Sunday, July 10, 2005

A Diary to my Daughter

A Diary with Emma

June 20th, 2001: Mommy woke me up like it was any other Wednesday morning. I asked her if I could sleep in a little bit, because I had no special need to be in early. She said no, that the coffee was ready and that I should take a shower and be ready to leave.

So I got out of bed and walked into the kitchen. I saw a special look in her face and asked her if I was going to work today. She said no.

I felt a little strange. Here was my baby, coming into the world exactly on her due-date. At this point, I didn’t know if I was going to meet little Benjamin or little Emma. But I knew I had to get things ready.

The first thing was to tell my boss that I wasn’t going to be in to work today. It was too early to call, so I decided to send her an e-mail. Down to the computer I went, and wrote: “I won’t be in to work today. I’m going to somebody’s birthday party!

I walked into your bedroom and realized that I hadn’t installed the ceiling light-fixture. What bright lights would be shining down on my baby! This just won’t do!

I noticed also that the dimmer-switch wasn’t installed. So I immediately rushed to install them. I realized that I was so nervous that it was probably dangerous to be working with electricity. But I had to get everything right! So I was just extra-careful. Mommy helped me as much as she could, but she was nervous and excited too.

When I put the pretty elephant and hippo embossed face-plate on the light-switch, I realized we had made a mistake. The embossing was too large, and the switch just didn’t fit over it. I had to figure something out. So I needed to go to the store and get some glue to install an extender over the existing switch. Off to the store I went.

Then I realized that I should go and tell your Grandma and Grandpa. Grandma was sleeping soundly in the chair we had lent her. She needed to sleep in a reclining chair because she had a broken arm. When Grandpa saw me he asked what was up. I told him that today was the day! Grandma was half asleep, but when she heard me and Grandpa talking she asked if Elysa had had the baby. I said no, not yet, but any time soon. I noted that when Mommy is given a job to do, she just gets it done! I couldn’t believe that you were going to be born on the exact due-date!

Then I came back home and figured out how I could accomplish my task. I needed to find some tape to hold the switch steady, because my hands sure weren’t doing a very good job of it.

Then I looked around the house for anything else that had to be done before you were born. Mommy had prepared everything we needed months in advance, and I felt very reassured because of that. But I still had to do my part. I was hungry, so I looked for something to eat. It was then that I noticed we had no bread.

No bread! Every home has bread! How can a baby come into an incomplete house! Off to the store I went again. I got the bread and went back home to make tuna sandwiches. I figured we may have awhile to go, and so it’s best to have eaten a little something. Still wanting to do my part, I decided that I’d make a few extra to bring along with us. Mommy wound up making them after-all, because as soon as I had finished eating mine I went back to fussing about the house making everything ready.

By eleven-thirty, Mommy decided that the contractions were the right amount of time apart, and because she had already called the hospital several hours before to make sure they were expecting us, the hospital even called to ask if we were coming in. We got the bags ready and got into the car. I couldn’t believe how calm I was driving. You see in the movies about the couple driving frantically and getting stopped by the police for speeding, and this was just the opposite! We even joked about that.

Even though we had not visited the maternity ward before, Mommy seemed to know exactly where to go. We got to the birthing center, and were greeted by Lorraine, the nurse on duty. Lorraine led us into the room, and Mommy changed into her gown.

We didn’t know exactly what we were supposed to be doing by this point. I tried and tried to remember what the prenatal courses had taught me, but I couldn’t feel comfortable. So we winged it!

At one point we walked around the birthing center. Mommy seemed to enjoy the walking, and I discovered it was a good way to get better magazines. There was only one other couple giving birth at that time, and the birthing-center looked as if it could handle twenty simultaneous births. All I could remember was that a friend of mine had told me that his wife had sat in the bath and that that had worked wonders. But it was too early for any of my ideas.

Lorraine came in and showed us some of the massages. I remember feeling so dumb, because Loraine was able to make Elysa feel better, whereas I couldn’t. I did the best that I could, and Elysa thanked me very much for my efforts. I felt pain at the sight of Elysa’s suffering. But Mommy showed no signs of regret!

The one massage that Mommy liked was the hip massage. She had lost some time at work due to hip pain, and I tried to do that one as much as possible. Finally the time came, though, where that just wasn’t enough. So off to the bath we went.

We undressed Mommy and got her into the bath. Lorraine had a hard time opening one of the jets, and asked me for some help. I tried, but at first couldn’t get it open either. Lorraine said that there was no use, it couldn’t be opened.

