Twenty years ago, almost at this same early morning hour, I was in day two of what would be a four day, extended, evil battle of the belly called, “labor.” My first contractions started on a Thursday morning and I likened it to being sucker punched by Ali with no intentions of a Ropa-Dope recovery.
Contractions are knee-benders. Full-body, mid-waist hugs that hunch you over and make you scream for Jesus in the least orgasmic manner. This was Thursday and I was rushed to the hospital for my “main event.” Alas, I had only dilated one centimeter and was sent back home to endure the same pissy, pain pattern. Day two mocked day one: rush, Hospital, but now two centimeters of progress and I am again sent home. Saturday arrives and I’ve grown horns and fangs; I’m foaming at the mouth and demand that I be relieved of this living that lurked inside me like a small mound of bones and muscle who was always kicking and never seemed to sleep.
My Obstetrician directs: “Go home and drink a cooler, because now you’re only three centimeters. This time, I refuse to leave. It’s a stand-off of patient vs. medical staff that I would win, but only after they gave me an enema and told me to “walk the hall.” Let me be more graphic: this is likened to being shot 50 times at point blank range by a pawned pistol and then told to “relax and breathe…they’re just gun shots. You’ll live.”
Active labor worthy of hospitalization is four centimeters, and I was one measurement away from an epidural and a bed; the only two necessities needed or necessary at the time. After hours of gripping walls and toilet sprints, I’d won round one and took a needle to the lumbar and chilled with my walk man. I realize this is archaic and primitive to the IPOD generation, but my Spyro Gyra and Yellow Jacket cassettes and martian helmet earphones kept me sane and singing the soon to be Mommy song.
It’s Sunday morning and my happy inhabitant is rolling in circles like a self-contained ball of energy. I remember just gazing as my stomach followed miniature limbs poke and roll and kick and jerk and send a firm message: “Get ready world. I’m ’bout to make my entrance and shake things up!” By noon, I’m still four centimeters, so we C-sectioned and slit-sawed my baby girl out and into the world. My first thoughts were, “Oh my God, I’ve birthed ET!” She was long-limbed, big brown-eyed and sticky and gooey and screaming a song with lyrics I wouldn’t learn or understand until 20 years later, until now, until tonight.
It seems as though time has taken a quantum leap from her first crawl, to the pull of a bloody first tooth, the first horrid day she left home to attend that germ-infested, primary-colored environment called Kindergarten, to the first ballet lesson that let me know why God blessed her long and with line and with grace. She was lithe. We’ve light year traveled from LaVilla School of Performing Arts to William Meredith Performing Arts in Philadelphia to teaching her how to “cat call” her own taxi to 22nd street for modern dance at Koresh. Pennsylvania Ballet is behind us and North Carolina School of the Arts waited in the wings until it was time to tame and tone her body into an instrument of pirouette precision and lyrical facility to take choreography in one ear and spit it out on a lighted stage as though she understood instruction while still fetal. Oh how she’s grown, endured braces, and blossomed like my “Rosebud at the Barre” to become one lucky guy’s prom date to her collegiate choice scholarship recipient. What a quick journey it’s been. Who decided ten years would be a decade and two decades would equal twenty and twenty would be the year my brown-eyed beauty would choose to give me a copy of the lyrics I couldn’t decipher at birth? Who?
This year she screamed again as though her day of birth had returned and an immediate need existed to remind me that she gave fair warning that her presence was meant to “Shake things up.” Clearly, I’d forgotten. Somewhere between college transfers, a new boyfriend who quickly became the old boyfriend who was indignantly replaced by the now boyfriend who I’ve deemed “a relentless daughter thief.” I hate boyfriends. Make no mistake about it Moms: they all attend a back-alley class on how to take a mother’s baby and mold her into an altered creature whose original features now mimic a self-indulgent theme called, “You only need me.”
I CRY FOUL.
I rebuke you in the name of labor pains you penis distraction who stole my baby just so she could be your “Boo!”
Yes: these are the years. These are the years of irrational reason and remarkable growth. These are the years that the labor pains return, but now I have been forced to listen and learn and lay low while watching the same limbs that kicked me into a crazed stupor, rise up and walk to her own rhythm and sing her own self-titled song. It’s a love song that gets lost in refrains we parents call mistakes. It’s a song that daughter’s scream much like me in my youth. I’d shut the door closed and do the Robot as Michael Jackson’s “Dancing Machine” blared. 21st century daughters don’t do closed doors. They boldly bust hinges and wildly walk free screaming a song called, “Me.” Again I say, “It’s a love song with the refrain: ” I love me, I love me, I love me, I love me.
In my era, Helen Reddy birthed an anthem I embraced that began, “I am woman hear me roar…”
20 years ago I birthed a baby who has birthed her own anthem that begins, “I am woman watch me soar.”
My beautiful baby bird hasn’t skirted around her scream, but much to my chagrin has nurtured her voice for hopefully all the right reasons and at the right time to sing her own R. Kelly “I Believe I Can Fly.”
I have been silenced and she insists that I remain mute until she beckons the need for my voice.
On a good morning, I can be found walking my San Marco neighborhood and gazing at the river’s wide divide that separates a city by multiple bridges. I, too, feel separated by a bridge over troubled water, and resist a song I don’t want to receive national acclaim.
I am held at bay by my beautiful, brown-eyed, baby bird who has grown eagle’s wings and decided to soar high, but not too far and seemingly without fear. I am reminded of the Austin Power’s character (Fat Bastard) who tells Mini-Me, “Get in my belly.” That’s how I feel. I want my Mini-Me back, but she has now become her own Mini-She.
I must let go, and let God guide her as she soars with wings of an eagle and trust that she always remembers that God is her only “real” guy and guide.
Gosh! It all happened so fast. I feel like I didn’t even have time to remind her to take a sweater.
Happy Birthday Kelsey Nicole Dickerson. May your milestone of 20 be all that you’ve dreamed, and may you allow yourself to slowly continue to become your own soul-singing Eagle who knows she can always return to her origin’s nest.
I Love You More Than Sushi and the Sky.
Penny Dickerson 2011
That’s one of the most beautiful stories, Ever.