what she picked.
Mary Ann has been a sort of high-maintenance kid. She woke up to nurse every 2 hours until she was 9 months old. She didn’t sleep in her own room consistently until she was 8. She routinely sat by my side when I was in graduate school studying and would look at my text books asking age-appropriate questions like, “Why do your books have pictures of naked people?” And “What’s a macrophage?”
She has a stubborn streak a mile-long. I told her dad today to think of it as he’s raising a leader, not a follower. She likes to play guitar from time to time. She loves to paint, and I think she’s pretty good at it. She is a firm believer (like Big Mama was) that “Ice cream makes everything better.” She snuggles. She sings. She tolerates my love of audiobooks (except for the ones the Lord wouldn’t approve of as we recently discovered), and she has one of the most compassionate hearts of anyone I’ve ever met. She’s sassy, and strong, and not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. I am honored to be her mom. Even though her birthday was a little different this year, I hope she still had a good day. I can’t wait to see what all she does in this world. Happy Birthday Mary Ann! Don’t ever change.