“No use!”, I thought. “I will get this thing opened if it’s the last thing I do!” These were the thoughts in my mind, but I knew I shouldn’t say them. I knew at that point that my personal vanity was completely out-of-place. Mommy was in some pretty serious pain at this point and I knew that comforting her was the thing that I had to do.

So I sat beside the bath. I remember feeling utterly useless, as Mommy winced at every contraction. I also noted the sense of relief she had at the end of every one, and a look of accomplishment could not help but spread across her face. We ended the second twenty-minute bath, and the contractions were still there. Mommy felt a little sad asking for the epidural. I so wanted her to feel that she needn’t, but she couldn’t help feeling that in some way she was failing.

Just after we started the third bath, she asked the new nurse, Mimi if she could have it. Mimi examined her and said that she was not dilated enough. She needed to be dilated to four centimeters, but she was only at about three and a half. But she couldn’t even complete her sentence when another very strong contraction had Mommy bearing down. Mimi looked at me and said that she would go get the epiudural ready now.

Both me and Mommy were very worried about that long needle that they used, but the doctor and nurses were all very reassuring. Mommy draped her arms around me and exposed her back to the doctor, and it was all over in a minute.

Mimi examined Mommy one more time. “You are fully dilated!” she exclaimed. This was no more than five minutes after the last examination. “It’s time to start pushing!” she said. After a bit of pushing Mimi told Mommy to relax a while and left the room. She explained that you were ready, but still had to come down the birth canal. Neither I nor mommy remember how long she was gone. I say that she couldn’t have been gone more than 15 minutes, Mommy says it must have been at least an hour.

I guess that Mommy was right. After all, Grandma and Grandpa had time to come to the hospital and give us the video camera. Either way, Mimi did come back and told us we should start pushing again. At this point, Grandma and Grandpa decided it was time for them to leave.

Mommy began pushing and it was not long before the nurse motioned for me to come to her side and see. There, inside Mommy I could see the top of your head. The color difference told me that it was finally going to happen, you were soon going to be born! I didn’t want to let Mommy know that I had seen you, because I didn’t know if that would help her or make her more nervous. After only a few more pushes, Mimi asked Mommy if she would like a mirror to see for herself. Mommy said no at first, but decided she would like to after all.

Mimi went to get the standing mirror and set it up. That was all the encouragement that Mommy needed! On the very next push, the nurse had to tell Mommy to stop! You were beginning to come out! Your head was outside about two inches!

Mimi shouted out into the hallway “Someone get Dr. Simon and tell her to scrub… Quickly!” When Dr. Simon got in, they both worked frantically to set up the gowns and get everything ready. They both noted that it seemed not to be Mommies’ first baby! She made it all look so easy at this point.

Dr. Simon encouraged Mommy to give another push and your head came all the way out, your body was inside but your head was out, and facing down. I saw you blow your cheeks out twice as Dr. Simon wiped your head with a soft wet cloth. She used a small syringe to get the mucous out of your mouth and nose and then asked Mommy to push once more. And that was it! You were born!

Dr. Simon held you up to show Mommy, and then exclaimed that we had a baby boy. She cleaned you off a little more and then noticed her mistake. You weren’t a boy after all, you were a beautiful baby girl! I looked at Mommy with the tears swelling up, and I couldn’t believe the joy that was pounding at my heart! We had a baby girl! Mommy looked so beautiful lying there looking at you! Her eyes were shining like puddles of soft green gold! Dr. Simon presented you to me, so that I could cut the umbilical chord. I did so with nervous, trembling hands. Then they put you on Mommy’s chest. What a beautiful sight you were, getting your first affections from your beautiful mother!

After an all-too brief exchange of affections, the nurse took you to the heat table. She began to administer a series of tests known as the apgar tests. You scored a nine-ten-ten on the apgar tests, but we were only to know that later. The apgar tests are given at one minute, then at five minutes and then again at ten minutes. They measure your body’s color, your heart-rate, respiratory rate, muscle tone, and reflexes.

I went to the table after she was done, and stared into your eyes. At only seven minutes of life, I was already bonding with you. Your eyes darted around the room and you grabbed on to my finger. We continued to look at each other for another two or three minutes, and then I went over and kissed your mother like I had never kissed her before.

