Did I pull you away from a hot date? That's what I wanted to ask the nurse midwife. This wasn't what I expected at all. She was supposed to be rubbing my back. Spooning ice chips into my mouth. Instead, she leaned against the wall in her periwinkle scrubs. Kept snapping her gum.
"Can you break my water, or something?" I said. "So we can get this party started?"
'Cause I'm not smiling anymore. Not like I was when I walked into the hospital two hours ago. Back then the nurses had talked me into going natural.
"You can do it, honey," they said. "If you're smiling and cracking jokes when you're seven centimeters dilated, you'll be fine."
Found out later, they needed natural births to even out the statistics of all the epidural labors.
The midwife uncrossed her arms, checked out her manicure. "Sure," she said.
The long crochet hook-looking instrument felt cold against my thigh. The gush of fluids was warm.
Almost instantly, hard labor ensued, and I wished I hadn't been so eager for the party.
The tears came. Then the cussing. "It feels like I'm pooping out a globe."
"That's bowel pressure," Miss Personality Plus said. No duh.
My fingernails bit into my husband's arm.
He petted my hair. "Won't be long now."
I squinted and hissed at him. "Get your face out of mine. You're stealing my breath."
And then 20 minutes after Mother's Day was over, you slipped into the world. Looked like a golden buddah baby. 'Cept you weren't bald. You had loads of black hair. It stood on end, once they wiped you dry.
I marveled how your head was round, unlike our firstborn's. She'd looked like a conehead from Saturday Night Live when she came out. Way back when.
"That's one of the benefits of a quick, natural delivery," the midwife said.
That and being able to get up and walk to the bathroom five minutes after the baby squirts out of your body. I thought that was pretty cool too.
I craved sour stuff when I was pregnant with you. Pickles, mustard, Subway veggie sandwiches with Italian dressing. I paid the price for that. You turned out feisty. We called you Sour Flower and Sass and Vinegar.
But when you were sweet? Oh my! You'd hold the sides of my face and say, "I love you, Mommy. With all my heart." You stole my breath, but I didn't mind at all.
When you hit six months you stopped growing. Everything but your head circumference.
"Is there a history of growth disorders in your family?" The young doctor asked me that. Didn't put her hand on my shoulder, or pat my knee, or anything.
I looked at my feet. "I'll ask and get back to you."
Thing was, you were such a mellow baby. Never yelled for nothing. Not for a diaper change. Not 'cause you were hungry. I just fed you whenever I remembered.
After that, I did everything everybody told me. Fed you every three hours. Drank fennugreek tea. Had a shot of Guinness Stout every day. Bit by bit, you grew. Not a lot, but enough to smooth out the ditches in the young pediatrician's forehead.
When you were two, that whole year? You wore a dress every single day. And a high ponytail too. That's the way it had to be. And those red glitter Mary Jane shoes from WalMart? You wore them out 'cause you loved Dorothy, and her little dog too.
You'd clutch a throw pillow to your chest and stick the middle and ring finger of your left hand in your mouth. You'd suck 'til your knuckles had little teeth impressions. The sucking always started when the flying monkeys appeared. And when you laid down at nap and night, you were fine as long as you had those two fingers in your mouth, and a cloth diaper to rub against your peach skin-feeling cheek.
You didn't talk much 'til you hit three, and then it was like your mouth was a river and someone opened the locks and dam. We couldn't stop the words from coming out. Sometimes we had to put you in the dining room while we ate. To give our ears a rest.
Right before you started kindergarten, I cut your hair. I couldn't get the brush to the end of it without you pitching a fit, so I took my big, blue sewing scissors and cut off six inches of brunette shine. I still have it. In a jar, on the shelves, in the tv room.
One day you told me where babies come from. You were in the first grade, and some little boy had told you on the schoolbus. Right after he kissed you on the mouth. I remember thinking, "Oh, so that's why some people homeschool."
One time you slept over at my friend, Barbie's house. She had a daughter about your age. Barbie called me the next day, full of giggles.
"She's so funny. Me and Jeff videotaped her. In case cable ever goes out."
You told Barbie you were gonna adopt a Chinese baby girl someday. "'Cause I know where babies come from, and that's not happening to me!"
For five years, you wanted to be a marine biologist. "I'm gonna have a pet rat, and it's going to ride on my shoulder whenever I go down in my sumbarine."
"Right. Sumbarine," you said. "And I'm never gonna move away from you and Daddy."
"But there's no ocean in West Virginia."
"I don't care."
And then one day you didn't want to be a marine biologist anymore.
"Drama's my thing," you said.
Your dad and I looked at each other. "We know, honey," we said. "We've always known."
We knew it from the first time you sang, 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow,' with Judy Garland. We saw it when you twirled around in the size 2, yellow Belle dress, when you were six. You had skills.
You still do. When you walk onto a stage, all eyes are on you. How can they not be? You have it all. Beauty. Presence. Voice.
And you're still wee. For the longest time, I thought it was all my fault. That I wasn't a good mommy. That I didn't feed you enough. Then, when you were 11, we went to that family reunion on Daddy's side, and your daddy and me? We were about the tallest people there.
I looked at him, and he looked at me, and we lifted our chins. "Oh. So this is why she's so--"
This week marks 15 years since you arrived. Since the party started. And well, since a star was born. Happy Birthday, Plum Ball. Cookie. Sandwich Child.