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  • Writer's pictureKim Christesen

The Story of You

Do you know the story of you, of how you came to be? Have your parents told of the day Mom went into labor while she and your dad hunted for bathroom flooring tile? Perhaps she mentioned the 36 hours she endured without food, in the same way you might inquire to pass the ketchup on meatloaf night. Maybe your mom became the poster child for Lamaze, objectified and studied by nurses using her as a live training session. Did she happen to speak of pushing you out in the cold January darkness without so much as an IV for fluids?

After listening to my parents recall January 5, 1974, I can only now appreciate their journey. Considering I asked for the drugs within seconds of my arrival to birth my firstborn, I can assure you my tale is nothing like my mother's.

Each of us has a story of how we came to be. I know mine, and I'm grateful to still have my parents here with me, wishing me a happy birthday, recounting my birth and the day they first became parents.

But now it is my turn.

I’m approaching a milestone, or rather you are, my darling daughter. I’m not sure if I’ve ever shared with you the story of your arrival 18 years ago. I think it’s important to tell you where you come from, to know where the roots took hold in our family tree. And as you become the adult your father and I take immense pride in, I want you to know your own history.

How it Started

In January 2005, your dad and I were married less than two years. That’s what happens when you don’t meet the love of your life until you’re on a blind date at age 28, set up by your own mother for that matter. If Nana and Papa wanted me to move out, they could have said so.

Having time to be a couple was something we both wanted, but watching others struggle with miscarriages and complications snapped us back to reality. Me, and my body, weren’t getting any younger. My mom had me when she was only two weeks away from her 28th birthday, followed by my brother 2 years later. By society's standards, I was running behind.

Hoping to save as many sick days as possible, I taught 5th grade until the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. I was only 2 days from your official due date, and after seeing the doctor that morning, slightly dilated. I called your dad at work after that appointment, and could hear the nervous anxiety in his voice. While I had been teaching and caring for children most of my life, he was less certain about this whole parenthood idea. Too late now, buddy.

I recall going home, a small two-bedroom townhouse with a loft. Trying to encourage your arrival, I climbed stairs, paced back and forth inside, and dragged out the exercise ball to sit and bounce. I was ready to get this show on the road.

Your dad came home after work, making us baked chicken and Stove Top stuffing for dinner. We must have talked, though I don’t recall our conversation, as I headed to the small bathroom off the kitchen. I was always heading to the bathroom. You had a habit of pushing on my bladder, using it as your personal punching bag.

I remember sitting there, clearly done with a now empty bladder, as the sound of more water gushing into the toilet startled me. Still seated, I reached for the door handle, one of the perks of a home with a closet sized powder room. Trickling more with each movement, I knew my water had broken.

The image of looking out to see the kitchen table, your dad seated with a bite of chicken on his fork almost to his mouth, is one I will never forget. I remember his face, frozen in time, as he sat there a moment, not eating but not comprehending, motionless.

Your dad never ate dinner that night, a decision that returned to haunt him about 12 hours later.

None of the books prepare you for how to ride to the hospital in a car with cloth seats while leaking amniotic fluid. They don’t remind you that the favorite sweatpants you are about to pull up will likely go into the trash. We improvised by folding an old towel for me to sit on. During rush hour, as the snow fell from a promised storm, your dad maneuvered his way toward the hospital, which on a good day was 30 minutes away.

I had a few contractions on the car ride. On a scale of “Nothing to see here” to “What level of hell is this”, these tightening sensations were somewhere in between. Probably a solid “I should have just stayed on the pill and avoided this whole adventure.” I don’t know what was going through your dad’s mind, other than getting to the hospital and cursing the idiocy of drivers who had never seen snow in the Chicago suburbs until that night.

Once we arrived, the nurses checked to ensure I was having this baby, and not just some phantom gas pains from a meal I never ate. Monitors were put in place, IV's inserted, parents called to come wait with us in expectation.

And so began our journey, one as unique to each child as their DNA, the one that proves you can read all the books, take all the classes, watch all the films, and listen to countless stories from your friends without realizing how utterly unprepared you will be to meet your own child for the first time.

How it Went

I do not recall the name of my anesthesiologist, but I do know he was worth every penny he was paid. If I could have written him a 5 star Yelp review, I would have.