Then the nurse wrapped you up and brought you back to Mommy! It was her turn to bond, and to look into your eyes and try to tell you how much you were loved. What a beautiful sight, you and Mommy together after an all too painful first separation. Mommy kissed you and I was told that Grandma Oostveen had showed up and was waiting outside. I rushed out into the hallway to tell her the news.

With tears in my eyes and my heart pounding in my chest, I cried to your Grandma “At seven thirty-six, Emma Becker was brought into the world!” I could hardly speak I was crying so hard, but Grandma just smiled! Back we went, into the delivery room. I had been separated from you for too long now!

I called Grandma and Grandpa Becker. I could hardly get the words out over the phone. “Mom,” I said, “You have to come to the hospital now.” I could tell that I was crying so hard now that my mother was probably worried that something terrible had happened. “She’s beautiful!” I said, the only way I could think of to let her know everything had gone well. Then I got the video camera and started to film you and Mommy.

In a very little while, I decided I would go down to greet your grandparents at the door. I hadn’t yet told them your name, and I wanted to be able to do so as soon as possible. I wasn’t waiting more than five minutes downstairs when I saw them drive up. Again I said those fantastic words: “At seven thirty-six, Emma was born!” My mother cried and hugged me and my father, still behind the steering-wheel of his car, and gave me a hug that I’ll remember forever.

It was time to go back up to see you. We rushed back up in to the birthing-room, and there you were, in Grandma Oostveen’s arms! Time to get the video camera! At exactly fifteen minutes of life and after you were placed back under the heat lamp, I began to film the first shots of my new daughter.

When I had filmed enough, the nurse told us that it was time for you to go to the nursery and receive some medications and get your registry filled. They told me that I would come along, and I remember thinking that they were darned right! We got you on to the nursery table, and the nurse there put some ointment in your eyes. Then she got out the needle with the vitamin K and told me that this was to help you stop bleeding if you got cut. Before I could figure out what was happening, I saw the most horrible thing!

Another human had made you cry!!! This was the first time in your life that I heard the sound of pain in your voice. You made it known that you did not appreciate being stabbed in the leg with that needle! I knew that the nurse was doing this because the pain you would feel from the pin-prick far outweighed what could happen if you were to not be able to stop bleeding, but the hairs on my back stood up anyway as I went into protective mode.

After a few more brief examinations, we started to clean you up to go back to Mommy. The nurse explained a few things to me about cleaning you, things that I absolutely did not hear. There were too many words in my head already, and all I could do was smile at you. The nurse told me I would be wheeling you back in to the delivery room. As I rolled the table down through the hallway, I told you that this was the first drive that you were taking with Daddy.

More video and pictures were taken. Everyone wanted to have a memory of their first contact with you. Mommy asked if she could have the cookie that the nurse had told her she couldn’t eat while she was in labor. But after a little while, it was time for me and Mommy to be alone with you.

I kissed Mommy and you both on the cheek, and noted that the feeling of kissing you and kissing Mommy was not quite the same. I knew then that a new kind of love had entered my life. I kissed Mommy again to savor the beautiful feeling of her touch, and I looked into your eyes once more. I couldn’t believe how beautiful you both were.

Then it was time to go, and I knew there was plenty that I had to do. Even though it was eleven o’clock, I wanted to go to the store and buy you a present. A little stuffed bear! A baby needs a bear! But it was no use. I would have to wait until tomorrow to buy you the bear. But the dogs! I have to go home a wash the dogs! They’re going to protect you, and they have to meet you in order to know who to protect! And how could the dogs meet you if they were not perfectly clean? So I went home and washed the both of them, until three a.m.

I went to bed for the first time without my family in the house for me. I cried hot tears as I realized how much I missed you both. Visions of you and Mommy danced in my brain as I slowly drifted off to sleep.

June 21st: Morning came early that next day. I knew I had to get back to the hospital quickly, to make sure you were both well. Mommy gave me that reassurance when she called, and asked when I would be back to the hospital. But I had a bear to get! And emails and phone-calls to make! I called Lisa, then Patti, then Vicki and Bob. I tried hard to phone Aunt Lorraine and Uncle Andy, but they were away.

I stopped by Grandma and Grandpa’s house, and went off to Toys ‘R Us. I shopped through all the bears until I found one precious enough for you. I remember the feeling of pride I felt when I went to the counter to buy my daughter her first toy!

I clutched the bear tightly in my arms as I raced up the stairs of the hospital to greet you both again. As I opened the door to the room my heart filled with pride as I saw you suckling on your mother’s breast.

