“Hey lady, did I yank you away from a hot date?”
That's what I wanted to ask the nurse midwife. 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.
"For crying out loud,” I said. “I’m almost all the way dilated. Think you can get over here and break my water or something? So we can get this party started?"
She uncrossed her arms and shrugged. "Sure."
The long crochet hook-looking instrument felt cold against my thigh. The urgent rush of fluids almost burned me. Within moments, hard labor ensued and I wished I hadn't been so eager for the party.
The tears came. Then the cussing. I gripped the bedside rails. Spoke through the fence of my teeth.
"I know I said I didn’t want an epidural,” I told Frosty the Snow Midwife, “but on second thought, I do. ’Cause this feels like I'm pooping out a globe."
My husband petted my hair. "There, there. Won't be long now."
I heaved myself up on my forearms. Flung eye knives and words in his direction.
"Get your face out of mine. You're stealing my breath."
Twenty minutes later, twenty minutes after Mother’s Day 1995 was over in fact, you slipped into the world. Looked like a mini golden buddah. Except you weren't bald. You had heaps of black hair that stood on end once they wiped you dry.
Later, when I was alone with you, I plucked off your pink pompommed baby cap and twisted your hair into little Billy Idol, standup spikes. Whispered into your wee and warm, almost purple ear.
“I have no idea what you’re gonna be when you grow up, Flower Doll, but I’m pretty sure you’ll be awesome.”
For some reason, when you hit six months, you stopped growing.
"Is there a history of growth disorders in your family?” The young doctor asked me that. Didn't rest her hand on my shoulder, pat my knee, or anything.
I lifted you off the exam table. Clutched you close to my heart.
"I'll ask around,” I said, “and get back to you."
Thing was, you were such a mellow baby. You never yelled. You didn’t pitch fits. Not for a diaper change. Not because you were hungry. I just fed you whenever I remembered.
After that appointment though, I did everything everyone told me. Drank fennugreek tea. Set an alarm for every three hours to nurse you. Guzzled 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, you wore a dress every day. And a high ponytail. That's the way it had to be. And those red glitter Mary Jane shoes from WalMart? You wore them out because you loved Dorothy. And her little dog too.
You didn't talk much until you hit three and then it was like your mouth was a river and someone released the locks and dam. There was no way we could stop the words from gushing. Sometimes we sat 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 a brush through it without you needing a timeout, so I located my big, blue sewing scissors and sheared off six inches of brunette shine. I still have it. In a jar, on a shelf, in the TV room.
When you were in first grade, you let me know where babies come from. Some ornery boy had told you all about it on the school bus. Right after he kissed you, French style. I heard that and thought, "Oh, so this is why some people homeschool."
I remember your first sleepover. “She’s so funny,” the mom said when I picked you up. “We videotaped her. In case cable ever goes out."
You’d informed her of your plans to adopt a Chinese baby girl someday.
"'Cause I know where babies come from, and no sperm’s getting in this body!"
For five years you wanted to be a marine biologist. "I’ll take my pet rat down in my sumbarine every day and I'll live with you and Daddy forever."
"Sub-marine,” I said as I tucked the covers under your chin. “And just so you know, sweetheart, there's no ocean in
" West Virginia.
"I don't care."
One day you didn't want to be a marine biologist anymore.
"Drama's my thing," you assured us.
That didn’t surprise us one bit, but five years and a dozen plays later, you squirmed out of the grip the stage had on you.
“I’ve decided to get a PhD in history,” you announced one night at the supper table, “with an emphasis on World War II, specifically The Holocaust. I’m going to be a history professor.”
My gaze met your dad's and we grinned. I leaned toward you. Secured a hank of your brunette shine and twirled it around my pointer finger.
“Whatever you end up doing, Flower Doll, making history or teaching it, I’m pretty sure you’ll be awesome.”