Six Years Old

In the past three weeks, we’ve been sick, healed and inspired. We’ve knit, sewn, built, drew, and all-out created. We’ve gone to bed early and slept late. We’ve traveled to another state, kept the board games out and the computer off. We’ve cooked a lot. We’ve eaten turkey, too much pie and ugh-not-again-leftovers. We’ve welcomed unfortunate news alongside of the wonderful news of new island babies.


Tonight, after frosting cupcakes and wrapping presents I sat down to write Betty’s birthday letter. Each birthday and each year, we write a letter.

:::

9:29 PM December 1, 2010

My mind swirls. With the recent loss of an old friend and current hospitalization of my father, it’s hard to bring clarity to this page. In the spirit of the aforementioned, I’ll do this a la stream of consciousness –

Six years ago I stood in our un-renovated Victorian home doubting myself. Six years ago I stood in our first home on another island’s prairie trying to read a chapter entitled “Labor.” I thought I’d save the best for last in the doom & gloomy What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I’d read a bookstore full of natural birthing books and taken two birthing classes. Two months of bed rest had me ready, or so I thought. Now I was scared and doubting myself. What to Expect had me fearing the worst.

In the bathroom with the leaky roof and the baby slugs, I’d lost something akin to a jellyfish hours earlier, something like an invitation to your birth. I doubled over with each surge, gripped your Daddy’s shoulder tenaciously and with strong waking will. He’d worked for a day and a half on some power outage and made it home for the first real contraction that afternoon. What he didn’t know then was he’d work throughout the night before each of my labors. It was nature’s way of leveling the field I suppose.

Ten hours into your labor, the music was blaring. Candles on, pets at my side, me on the floor, the window seat, the balance ball, the couch and me, well, going out of my mind. My contractions were four and a half minutes a part and lasting a minute. The back labor was intense. Luke called our doula, the fantastic Mrs. Moore who doula-d for over twenty years, would end up at two of our births and trained the magical woman at our third birth. Well, she walked into our great front door like Mary Poppins. Within minutes, Luke felt helpful, supported and I was calm, breathing, on top of things. She massaged my back and, most importantly, looked into my eyes and told me I was fine. We stayed like this on our old red velvet couch, then new, by the light of my grandmother’s lamp until 2:00 AM.

With contractions three minutes apart and lasting a minute, I was sure you were on your way. In the hospital, I had to first step on a scale. I weighted 198 1/2 lb. In the end, I thought if I was going to get up there, I might as well enjoy it. Up until the last three weeks, I had eaten stellar. Then I had a silly, bed-rest-passing plan. What if I had tried to get to 200 lbs and while your dad lost twenty, so we’d weigh the same for once in our lives? I thought we could celebrate with a big cake with 200 candles on it. Your Daddy wanted no part. He thought it sounded much more fun on my end. But, see? We kept in good spirits.

In our world, some people get all too concerned with weight. The 70 pounds you gave me showed the world the important baby-growing I was constantly up to. And Betty, although I have stretch marks from each daughter, I’ll always know which are yours. Like a map to motherhood, these marks were made with love and care. In your sixth year, as you become aware of how differently people look, I hope you never lose sight of your confidence and the glow of beauty from within, in both yourself and others.

At 2:00 AM, I was 2 centimeters. Really. After twelve hours of labor. I walked up and down the hallway in the hospital gown the nurses who spoke of macaroni salad recipes insisted on. Your Daddy and Mrs. Moore held my hands, supported me with each rush each three-minute cycle. A brunette nurse came on shift, had been not only our doula’s best pal, but also a midwife in Canada. She allowed us to hang in the Jacuzzi room for three hours. Uninterrupted. Candles on, music on, I worked through each contraction, passed out each two-minute cycle for a minute and held onto, well, squeezed and squeezed your Daddy’s hands. I ate granola bars to keep up my strength, drank lemonade and wondered if you were a girl or a boy.

I had something called Group B Strep, which was like a harmless germ within my body that I needed a shot of antibiotics for. That shot happened after the scale incident but kept onlookers from seeing if you were on your way out. Since Daddy was around us throughout your growth, I couldn’t catch any germs from him. He was asked to check me to see if you were on your way out. I remember the look on his face and how he said it was like jell-o, with softball a thumb’s length away. I think it’s neat he got to meet you before he knew if you were a girl or a boy. Just baby, on the way.

A few minutes passed and you turned around while I stretched back in the tub’s jets. The turn was violent. See, you’d been coming down the wrong way and decided to flip. In the process, my coccyx broke. Sure, we needed a walker for six weeks, but girl, you were worth it.

Seventeen hours into labor and it was half past seven in the morning. I wasn’t sure I could make it. I asked who turned on the jets in the tub while the hands of the clock pointed down to me. My water broke and turned to froth. Soon, I got out of the tub, walked across the hall into room 4. I pushed for an hour until you were our sweet Elisabeth Rose at 8:35 in the morning.

We stayed in room four for four days. We dressed you in pink, counted your fingers and toes, and lightly touched your thick brown hair. Your hair fell out a little while later, only to be replaced with the familiar blonde we know so well around here.

It began to snow a little while after. The first snowfall on our island.

Experiencing my first birth, your birth, was magical. And, having a natural birth was something very important to me as it was the first gift I wanted to give you. In turn, you gave me a new characteristic and for that I thank you. It can take a long time to learn things about yourself and it took me until your arrival for me to realize I was tough. Before welcoming you into the world I never would have used tough to describe myself. You’ve taught me I can handle whatever the world throws my way. You’ve taught me to be my best self. And when your Kindergarten teacher told me she sees a lot of you in me, it was the best compliment I’ve ever been given.

Thank you, Elisabeth Rose. Sweet birthday wishes to you.

We are so proud of you in this sixth year. So proud of you. Such simple words, but so poignant, so true. You’re a wonderful person. Creative, kind, polite, funny. So many things, really.

We love you. Happy Birthday, daughter, big sister, friend.

:::

One sunny and new Winter day, you walked up Goose Rock at Deception Pass with your first Dog, Huck, by your side.
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In your first few weeks, you ate and slept while I smiled and knit.
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I dressed you up in silly things like crocheted rollerskates.

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And your dimples are still the best when you smile.

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Happy 6th Birthday to my sweet Betty Rose.

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