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Friday, March 16, 2012

10!

My big girl turned 10 today.  She's very literal (not sure where she gets that) and she claims she's not officially 10 until 11:52 tonight.  I told her that legally she's 10 even though she won't have been alive for 10 full years until 11:52 p.m.


Leslie was reminiscing about the day Emma was born this morning.  I'm not sure why I wasn't.  Maybe it's just something that moms do annually.  I think about it from time to time, but for some reason this morning wasn't one of those times.


Leslie had back labor with Emma.  Do you know what back labor is?  Well it's icky.  Emma was shoving her noggin against Leslie's spine and for 30 hours we waited for her to decide to join us.


For 30 hours my wife would fall asleep for 3 minutes, wake up for 5 minutes of contractions, then fall back asleep again.  I was rubbing holes in her back with my thumbs because if I pushed in a certain spot it made her feel slightly better.


"Rub harder," she said, her voice a ragged hiss, the tone trailing into a whine.


"If I rub any harder I'm going to puncture the skin," I replied, rubbing harder.


And then she'd fall asleep and I'd crack the knuckles on my hand, flexing my fingers tiredly and lay back, shaking my head at her ability capture sleep so deftly and nod off myself for a minute or two before the "machine that goes ping" would ratchet back up in intensity, signalling a new set of contractions and I'd mobilize my thumb for spine penetration duty.


Some time after she finally opted for the spinal (which was like the hand of God descending upon her removing all pain) and they readied us for the C-section, we could see St. Patrick's Day approaching.


"Can you hold off a few more minutes so we have a St. Paddy's Day baby, Doc?" we asked.


"No," he said flatly.  And so at 11:52 p.m. (possibly 11:51 p.m. . . I swear I'll change this entire post if it turns out I got the time wrong just to make it seem like I didn't) Emma was delivered.


I stood at Leslie's head as she was crucified to the operating table during delivery.  I'm not kidding.  Probably you already know this, but they strap your arms down.  So she sat there, receiving . . . something. . . through an air mask, unable to move her hands, with an itch on her nose.  My job was to scratch that itch.  Even the one *shudders* inside her nose.


"The baby's here.  You can stand up and look now," the nurse said.


I stood up, expecting to see the nurse holding my daughter for inspection, but instead seeing her head penetrating an incision in my wife's abdomen like the alien bursting from Kane, and I sat back down, probably looking a little pale.


"Yeah, she's not quite here yet."


Strange, and almost surreal.  Emma was born but was not yet Emma.  We were stuck between a few names.  She was Baby Girl W, with Hannah Abigail, Madelaine Patrice, and Emma Katherine all jockeying for position.  I wanted her to be Hannah, Leslie wanted her to be Madelaine.


How to describe my feelings upon first seeing and holding Emma. . .It was surreal.  It feels like a betrayal to say this, but I didn't immediately feel a connection.  Who was this baby?


It was like the first time seeing a DJ after hearing his voice for years and getting a mental image in your head of what he looks like, or reading a novel and then seeing the hero on the cover of a sequel.  The artist's image wasn't what you'd imagined.  It's jarring.  And yet you know your image of what that person looks like cannot realistically be accurate.


Emma was not the picture I had in my mind.  I'm not saying she wasn't a beautiful baby; she was.  But I immediately was struck by this weird disconnectedness. . . I had a nine month image of what this baby would look like, and she didn't look like that image.  I immediately worried that I wasn't going to feel a connection with this baby ever; that I wouldn't love her the way a father is supposed to love his daughter.


I had only ever heard of the instant bond, the instant connection, the greatest day ever. . . nobody had ever told me to expect this.


Not to spoil the suspense or anything, but I needn't have worried.  After that initial surprise/disconnectedness/whatever. . . Emma took root in my heart and changed me.  She changed the way I feel about life and children and myself as a man.  She changed everything.  I'll come back to that.


They wheeled Leslie's mobile bed/OR table back to the palatial birthing suite with its hardwood floors and pull-out sofa bed, and put Emma on Mommy's chest.  Leslie couldn't keep her eyes open and her arms were shaking from coming off the anesthesia.  We couldn't get her named before Leslie was passed out.


She woke up a couple hours later and we called for the nurse to bring Baby Girl W in.  I don't remember if we named her then.  It felt like unfinished business to me at the time, but I can't remember if I was antsy because we didn't name her before they took her off to the nursery, or because we didn't name her when the nurse brought her back in the second time, but we both knew she was not Hannah; was not Madelaine.  She was Emma.  Beautiful little blue-eyed baby Emma.


And things would never be the same again.