Mommy asked if I wanted to have you lie down with me, and I said yes. I held you against my chest as your mother griped at me about having tied my shoes too tight. She wanted me to take them off so I could be more comfortable on the bed. Later that afternoon I walked down the hallway of the hospital, as everyone who saw you remarked how beautiful you were. I have never felt that kind of pride before.

Grandma and Grandpa came by the hospital to see you also, and each took their turn holding you. I remember how good it felt to kiss your little cheek, and how your eyes turned towards me every time I did so. But soon it was time again for me to go. I had things to do! Grandma and Grandpa drove me to the party-supply store, and I got the letters that I would spell out “Welcome, Emma, Bienvenue.” I needed to share the joy that I had with the neighbors, and I remember thinking that this was also a way to get others to help me watch out for you.

I came back to the hospital as soon as I could, and already visitors were lining up to see you. Genevieve and Frederic came to see you (some friends of mine from work) and took digital pictures of you. Jeff and Lori came by and brought you your brown teddy. David Bandura was by to see you, and Elizabeth and Micheal. Valerie, Erika, Anne-Marie and Daniel came by too. Grandma Oostveen had been there for quite some time now.

All the fussing over you came to an end all to quickly that night. Again it was time for me to leave you. I stayed on a little while longer and slept with you on my chest for the first time. It was a very light sleep! Again I had to leave you and go home.

It was all I could do to prevent me from going back to the hospital and sleeping on the floor, and I knew Mommy would get mad at me for doing it, but I let Norton and Othello sleep with me that night. After all, they were clean and I desperately needed to hug something to sleep. He was never as good as you for that purpose, but tonight Norton would have to do.

I had predicted a lot of the events of those few days. I had predicted that you were going to be born on your due-date and you were. I had predicted that you would be born around eight o’clock in the evening, and you were. And I had predicted that you would be home with Mommy around noon on that next day.

June 22nd: I got the call from Elysa that morning, telling me that you would be coming home as soon as the nurses and doctors had taken a last look at you. I told Mommy that I had a lot of things to get done!

I started to give the house a final cleaning. I mopped the whole house, upstairs and down and put every last little thing away. I gave every room a once-over to make sure there was nothing to trip over or put in your mouth. And I knew I would have to eat something beforehand, so that I would not be interrupted in this most important task of getting you home safely.

At eleven thirty I showed up at the hospital. Mommy said that she wanted to take a shower, and that gave us a chance to catch up on old times together and have another nap.

I was awoken from another very light sleep when the doctor called me Mrs. Becker. He placed a stethoscope on your chest and you complained loudly of the cold. He moved all your little parts around, making sure that all was well and told me that when Mommy got back we could go. Mommy showed up just at that moment, and the Dr. gave us some last minute advice. We only had to get the blood test done and we could go.

Here it was, the time had finally come to bring you out into the world. I brought the car around and Mommy made sure that you were perfectly strapped in for the car-drive home. I put the four-way blinkers on, and remembered to take them off every time I wanted to signal a turn. I also made Mommy check your breathing four times on the short ride home. Mommy made fun of me, but I was taking every precaution and feeling really good about doing so.

As we drove up, Grandpa took pictures of our arrival. Mommy and Daddy were so proud that we had gotten you home, and I put on your very first album to listen to: CBS Masterworks “Portrait of Wynton Marsalis”. I remember that I wouldn’t even turn on the radio, I wanted so much for this to be your first album.

You never made it to the second album. You were tucked away in your bed with people fussing all around you after the first album was done. Soon the commotion subsided, and Mommy and Daddy were alone in the house with their new baby girl. Uncle Andy and Aunt Lorraine were the first people to come by to visit you. I was so happy to see them, because they are my god-parents and I know that they have cared for me my whole life.

More people came by the next few days to see you, and we had our first dance together on your second evening home. It was “Teach Your Children Well” which I chose for the lyric “teach your parents well.” I knew by that point that you had taught me a lot already, and knew you would continue doing so far on into the future. It is now the second morning that you have been home, and I began writing this to you just last night.

You know how beautiful life is? One thing that we cannot experience first-hand is the moment of our birth, or even our first accomplishments. Our first breath, our first words, our first steps… All these are experienced vicariously through our children. You have brought me and Mommy our vicarious experience of our own beginnings. I wrote you this so you didn’t have to wait so long. But I know how much this will pale in comparison to the experience of the birth of your first child.

I love you, Emma!



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