It’s currently 6:19 p.m. Eight years ago, at this time, I was hooked up to a fetal heart monitor and a contraction monitor, giddy, blissed out, and bouncing around. Which proved the point that I wasn’t “fully in labor”, as my doctor tried to point out to me, from the safe distance of across the room. Further backing up his claim was the fact that when he asked me if I wanted to hang around and see if thing progressed, or if I wanted to go home, I chose to go home. Because at one day shy of being a full forty weeks pregnant, early stages of labor or not, I wanted Chik Fil A, and you just do NOT get between a hugely pregnant woman and her food.
In hindsight, I get what the medical community is saying when they break down labor into stages. I do. I understand how they need to classify who’s more in labor than others. But I can also remember thinking, when a contraction ripped through me and I attempted to remove my husband’s testicles with my finger nails (obviously, I didn’t succeed since we had two more children), that if you feel like your back is filled with crushed glass and a giant is twisting it? That’s labor.
All told? I was in labor with Amethyst for thirty-eight hours. I pushed for two hours before she finally graced the world with her beautiful soul, covered in her own meconium from a bowel movement she had while in utero. I can remember thinking during the pushing phase that she was in there, hanging on to her umbilical cord like a protester, shouting, “Hell no, I won’t go!” I can remember in the moment before that final push, my doctor looking up at me and saying, “You’ve waited twenty-seven years for this, are you ready to become a mother?” and wanting to cry. I can remember, as clearly as when it was happening, the fear that ripped into my heart when I did not hear her cry, and how panicked my voice was when I asked the doctor why she wasn’t crying. “They’re discouraging her from crying in case she asphyxiated any meconium, Amber, ” he said while stitching me up. “Trust me, they wouldn’t be discussing their Christmas plans so calmly if she was in trouble. She’s fine. I give you my word.”
I can remember when they finally brought her over to me to hold thinking, “If I don’t hold her right, will they take her away from me?” And how when they placed her in my arms, she fit perfectly, and I finally understood what so many people meant when they spoke of love at first sight. And I can remember how on Christmas morning, she managed to hit me with a stream of urine from two feet away during a diaper change. I can remember how a few days later after her belly button stump finally fell off, we gave her her first real bath, and once we wrapped her up in her towel, she shit all over it in protest at being clean.
I remember her laughing hysterically when I would say, “Boop! Boop! Boop!” and video taping it, a video that to this day makes me howl with laughter. I remember her calling me “Mama” for the first time, and how she told her father the words, “I love you” first and feeling hurt over something so small. I remember how her face lit up when she walked across our living room and into our kitchen without falling for the first time. I remember how jealous she’d get of my oldest nephew Luke when I’d hold him. How for the most part, you could put her in her crib at night and say, “Night Tookie, I love you,” and she’d go right to sleep, but occasionally, she wanted to be cuddled and rocked to sleep.
How she went through a phase of calling me “Noggie” instead of “Mommy” or “Mama”. How she never once crawled out of her crib. How she always has done things in her own way, on her own time line. How after I gave birth to her sister, she refused to look at me in the hospital and for the first few days home because she was so angry at me for having another baby. And how her face looked when she realized that mommy’s and daddy’s always have more room in their hearts, and will always have more than enough love for how ever many children they have. And how she was so helpful when we brought her younger brother home from the hospital a year and a half later.
I remember how bravely she, after a summer of saying there was no way she was going, took a deep breath and let go of my hand and walked right to her seat in kindergarten, teaching me more about courage than any other person I’ve known in my life. How she drew me pictures and would sit on my bed and talk to me, “So you don’t get bored”, after I had my hysterectomy in November of 2010. How she would shout, “Hey, need a hug over here!” randomly. How much she adores her friends and tackles them with hugs every time she sees them, and tackles them with even fiercer hugs when they say goodbye.
How when she got her ears pierced last fall, she squinted her eyes shut, and after it was finished, looked at me and said, “That’s it? Man, that didn’t even hurt!” How last spring when my first book hit the number one spot in its genre and she asked me what I was so excited about, and I told her, she said, “I’m so proud of you Mommy!” How when I asked her if she knew why mommy was taking a week’s long trip last September, she thought for a moment and said, “Probably for poetry or a chapter book, I’d guess.” And how when she saw me before she went to school the morning I finally made it back to Texas, how she ran down the stairs to throw her arms around me and hug me.
Like first love, a first child is different. Because it is a first love in its own right. It doesn’t diminish or darken or change any other love you experience in your life, but it changes you forever. Last June, a friend asked me what I’ve learned from being a parent. And what I’ve learned is that I have far more strength, patience, and love than I thought possible. Being Amethyst’s mother has shown me a side of myself that I didn’t know existed. It’s given me a gift that has changed me always and forever, and that is the gift of understanding, the gift of patience, the gift of unconditional love.
Happy eighth birthday, Amethyst. You have given my life it’s meaning. I love you.