A year or two later I read Anna Kareninna, by Tolstoy.  I was in a "read the classics" phase, and didn't want  to deal with "War and Peace," but wanted to knock Tolstoy off my classics bucket list.  I read in that book, for the first time, a similar story of another father's candid reaction to his son's birth.  It made me feel like less of an oddity.  I don't know if I've ever told anyone how that first moment scared me; how I wondered what kind of father I could possibly be that I didn't immediately feel some connection.


While I didn't feel the disgust. . . I thought Levin's reaction was at least "honest" and I remember thinking maybe it's not just me:
"Kitty was alive, her agony was over. And he was unutterably happy. That he understood; he was completely happy in it. But the baby? Whence, why, who was he?… He could not get used to the idea. It seemed to him something extraneous, superfluous, to which he could not accustom himself."
. . . " Levin, looking at the tiny, pitiful creature, made strenuous efforts to discover in his heart some traces of fatherly feeling for it. He felt nothing towards it but disgust. But when it was undressed and he caught a glimpse of wee, wee, little hands, little feet, saffron-colored, with little toes, too, and positively with a little big toe different from the rest, and when he saw Lizaveta Petrovna closing the wide-open little hands, as though they were soft springs, and putting them into linen garments, such pity for the little creature came upon him, and such terror that she would hurt it, that he held her hand back."
And again here you see the softening change:
. . . "Look, now," said Kitty, turning the baby so that he could see it. The aged-looking little face suddenly puckered up still more and the baby sneezed.  
Smiling, hardly able to restrain his tears, Levin kissed his wife and went out of the dark room. What he felt towards this little creature was utterly unlike what he had expected. There was nothing cheerful and joyous in the feeling; on the contrary, it was a new torture of apprehension. It was the consciousness of a new sphere of liability to pain. And this sense was so painful at first, the apprehension lest this helpless creature should suffer was so intense, that it prevented him from noticing the strange thrill of senseless joy and even pride that he had felt when the baby sneezed."
And during the first few hours. . . I felt that same weird disconnected feeling and panic and worry.  Levin's reaction, while different, was enough like my own that I took comfort from it.  It's still dicey talking about it, because, like I said, it feels like a betrayal.


But again, I needn't have worried.  Sometime between naming her and holding her, in feeling her warm little body resting against my chest she took root and the flower that bloomed changed my world.  I became a ridiculous puddle of a man, tearing up at Polaroid commercials and unable to watch television shows that depicted the suffering of children.  Once I left the room during a CSI episode where a father had left his baby in a car to die.


"If you're watching that, I'm going downstairs," I told Leslie, sanctimoniously, and she rolled her eyes and turned the channel even as I stood at the door, poised to leave.  It made me physically ill.


I was watching a Jet Li movie. . . JET LI! . . and the bad guy killed his daughter, and I was running on the treadmill (about Emma's age at the time of the movie). . . and I my jaw just dropped, and I shut off the movie and said "Fuck you," and got off the treadmill and didn't return to the movie (or treadmill) for a week while I. . . what?. . . mourned?


And the more time I spent with Emma the more time I wanted to spend with her, and when I leave my family, her love is like a bungee strap stretched taut, that I NEED to snap back to.


So Emma turns ten today.


The day before yesterday I went to kiss her goodbye when I dropped her off at daycare and she turned her head away.  I cocked my head at her and whispered, sotto voce, "do you not want to kiss in front of the other kids anymore?" and she just looked at me and smiled, and, uncertain how to interpret that, I smiled and kissed her forehead instead and hugged her and told her I loved her and left, sad that perhaps she was approaching "That Age", where her fear of her peers' opinions starts molding her childlike innocence into jaded adolescence.


I've always known that day was coming.  I've made my peace with it.  But I'll remember it.  Maybe my parents can remember when I started turning my head, no less in love with them, but embarrassed by what my friends might think.


But even while she leaves daddy's girl behind, I'm still so proud of the young lady Emma has become.  And while she has her moments of whiny selfishness, she's mostly just a good kid with a lot of grace and poise, a great sense of humor, and a healthy dose of self-esteem.


Monday she's going to try out for the 4th, 5th, and 6th grade talent show.  Apparently it's pretty cut throat.  Some of her friends have already decided to back out because they don't think they'll make it past auditions. Emma will be singing "Defying Gravity" solo.  No chorus class.  No vocal training.  She just has a pretty voice and wants to sing, and isn't afraid to stand up on stage and just do it, come what may.  She knows she may not make it to the show itself.  If you don't understand how proud of her that makes me let me speak more plainly.  I am so proud and amazed by this.  Defying Gravity?  Are you fucking kidding me?  Have you heard that song?  Solo?  In front of her peers and faculty?  Who raised this kid?


The pride helps soften the blow that maybe she's getting a little too old for good bye kisses.  The next night I let her know that if it made her feel uncomfortable we can just hug and that it won't hurt my feelings.  She shook her head, and said no, it didn't make her uncomfortable, but she's very sensitive to hurting people's feelings, so I just said, "okay. . . " and let it drop, unsure of where she stood.


