Forty years ago, I had a baby.
Something I’d no business doing, really, given that I had none of the traditional infrastructure in place. But, honestly, I wonder if I’d held out for the infrastructure and purposely gone about the business of planning my life, would there even be a you. And, as it happens, a life without you just doesn’t bear thinking.
Yours was a birthing story of how it was – or at least how it could be – in a northern Canadian community in the ’70s. The fundamentals of getting there were as they should be, obviously, but when it came to the big day you arrived in quite a clattering way, one which I’m pretty sure wouldn’t be at all acceptable by today’s hospital standards.
I arrived at hospital on July 12, thinking you were imminent. You weren’t. I was shown to a bed in maternity and promptly administered an enema which brought on all kinds of urgency and I remember thinking ‘oh God, oh God, oh God, I’m going to have my baby in the toilet.’ I bet I wasn’t the first labouring mother with that particular worry. It was a stainless steel toilet and everything about that facility was very echo-y. Do they still give enemas?
Just about everybody smoked then, even new moms apparently, and I passed the evening pacing the halls and popping into a smoke-filled lounge where a lot of big bellied women were talking about labours present and past between cigarette drags. I met a man in that lounge who was there to pick up his baby. His wife had died in delivery.
The evening turned into night and the date to July 13 and there was a degree of panic about your heart rate. Nurses worried the cord was tightening around your neck with each contraction and were frustrated in their attempts to reach my doctor. He eventually bounced into the room, all goofy and hazy. He’d been at a concert (Bim – funny the things you remember) and was stoned on BC bud. Before going into delivery he popped downstairs for a B vitamin injection he hoped would straighten him out.
So that was how we went into delivery. Stoned doctor, purposeful nurses, me hyperventilating into a paper bag. When you arrived a spontaneous betting pool erupted over your weight.
There’s more and I promise to only do this every 40 years.
After you were whisked away there were some messy complications that required waking an obstetrician who arrived to find the last set of surgical scrubs were on your father. I recall him striding into the room unhappily tying up the back of a gaping patient gown.
All in all, it was a calamitous start. And there you were. Tiny and perfect and powerful.
I was just a couple years into my journalism career when you were born. I was young, ambitious and a bit of a party girl. I know that last bit won’t surprise you.
You changed me. I still had ambition and liked a bit of a party, but my focus shifted. I would forego pretty much anything – money, career, new furniture – to be with you.
All in all, it’s worked out.
Here we are 40 years later – two score – and I’m writing this in your Australia kitchen. I must say you’ve taken the be-resourceful-and-independent teachings farther than I intended.
You are, quite simply, a pride of my life. A beautiful and wholesome person, a remarkable mother, a cherished wife, adored sister and daughter. Wickedly funny, intimidatingly smart, kind, loving, and lovely.
Lucky, lucky me.
Happy birthday, my glorious girl.