The Darling Has a Birthday
The other day I was running on a trail that goes along a dry wash here in Tucson. It was gorgeous out, seventy-something degrees, and I was listening to RadioLab, a podcast I'm crazy about. The most recent episode is called 23 Weeks 6 Days, and the whole hour is about a couple who has a baby at that point in gestation, and the difficult decisions they face, and how science lends insight to those decisions (or doesn't).
Henrietta turned one year old almost exactly a month ago, on October 9. And since then I've been trying to figure out how to capture it, or what to say about it that would be meaningful. It was both a very big day--almost a sacred day, to me--and fairly ordinary. On her actual birthday we took her to a farm with a petting zoo and pumpkin patch, and on the way home we got her a small cup of vanilla ice cream. And it was a sweet day, but of course she didn't understand any of it.
When I turned around to head back to my car, the woman was just about to go into labor and they couldn't hold it off anymore, and she and her husband were talking to doctors about their options and the various risks. And suddenly I was bent over on the trail, sobbing. Everything about my difficult pregnancy flooded me, and my gratitude that we were spared those difficult decisions was so humbling that I wasn't sure I could finish the run. It seemed like I should sit right where I was, far from my car, and not move for a very long time.
|Henrietta on her first birthday, visiting a farm.|
|Checking out the smelly sheep.|
That Saturday we threw her a small party and I made her a kitty cat cake, and while she really loved the balloons and her cake, she didn't understand any of that either. We had a friend tell us that the first birthday is really for the parents, and it gets progressively more about her as she gets older, and that seemed true. We made it to a year; we're here; we're a family; she's changed absolutely everything, so let's just stop and think about that for a second.
She changes so quickly now that I feel like I can't keep up with recording what she learns. She's such a spunky, vibrant, vocal, curious soul. She spends all day walking through my mother-in-law's house, picking up items that strike her fancy, putting them into other objects, stopping to consider, and then taking them back out and going on her way. She laughs a lot. Sometimes she sits on my lap and I manage to get her giggling, and then we both just giggle, and I am astonished all over again at how lucky I am that she's here. She is literally the greatest pleasure of my life, and how can I possibly capture that? How can I possibly thank her and thank God and thank whoever or whatever else is responsible?
|Birthday Girl, with Crackers, I|
|Birthday Girl, with Crackers, II|
|With her dad, and cupcake.|
When I got done with my run, I stopped by the grocery store on the way home, so when I came in I was bustling around the kitchen trying put everything away and trying to get us lunch and therefore trying to keep Henrietta from attaching herself to my legs. I was saying things like, "Okay, I know Sweetheart. Just give Mama one second." And though my tone was kind, it was my kind tone that isn't authentic; it's my tone that channels the nice mommy I know I'd like to be, and not the really nice mommy. But when I went to put away a head of celery, that podcast popped back into my head, and I put the celery down, and picked Henrietta up, and held her, and kissed her, and hugged her and told her I loved her and thanked her for coming to be my kid, and my voice was breaking and Sam was asking what was up, and Henrietta was squirming to get down, having received enough attention, thank you very much.
I don't know why were spared the difficult decisions and heartbreak of a very premature birth. We were expecting one, and trying to prepare as best we could. And if she'd come very early, we would have fought with her and for her and would have been glad to do so, though it would have drained us. And I guess I don't have anything more profound to say than that about her first birthday. This has been the fastest and best year of my life, and I am grateful, more grateful than I've been for anything in my life, to have my dear and darling Henrietta Plum.