I dropped the girls off at daycare this morning.  We carried a bag of cupcakes to share with her class as a birthday treat and she went downstairs to the "big kids room" while I took Lily up to her room.  I got Lily situated before I climbed down the stairs to give Emma her hug goodbye.


Emma turned 10 today.  She's getting almost too old for good bye kisses from her Daddy in front of her friends.  Almost. . . but not yet.  


*kiss*  


"Happy birthday, Emma, have a great day at school.  I love you," I told her, hugging her tightly.


"I love you too Daddy," she said, oblivious to all the drama going on in my head and heart, and I left the daycare and drove to work.




First Penguins game
Helping around the house
Goofy, with her nose-warmer
Shining on stage

58 comments:

  1. Happy birthday Emma.

    If it helps to know, Jim. I felt disconnected from my son (my second child) for a lot longer that a few hours and I carried him for none months. It was a horrible feeling but, as you found,he took root in my heart. I don't think it is an unusual reaction. Just not acknowledged very often.

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    1. That's sorta what I thought. . . but I didn't know. . .

      Honestly the second time through seemed different. Like I knew more what to expect, and that it would be. . . the unexpected.

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  2. Happy birthday Emma!

    Beautiful post, Jim.

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  3. Happy birthday Emma. You're one lucky little girl.

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    1. And yet even when i rub her head for luck, I lose at poker.

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  4. This is a beautiful post. I love the reference to Anna Karenina.

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  5. Such amazing words, brilliant really. So honest and real.

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    1. High praise, Kara. Thank you very much!

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  6. Can't relate to the disconnect, but I suppose that's because I carried the kids for nine months prior. It wasn't an introduction, just a continuation of our relationship.

    Lovely tender moments. Happy birthday, Emma!

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    1. I'm glad. It's not a warm fuzzy feeling. I was overjoyed when she broke my heart and remade it stronger.

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  7. Such an amazing little girl and what a transformation in you. It is truly amazing how having kids will change you. Happy Birthday, but don't tell her till 11:52. :)

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    1. I hope she's asleep loooong before that, but maybe I'll whisper it over her as I check on her tonight one last time before going to bed.

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  8. That's awesome Jim. It's amazing how fast our kids grow up. Before you know it, Emma's going to be borrowing your car.

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    1. ugh. . . you just made me throw up in my mouth a little. Car. . . *starts feeling faint*

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  9. Happy birthday, Emma! And BREAK A LEG at the audition! I'm waiting with bated breath to hear the outcome!

    (And I already told you, but this totally made me cry. And YES, I cry ALL THE TIME. But a., daddys and daughters; b., your writing, c., the growing up and the no-touching! Gah, I totally remember doing this to my dad. I was such a jerk. I give him all the hugs now right out in public to make up for it.)

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    1. I'm considering playing hooky from work and sneaking into the auditions on Monday. . . otherwise I'll never hear it if she doesn't make the show.

      I did the same thing with my parents. We're both jerks.

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  10. Happy Birthday to Emma! That was beautiful. I also like your description of the c-section process, having been on the mother's end of it before. I don't think it's well advertised that they strap your arms to the boards... When I had mine the doctors laughed at the look on my face when I saw the operating table.

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    1. did anyone scratch the inside of your nose for you?

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  11. This is such a great post. She's beautiful. Happy birthday to her. My oldest is 10 too. It is so cool to see them turn into their own people.

    Fortunately, both of my two oldest were born early in the day so I don't have to contend with that "not my birthday yet" thing. UNFORTUNATELY, one was born on the 13th of the month, so we do have to worry about the Friday the 13th thing.

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    1. thanks, Stimey! Yeah, it's cool. Bittersweet though.

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  12. Awww - happy birthday Emma. My little guy (on the spectrum) shares her birthday - he is 5 today. -Lisa (a quiet reader/admirer)

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    1. Yay for quiet readers breaking the silence!! Happy birthday little guy!

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  13. Happy Birthday to Emma!!!!

    I had that disconnect when I had Katie. I had an image in my mind of the baby I had been speaking to for 9 months, and, yeah, I then had this infant and not the "person" I had been speaking with...ha. Then I was like, what do I do with this?

    My husband is exactly the same way about movies/shows, too. He has told me not to get anything where something bad happens to a kid. Because I am a psychic who just knows beforehand. Let's just say I am glad I saw Woman in Black with my sister b/c Kai would have walked out and probably divorced me.

    And Defying Gravity! Seriously, girl is brave! Good luck to her!!!!

