Each child is special. And vital and important in their own right. But one of the reasons that Jessie’s birthdays are so significant for me is because she’s my first. Ten years ago, right at this very moment, the snow was starting to fall a little harder (we ended up getting a foot of snow the day she was born) and I was on my way to the hospital. She was late, and had been breech up until the last moment. A c-section had been scheduled, and then cancelled when she flipped into position a week before her due date. The due date had come and gone, and I was scheduled for an induction on Feb.10. But at 6:28 on Friday morning, I woke up with a horrible back ache. It came and went, every five to seven minutes, and I was terrified. Thrilled, but terrified.
We got to the hospital (Marc insisting that I sit on a towel in the car, in case my water broke), only to find out that my regular OB wouldn’t be there, her husband had fallen on the ice and broken his leg. My mother, as luck would have it, was also at the hospital, she had also fallen on the ice and was going to the ER. I think she ended up with a knee brace, or limped a lot – that detail is somehow missing from my memory.
The labor went well, they broke my water pretty quickly, as I remember, and I made good progress, about a centimeter an hour until mid afternoon. I got the epidural when I was around seven centimeters or so, and after that… my labor just stopped. I stopped dilating and then Jessie started showing signs of distress, and eventually, I ended up with a c-section.
Jessica was the prettiest baby I’d ever seen. Because she hadn’t been down the birth canal, her head was perfectly shaped, and she had the biggest, most beautiful eyes. Her nose was perfect, and her mouth really did look like a little rosebud. But it was her hands that made the biggest impression on me. They were my hands, just in miniature.
Right from the very beginning, my relationship with her was … I don’t have words. Which is rare, I like words. But it’s impossible to explain what it was like, having her for a daughter. I was a daughter, and was very, very close with my mother. But this was different. Similar, although obviously from a different perspective. But different. I was, and am, in love with her father, and trust him as I did no other, but this was different. More… primal and absolute and absolutely overwhelming. She simply was the most important thing I’d ever been a part of, and I’m failing miserably to explain how profound the change was. From Melissa, before Jessica, to Melissa, after Jessica. Everything was different. Having her changed every aspect of my life, not just the way I got along with my siblings and family and friends, but the way I approached my job (it was now strictly something I did for health insurance and food for Jessie) to the way I thought about myself. I no longer defined myself as me, I was me with her.
And ten years has passed, and the intensity has lessened. It has to, of course. She’s her own person, with thoughts and feelings and actions that are entirely her own. And I have two more children now – and love and adore them as much as I do her. But she is still my baby, my girl, my first introduction into the me that I am today. And she’s ten years old, and that absolutely astounds me.
At ten years old, Jessica is tall and slender. Still underweight, all long legs and long arms. Long brown hair that she wants desperately to have be curly, and still the most gorgeous eyes. She’s all drama and intensity, with this goofy side to her that comes directly from her dad. She’s horrible to her brother more often than not, but sometimes she forgets that she hates him and then they’re wonderful together. She dotes on her baby sister, and is better than almost anyone at distracting her and calming her down when she gets upset. She’s stubborn and funny, showers for hours on end and loves the trashiest television. This child would watch Dance Moms and Honey Boo Boo for hours if I’d let her. She likes books about tragedy, she’s not a fluffy book reader at all. I read indiscriminately – she reads very deliberately. And she reads like her dad, slowly and remembering everything. When she picks a book, she’s going to live with it for a while, so she’s careful with the selection. She still sleeps with her teddy and her Poopadoo baby doll is now relegated to a cradle out of Julie’s reach, because she’s been so well loved, it’s a real risk to have her be played with – she may well fall apart.
After ten years of motherhood, I can say that it’s so much more than I thought it would be. So much harder, so much better. I couldn’t have predicted that my heart would break as easily or as often, watching her learn how to navigate in this world. I couldn’t have predicted how much I would love her, how grateful I’d be, every day, for the chance to be her mother, to have her for a daughter. There are times when she’s driving me nuts, there are times when I wish desperately for an off button so that she’d just go to sleep already, and there are times when just the mere fact of her is still enough to make me catch my breath in awe.
She’s what started it all for me. It’s been ten years, and I can’t remember who I was before I had her in my life. But I’m so, so grateful for the past ten years, and the thought of the next ten, and the ten after that, and so on and so on is enough to make me smile. Being a mother, being her mother, is all that I ever wanted to be. And it’s so much better than I thought it would be.
Happy birthday Jessica Mary – I simply adore you. I’m so glad I got you for a daughter.