I remember it well, that day five years ago. Two days before you were born, it was Easter Sunday and Grandma and Pop were coming down to see us and share an Easter meal with us and your Grandma Shaw. I woke up tired of feeling tired. So I got out of bed, got a shower, and got dressed. I put on a blouse, a skirt and even pantyhose! I drove myself to the grocery store and bought about $400 worth of groceries and a few bundles of firewood. I loaded it all into the car and headed home. I had just learned that your second cousin Olivia had been born that day. Once again, my cousin Valerie beats me to the finish line; she had also finished her college degree a few months before I did making her the first one on that side of the family to accomplish it.
We had a good day, if unremarkable. Grandma and Pop returned home and your Daddy and I talked about mundane things. He was planning on helping Matt hang drywall the next day. I was a bit disgruntled; I would have liked some company. But we went to bed that night and all was well. The next day, I moved from the bed to the sofa, where Midnight the cat and I snuggled under the quilt your Aunt Alicia made for you. I watched opening day of the baseball season. I believe the Pirates were playing someone (the Mets?) and Whoopi Goldberg was in the stands. But, I was in and out of sleep all day long, so I can't be sure.
The next morning I woke up and knew it was going to be your birthday. My water broke and amniotic fluid and relief washed over me. I was more than ready to see you. I climbed into the shower and quickly got myself dressed. I went to your Daddy and said, "I don't think you'll be helping Matt drywall today." I tried to reach your Grandma, but couldn't. I ended up catching Pop at home.
"Uh, hi Dad," I said, "My water broke and we're going to head on over to the hospital."
"Really?" he said, skeptically. I think he thought I was putting him on. I don't know where he'd get an idea like that; you'll have to check with him.
"Yeah," I said.
"OK," he agreed, finally realizing I wasn't joking. "I'm waiting for the bank to open to deposit this check and then Mom and I will come straight down." He had just sold his Acura Integra and wanted to make sure the check cleared.
Your Daddy and I gathered up some towels and a ticking, brass alarm clock with a second hand to time contractions. We were mostly bemused as we drove the few miles to the hospital, not sure what we were getting ourselves into. I was trying to track the contractions, but they were not very strong, perhaps imagined.
We parked the car and made our way to the front desk. I was embarassed because the water just kept coming and it kind of looked like I peed my pants. Your Daddy told me not to worry about it and led me on to the registration desk.
I ended up in a birthing suite and was immediately hooked up to a variety of monitors. I was a bit disappointed; this was not what I expected. From all of the preparatory videos I had seen, I was expecting to be free to walk around in order to let labor take its course. But, alas, labor was elusive and I was tied to the bed by wires and tubes.
Grandma and Pop arrived a few hours later. So did your Aunt Alicia and even Rachel and her family, who by luck had happened to be in the area on their way home from vacation. Everyone was in good spirits, except for the doctor. She was concerned that even with medication to help it along, labor was not starting. She feared that you were in distress. At 3:00 p.m. she decided an emergency caesarian section was necessary.
I had not planned on this. I was prepared to face the pain of childbirth, but not surgery. My blood ran cold as nurses shuffled everyone but your Daddy out of the room. They slapped an oxygen mask over my face and I became paralyzed with fear. Your Daddy held my hand and started singing a song to me. It was a sweet song, but too sad and I asked him to stop, the lyrics being I awoke the very next morning, and she was gone.
They wheeled me into surgery and sent your Daddy off to get prepared to come in the operating room with me. The anesthesiologist began to tell me about getting a spinal block. He had me round my back and inserted a needle into my spine. It was a strange feeling, kind of like what I imagine an alien might do to me if I were captured and put in a lab.
They laid me out on a narrow table with arm rests that went out on either side, kind of like a cross. While my body began to numb, your Daddy returned and the anesthesiologist began to explain the pain killers.
"We will be giving you morphine, you won't feel any pain, but your nose and face may start to feel itchy. If it does, let me know and we'll get you some Benedryl."
I nodded. Very soon, I began to feel the morphine. Frankly, I wanted to jump out of my skin. I felt terror. But that soon passed and I started to feel dreamy. Your Daddy sat to my left and the doctor and her team crowded around my abdomen. Fortunately, there was a surgical blue curtain blocking my view of the procedure. It hung across my chest and went up about two feet. I could see the doctor's head and that was it. I took turns alternately watching your Daddy watch the surgery over the curtain and watching the dwarf in green velvet pantaloons, stripey socks, and curled-toe shoes skipping around a maypole on the other side of the room. I also wondered why there was a young guy leaning against an incubator behind your Daddy. Maybe he was the doctor's son and he was observing the surgery before she dropped him off at soccer practice.
As the doctor and her team worked on me, I felt like there was a very large cat walking across my tummy. My face began to itch and I said so to the anesthesiologist. She started the Benedryl in my IV. The doctor joked with the nurses and with your Daddy. I watched the dwarf. Eventually, I heard, "It's a girl!" I looked up as the doctor lifted you up and your head peeked over the edge of the curtain like a puppet. She said in a high voice, "Hi Mom!" and then you disappeared, screaming. I began to cry with joy
They took you over to the doctor's son and he began to examine you. Then I realized he must be the pediatrician. Once he was satisfied, he handed you off to the nurses who cleaned you up while the doctors began to bind my wounds. Your Daddy went off with them and helped. The nurses were taking bets on what your weight was. I lost the bet as you weighed seven pounds and four ounces and I guessed seven pounds, seven ounces. I was wheeled into the recovery area and began seriously to itch.
When I was in my room, the wheeled you in on a bassinett, wrapped in a hospital blanket and wearing a pink skull cap. You were perfect, of course. You had blonde curls, blue eyes, and an outstanding voice. Your hands were curled into little fists. You were warm and smelled sweet. I couldn't believe you were here at last.
As the days passed, your Daddy and I began to realize we had no idea what we were doing and that there was no book to help us. We had to write our own manual as we went, with your help. Thank you for helping us find our way and tell our story.
You are an amazing young girl who is destined to accomplish many amazing things. I love you Riley, and happy birthday.