Twenty years right at this minute.
I'm stunned it's been that long, when I think about it.... twenty years since that day I went to see some long since forgotten film with Mother, that ended with her leaving in a huff, me waddling up the long drive to the house, the Ex helping me put Jarhead and TheInvestment to bed.... he decided to run errands, his way of getting out for a bit.
My back hurt some, but, then, I was the size of a house... a split level house. He was gone a bit when I realised my back hurting was something we call 'labour'. No cell phones, none of my friends were home, I was not due for another five weeks.
My Mother's phone was busy, and even though I worked for the Corporate Giant, I didn't think to have the operator break in on the line to tell Mom she needed to get back in her car and come to where I was.
I did call my friend and doctor, who lost her usual composure to tell me to "....get here ASAP!!" when I said my contractions were around 5 minutes apart.
Instead, I washed out some nice underwear and took a shower.
The Ex came in, humming a tune, and asked why the dryer was running for a few things. I toweled off and said I was in labour.
By this time, a friend had shown up to watch the boys in their sleep. I was still quite calm. He went into throw everything into the van mode, including me and my still damp underwear. Off we went into the dark Colorado night.
I was panting and clocking things at every two minutes.
His comforting words?
"Don't push, for God's sake, don't push!" Since I agreed with his thought process, I worked on not pushing. After all, I was a tad bit early in the delivery process.
We raced down the Diagonal Highway between Longmont and Boulder, me huffing and puffing, him trying to keep me calm. I still remember him reaching over, smoothing my shirt over my tummy, speaking to me, to our unborn child.
We hit the outskirts of Boulder and I said, still very calmly, "You have to stop.. we need film."
"We need film. I have a camera, no film. Get some."
The Ex was one to watch pennies... he had to, we had a large family.... the only thing open was the corner store, the kind that charges you $2.00 for a candy bar. He dashed in, threw a large bill at the counter clerk, and yelled, "Keep the change!", running back out to the van with the insisted upon film in his hand.
I heed and hooed.
Finally, we arrived at the hospital, two hours after I'd made the call to the doctor, telling her I was in labour. You think she'd have been happy to see me, right?
Up she walked... all 5'4" of her, blonde curls quivering in rage.... she grabbed the front of my cute maternity smock and said, "WHERE. IN. THE. FUCK. HAVE. YOU. BEEN?"
What? I can't shower and shave and pick up film? Just because my baby is breech and early?
I was thrown into a bed, wires attached, machines turned on and everyone peered at the sonar machine....
A collective gasp of relief went up.... the baby had turned, no breech birth was going to happen. '
"So, do I get to go home?" Five heads, including the Ex's turned and five voices said as one, "NO!"
I was in for a birth....
A needle in my back, blessed relief from the labour pain (yes, it is pain) and we were ready. Ex was with me the whole time, holding my hand... both of us worried... she was going to be very early.
The usual jovial nature of my doctors was subdued, they worked quickly to get her out... I felt the tug, the pull... and silence. No cry that I was used to hearing upon the immediate touch of air to my child's face.
A small gasp, then she cried... still not huge yelps, but, a cry nonetheless. They held her up for me to see, my girl I'd waited for.... she was deep blue. Before I could appreciate her beautiful face, she was whisked over to the doctors waiting to rub her, get her going, help her breathe. I heard them give her APGAR.... it wasn't very high.
Ex patted me, stroked my face... I had him go with her, I'd be fine. Suddenly, I was in pain, the meds were wearing off and I was there, with my body cut open.
"I can feel that!", I said. "I can feel you."
They brought my daughter over, quickly.....she was so, so beautiful... soft, pink... mewling now. My sweet baby girl. Then, I was out.
I woke up a few hours later, and looked over to a crooning in my dimly lit room. In the other births, the Ex had gone home, dealt with the children there, home, work. With this one, he chose to stay with me, had a cot put there in my room... he was sitting on the cot, our tiny preemie in his arms, an IV strapped to her arm, oxygen being fed to her, she already had pneumonia. He was singing to her, talking to her, kissing on her minute face.
"Here's your Mom." he said. "She's been waiting for you for a long, long time."
I've never bonded with any of my children at first sight... I'm not wired that way. I would fight for them, defend them, at one point, I suddenly adore them... but, that instant love never happens.
With HRH, there was something... she was my own baby girl. She was helpless and there and struggling. She opened her eyes and that was that.
I looked down on her, and sang to her the song my grandmother sang to me...."Oh, K-K-K-Katie, beautiful Katie... you're the only g-g-g-girl that I adore. When the m-m-m-m-moonshine comes over the c-c-c-cowshed, I'll be waiting at the k-k-k-k-kitchen door."
Hokey, yes...but, it made sense at the time.
She and I snuggled down and went to sleep, with our matching IV's and oxygen bottles.... she later went on to have RSV and croup and to drive me mad with a number of other things.
She's married now, with a husband and two children she's learning to raise...she's in school and growing to be a woman. I am as proud of her now as I have ever been. Our road together isn't always smooth, she is far too much like me for that to happen. I don't like every decision she's made, she's not wild about mine. Still, I can close my eyes, and think of that first time, of the time I saw her last.... her joy in life, her belief in herself, her love of her husband and her new family, her devotion to her siblings, the deep satisfaction she gets in learning, the chuckle that starts low in her throat, her dimple, her quick anger and her quicker forgiveness, slender arms, beautiful hands moving in the silent language of the deaf, body folded up on itself when we watch films together, bumperbutt, my one, my only HRH.
I'll be waiting at the k-k-k-k-kitchen door.
Happy Birthday, heart of mine.