It was five years ago today that I stood in a hospital room–fully clothed mind you–waiting for the birth of my first child. It was a crazy, emotional, stressful and joyous time. Not only were we not guaranteed this baby (her birth mom had a minimum of 24 hours after delivery to change her mind), but she was being induced prematurely for fluid on the heart, a known high-risk pregnancy with poor growth and fetal stress. And then out she came, tiny and furious, beet red and fuzzy blond. The estimated weight was 3 ½ pounds, so you can imagine my relief to hear “4 pounds 10 ounces!” The special care nurse came and deemed her well enough for the big baby nursery. And then we trotted off down the hall, facing this day of visits from cardiologist, neonatologists, social workers and lawyers. This day I became a mom.
So what have I learned since then? Um, basically that I didn’t really know very much about babies and children. Board certified pediatrician? Yes. Knowledge of nipple flow speeds? Diaper sizes? How to get a child out of a poopie onesie without scissors? Hardly. (Never moved beyond scissors when my kids had poop going up their backs, to be perfectly honest.) Exactly 5 years ago a nurse handed me first the baby, then a tiny little bottle with a teaspoon of formula. I stared at her dumbly and said, “um, how do I fit this inside of that?” nodding first to the seemingly huge nipple and then to her impossibly small mouth. I could write the order for the nurse to feed her, but what did I know about nipple feeding a microscopic preemie? The nurse took pity on me and gave me a crash course in NICU tips and tricks. For the rest of it, as we all do, I just had to figure it out. And despite my many missteps and moments of bumbling idiocy, she doesn’t seem to have suffered too much.
Fast forward and suddenly I have a 5 year-old! And what a joyous little girl she is. This child literally beams from morning to night. Even when she was learning to swim, you could look into the pool and make out a huge smile as her arms and legs flailed hysterically. Yes, this child even smiles while drowning. I mean, that’s really a lesson for all of us, isn’t it?
No matter how prepared you may think you are—hello, board certified pediatrician here—becoming a parent really reveals how ignorant and inept you really are. It’s the most humbling of jobs and yet the most rewarding. But more importantly, it’s the most learning we’ll ever do in life. Eva’s favorite phrase is, “Oh, it doesn’t matter.” Whether the cupcakes fell or she spilled her breakfast on her lap, she’s got a smile on her face and a shrug of her shoulders. We just frost the cakes anyway, wipe off what we can with a baby wipe and get on with our day. With a big smile on our faces.
So thank you to my first born. You’ve shown me how uneducated I really was. You teach us all to smile all day, every day. And you remind us of what does and really doesn’t matter in life. Flat cupcakes are still cupcakes, aren’t they? Still so tiny yet in some ways so very wise. Here’s to a very, very happy birthday, Eva.