My sister made a point to tell me Happy Day for Claire's birthday, and told me she always feels extra special on her kids' birthdays. I felt special but sort of bitchslapped too, so much so that I ended up crying at the bakery when I picked up Claire's fancy cake for the family party. I thought of how I'd brought home a cake from that bakery when Claire got home from the hospital, and how much bigger it was than her tiny wee head, and how addicted I became to that buttercream frosting, making her at least %25 butter for the next two months when I stayed home with her, trying to fatten her up.
It had already hit me some on Saturday, with her party coming up and me racing around doing party prep errands on a sunny spring day, high on my SECOND Starbucks Venti Caramel Macchiato, blaring Tom Petty in my minivan, and feeling the love. Jason had said something like "I wish I'd gotten this much when I was a kid" and I said yes you do, everyone should be so lucky to be as loved and cared for as my dear girl. It all came together in some weird "I won't forget this moment" sort of way, with the pleasure of giving her a great time and making her feel cherished and important, and the sun was shining and then came the juxtaposition of some of my old punk rock playing on the iPod, followed by Tom Petty with me screeching along with "oh baby don't it feel like heaven right now, don't it feel like something from a dream?" Yes! It is heaven! I get this lovely creature to spoil and fawn over and cradle in my arms, and then I remembered how I almost didn't get her at all. Once it hit me I couldn't let it go - how close I came to not getting to have heaven on earth. My doctors had no idea my baby was struggling, since I measured normally and the heartbeat was strong, but she is only alive because I asked for that extra test, just because I felt that I didn't feel enough movement. As soon as they slapped an ultrasound on me it was apparent the baby was not growing and needed to come out and be fed. When I asked how they could have just been willing to let me go home from the clinic that day, and what would have happened had I not sought extra testing, the doctor looked me straight in the eye and said "stillbirth."
I am normally a glass half full kind of gal. My glass has pretty well stayed on the full side except when it comes to motherhood. I should be able to just revel in the result, because the results I have are indeed astounding and glorious. Not for nothing did I make up a song like "Claire the Magnificent" to croon to her at night. Something about motherhood brings out the naked part of my soul. Any of you read the Narnia books as a child? When a character who has done wrong, really wrong, meets the Powers That Be and the all powerful Aslan rips through the extra bits right down to his soul, all naked and slippery? That is about how this motherhood gig goes. I am tooling along with just the joy, on a sunny day, in my minivan, and smack here comes the other side of it all, the fear and the worry and the oh-shit feelings. My people tell me how wonderful I am to have noticed and taken action, and saved the day for Claire, but it doesn't always look that way inside my head, through the PTSD. They tell me this too in relation to Hannah, that I noticed the signs of her CP before her doctors, before her father, and jumped on the therapy bandwagon at the first possible moment. I keep remembering how shocked I was that there was a problem for either of my kids, how inexplicable it all seemed, how close I came to not getting that first baby at all, let alone the second. I think sometimes how if I had not planned to breastfeed my second baby, despite all the motherfucking pumping and hassle with feeding Claire, in fact probably because how hard that all was I was determined to breastfeed baby number two and get it right, but if I had chosen to just formula feed, Hannah might not have CP at all, because she would never have dipped too low in calories learning how to nurse. Am I a good mother? Well, of course I am, but on the inside, I doubt, I wonder, and I feel guilty as hell. And then here comes that joy again, when I snuzzle them on the backs of their necks.
Twice this week total strangers asked me for advice about the big parts of motherhood, how to pick a day care and whether to use a day care for a medically fragile child. My name gets given out as an example of someone in the know. Fuckity, fuck, fuck I say! I don't know anything!! Of course I give advice but still, on the inside, I am full of self doubt. I keep wondering if I'll get caught faking.
Claire now has a new favorite song, because we played The Waiting for her on the way to the party. And now the poor girl at Mrs. Backer's bakery thinks I am insane since when I ask her to prepare a cake for us, I find myself telling her why I have to have a Mrs. Backer's cake on the actual birthday even though Claire would be happy with a Costco cake or even one of lesser quality, but I must have the buttercream icing that says "Claire came home" to me, and always will.