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    1. when my sister tells me about movies she's seen that are AWESOME she'll go. . . "but you won't like it, a little girl dies"

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  14. Happy Birthday Emma! And don't worry Jim no matter how old she gets, she will always be daddy's girl. There is something special about a father/daughter relationship no matter what the age. I was amazed when Leslie told us she wanted to sing Defying Gravity. She is a pretty cool kid!

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  15. That father-daughter relationship is something very special. Watching my husband with our three girls is one of the highlights of our marriage. It takes a special man to be the father of girls and I think you're one of those special men, Mr. Jim! :)

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  16. Happy Birthday to Emma. Wow, TEN!!

    Your words paint a picture of a dad who cares greatly for his "little girl". What a beautiful tribute to your daughter. Hope she had a great birthday!

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    1. Today's the family party. I think she's having a blast!

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  17. Aww. Happy Double digets!! That was such a big deal for Brianna :) I don't get the kisses anymore either. Or the hugs. I get the I love you before she opens the door to get out. But it's ok. We have our moments at home. They've got reputations. They've gotta be big girls :)

    You're a total sap by the way lol An excellent trait in a man. My hubs cries at Hallmark commercials lol

    Happy Birth day to you all!

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  18. Utterly beautiful tribute by a father to his adorable first born! Happy Birthday to Emma (perfect choice of a name, by the way - it's funny how it finally just fits when you see them). It sounds like Emma is not only brave, confident (way to go on the try-outs for the talent show!) but so sweet and caring by telling you she's not too old for those kisses. And you ROCK as a dad, to understand what she is doing for you. Gosh - you two are destined to have a very special bond always, and that is just beautiful.

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  19. A beautiful post. And a very happy birthday to your daughter.
    one of my sons became a double digit person a few days ago...made him big in many ways.

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    1. thank you! And happy birthday to double-digit son!

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  20. Happy Birthday Emma, a lucky little girl growing up with a wonderful Daddy. xx

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  21. Aww, what a beautiful post about a beautiful girl! Happy Birthday! My husband had the same strange disconnect at first with Pudding. He didn't even tell me until weeks later because he was so scared there was something wrong with him. Seems like it might be more common than we'd think. Enjoy the last few years before she is a teenager. :)

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    1. I think maybe it's just not something you bring up when someone's telling you how that moment was the most magical ever. . . you sort of feel like a bad dad.

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  22. Happy birthday to your gorgeous little girl!

    You really do paint a beautiful picture. With every post I could swear I was there with your family. Weird, right? Happy to hear that the disconnect didn't last. Looks like you've built such a strong relationship with your kids. :)

    Also- I should have done what you did, I'm still in the middle of trying to tackle War&Peace and can't make it through, but I've started, so I can't just toss it aside.

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    1. thank you!

      Well, Anna Karenina is no walk in the park either. It's not as long as War & Peace, but it's not short by ANY stretch. Finish War and Peace and then you can tell me what a wuss I am for not having read it!

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  23. OMG, your description of her being "not quite here yet" made me both giggle and slightly puke a bit! My husband would have been on the floor at that sight so I am applauding your fortitude at not fainting!

    Happy birthday Emma! Double digits are huge.
    Jenn

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    1. gigglebarf is TOTALLY the reaction I shoot for in all my blogs! Go me!

      Thanks Jenn!

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  24. Wow. Just...wow. I am a little choked up, but it's a happy tears moment. Just beautiful.

    I want to know how 'Defying Gravity' went. That is a difficult song to sing, but it is definitely one that sounds great solo.

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  25. What a great post! I am so glad I found you because these are the types of posts I like to read:)

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  26. My father passed away from cancer when I was 13. You have no idea what I would give to have had something like this written about me by him. I have a one page entry in a journal he rarely used from the day I was born. My dad was a writer, too, but stopped writing soon after one of his college professors told him he was no good. It was a lie. He was great. I'm so glad your daughter's have this for when you enviably get murdered for running your mouth...
    Your girls are lucky. And I'm seeing more and more that your wife is a freaking saint!

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    1. I started writing a journal for Emma right after she was born. I started one for Lily, but quit for a while before being reborn a "blogger". I'm glad I came back to it.

      Whether I'm a writer or not, I really do like knowing that they could someday read it, and that other people seem to enjoy it.

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    2. oh, and why is SHE a saint? Did she scratch the inside of MY nose while I was busy rubbing her back through thirty hours of labor? No.

      That labor was hard on me. . .

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    3. maybe not, but she allowed YOUR FINGER in her NOSE. The nose is a sacred place. I'm pretty sure she was taking the bigger risk...

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  27. That was beautiful. I'm crying. (that's a good thing) Thanks for sharing this special moment with us, I feel privileged.

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  28. Oh, and I thought my 16-hour labor was bad, Leslie's got me beat handily on that one, wow!!!

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