It was no secret I wanted an epidural. While I don’t fear needles or IVs, and I’ve experienced surgery and physical therapy, there was not one single particle in me that wanted to be some kind of martyr, vanquishing pain with mind games, spending an uncertain number of hours going through the birthing process.

For those who have done home births, water births, and birthed countless babies with nothing more than ice chips, and a reminder to “breathe”, I commend you. But that is not me, that has never been me. I dislocated my knee three separate times, twice requiring an ambulance ride and a doctor to snap the kneecap back into place. Both times, the EMTs provided me with the most magical of carpet rides, using "happy gas" and what I assume was a stretcher. If those events taught me anything, my dear child, it's that your mother has a pain tolerance, and childbirth was sure to outweigh them all.

After 18 years, it’s hard to recall every detail. At some point, they told me to push, and I did. And I did it again and again until you slipped into this world around 3:00 am on January 19, 2005. The first thing the doctor said was “It’s a girl,” and as I looked at your dad, I saw a mirror of my own disbelief.

We had chosen not to find out if you were a boy or girl, and we had names ready for either revelation. There are so few true surprises in this life, and we would welcome the baby we were given.

But you are the first grandchild on both sides of the family, and there's a history of only having boys on your dad’s side going back generations. Don't get me wrong, there's a history of women in that side of the family too. They just marry in.

For this reason, your dad completely expected you to be a boy. Though I never had a strong feeling, I guess I simply went with that line of thought as your entry drew near. Regardless, I think it was more the shock of you finally arriving, knowing you were here and whole, and that we were now parents that had us surprised more than anything.

I say this, of course, before we actually saw you.

As the doctor held you up, there were two immediate things which stood out to me: Why is her nose crooked and why does she have a full head of black hair?

Yep, that’s right, my beautiful, sweet, precious sandy blonde daughter. The day you were born, your nose was smashed in from having spent a little too much time pressed up against some of my bones, and you looked like the result of an affair I’d had with the mailman.

At 31 years and two weeks old, I had long sandy blonde hair (even without the highlights), and your dad, as you know, is so blonde haired, blue-eyed and fair skinned he gets sunburned mowing the lawn. You looked like someone had dipped your hair in black ink. It was long enough to almost need a haircut, and in the coming weeks and months people would mistake you for being older than you really were.

Some babies born with hair lose it all and regrow from the peach fuzz stage. Your hair, my daughter, just grew and grew. At 5 weeks, I could put a tiny unicorn ponytail on top of your head. By 2 months, we had to trim some bangs, and the lighter hair growing from your skull was countered by the black tips at the ends from when you were born.

How It Ended

There was one minor complication after you made your arrival. My placenta did not deliver after the birth, as it is supposed to, so the doctor had to remove it. Yes, it is as painful as it sounds, and it caused me a lot of blood loss. I remember the doctor barking orders at the nurse to turn back on my pain meds, because this part would not be pretty.

I don’t remember where you were or where your dad was at that moment. I’m sure a nurse had you and was cleaning you up, and your dad was mostly by my head or holding my hand. I’m sure he’s blocked this part from his memory, as it likely worried him more than he ever showed.

Thus, I think it is excusable to state that your dad did go off to puke in the bathroom once I was in the clear. This is where his non-existent dinner, combined with the stress of seeing me in discomfort, mixed with the joy and anxiety of your arrival, sent him over the edge. At some point in the morning, I sent him home with Grandma to get a shower, food, and sleep.

Just a day later, we took you home, placed your burrito wrapped-self in a bassinet, and got to the business of being sleep deprived parents to a newborn baby girl who developed colic for the next 6 months. I believe we went through three vacuum cleaners, as the noise (and nursing) were the only ways to calm you down and get you to sleep.

The truth is, we’ve been stumbling around since the day you arrived, trying to be the best parents we can be, knowing we are making mistakes, but hoping we haven’t done too much permanent damage.

And now, as you turn 18, we can look back at the story of your birth, and all the stories you’ve helped us write from then until now, and see them as a beautiful novel, with chapters upon chapters left to be written.

You, daughter, are the child who made us parents. We have helped you write the first part of your story, but the rest remains yours to tell. Where you go, what you do, who you choose to become are daunting tasks, but we will always be here to guide you, support you, and love you unconditionally. You are the dream we brought to life, and in you we could not be prouder.

Happy 18th birthday Kaitlyn Rose.

With all our love,

Mom and Dad.

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