Reporter Mary Meehan's Christmas gift to her daughter: a letter about her birth

Dec. 24, 2013

To Bailey from Mom:

I'll start at the beginning. Well not all the way at the beginning because that involves the type of conversation that is inappropriate to share with your daughter.

But this is the thing I can tell you. The way I remember it, the night you first arrived in this time and space, there was the most amazing moon. I've never seen one like it before or after. Your Dad and I had been in Sanford, Fla., just outside of Orlando, and we were heading home as the moon was coming up. And on the flat landscape, somehow the moon looked epic, as if it was really rising out of the road ahead of us. It was perfect and orange and red and round and kind of breathtaking.

I had some trouble with keeping you around early on. But that is a story for another day.

I loved growing you even though I threw up at least once a day. Somebody told me that when a baby has a lot of hair, it can mess with your digestion. You had a lot of hair.

A few months in, I had a dream about the baby I was going to have. I'm not sure yet even if I knew you were a girl. But I had a dream of a little girl with a bouncy head of hair in a field of flowers. Her hair was kind of reddish and she had the chubbiest of cheeks and she wasn't smiling but looking at me as if she knew me and that she would be heading my way.

When you were about 3, we were at the kite festival. You were running up and down the hill in your Tweetie butt overalls with your curls bouncing in the sun, and you turned around and looked at me, ... and your face was the same as the face I had seen before you were born.

It struck me then, as it has 100 times since you've been mine, that we were meant to find each other.

So back to the day at hand. It was Dec. 23. I was ready to have a baby. Because, as you know, I am a woman who likes to have deadlines and, baby, we were on a deadline. You were due Dec. 23, and I felt pretty strongly that you should arrive. I was huge and uncomfortable and ready to have you occupy your own space in this world.

I had been reading all the things you could do to promote labor. I had even written a story about the pine nut and Gorgonzola salad at a restaurant in Winter Park that women swore helped get their labor going. (Years later I read something about the chemical properties of pine nuts — that they do mimic some labor hormones, so who knew?)

Anyway, I had the salad. I took walks. I was shopping at Christmastime in a crowded chi-chi shopping place, and I was enormously pregnant, so you can imagine how much I was enjoying that. Oh, did I mention I had on a red-and-white striped candy cane-like shirt and a baseball cap/elf hat that said "I believe"?

I ran into an old boss as I was wobbling through one of the stores. His name was Mike Bales. He had laid me off. But he had done me a kindness in doing so. I'm not sure I was aware of that at the time. We had some idle chit-chat in a crowded store. I joked at the time that Mike Bales scared me into labor.

I was prepared. There was a bag packed, movies included: Clueless (because it's my favorite movie ever) and It's a Wonderful Life (because your dad is named George, I'm Mary and you would be Bailey).

We had asked our friend Jan to come along to take some pictures and keep us company.

I still had on that red-and-white candy cane-striped shirt and an elf-inspired baseball cap.

We had been to the birthing class. To be honest, I had a feeling that your Dad wasn't going to be all that helpful. (Turned out I was right) Jan was a no-nonsense kind of person when the situation called for it, so I knew she would be stalwart.

But, here is something that is a little surprising: I was not really well versed on exactly what would happen. I knew I would be giving birth and there would be breathing and epidural, but that's kind of where it ended. I didn't know about drugs or hormones or how many centimeters you needed to be dilated. I guess I figured my body would just make it work. More likely, I was afraid I wouldn't do it right, so there was no point in studying for this particular test.

I don't remember the contractions being that bad, but when they became about five minutes apart, we went to the hospital. They wanted us to walk. So we did.

It was, you know, late Dec. 23, so most of the hospital was empty, plus there was renovation going on, so there were entire hallways with no one around. We walked and walked and walked. I had my Birkenstocks on and I kind of rolled along. It was probably a very slow procession.

At one point I decided to sing. It seems to me that I sang a lot. One song went something like this, except to the tune of Jingle Bells: "Giving birth, giving birth, it's time to give birth. We're here now, I'm big like a cow, It's time to give birth, Yeah!"

When we came close to wings where there were people, I am sure that people thought we drunken idiots and/or they really wished I couldn't sing so loud.

Eventually, my water broke or something happened, and the nurses were suddenly not so keen on my walking and they made me get in bed and they strapped this belt around my middle that told them exactly what my contractions were doing. I didn't know until maybe 11 years later, when we were talking to Dr. Meinke about your calves, that they were in a rush because they were worried you might swallow meconium and that you were in distress. And that could have been bad.

But, fortunately, I had not done my homework, so I just thought: OK ... I'll lie down now.

Contractions were not that bad. They did go on for, like, 11 hours. I kind of got use to them. Jan's boyfriend at the time was there, and he had an annoying habit of looking at the monitor and announcing with each contraction that this one was going to be an especially bad one.

Thank you, Jan's douchebag boyfriend.

But mostly, I said "ouch." Yep, "ouch." No screaming. Surprisingly, no cussing. Just "ouch."

Just like when I threw up every day and I said that it was for a good cause, I told myself the same. This was for a really good cause. So, "ouch."

When the doctor showed up, finally, he had on the same hat I did. Although I had never seen him before and don't recall his name, I believe that was kind of meant to be.

They kept telling me that I needed to stay really still for the epidural. I had been saying ouch for 10 hours, and they told me the epidural would make that stop, so I was damn skinny going to be still. No problem.

Then I was a little giddy on medicine. OK, a lot giddy on medicine. I decided I wasn't going to be able to do this thing. Yes, I was going to be the first woman in the history of healthy women in labor with a healthy baby who would somehow mange to not be able to give birth. I somehow decided I was just incapable of it so ... I wanted to go home.

I tried my best to go home. I tried to be my most charming. I promised and purred that I lived just so close and that I would come right back. It would be fiiiiine ... why not just let me go home for, like, a sec? No worries. I'll come back.

I tried and tried to persuade everyone to let me go home, and no one would. They wanted me to rest, but I kept wanting to talk to your dad so I could persuade him to let me go home. They made him leave the room so I would sleep.

So what happened when you finally decided to come?

I my memory, it was like there was stadium seating in the place. Jan was there. Your dad was there. Your Nana and Pop were there. My friend Cheri was there. Jan's boyfriend was there. Jan. Your dad. There were two teams of nurses because they were worried about you.

The only time I lost my cool was when they were telling me to push.

The whole room was kind of yelling at me. It was suppose to be encouraging but I couldn't believe that they didn't understand that I kind of needed to concentrate.

Pushing out a human, here! I snapped a little. I hollered: Only one person can tell me what to do!

And there you were. Your Dad swears It's A Wonderful Life was playing on the television. (That was back in the day of VHS.) Anyway, you were beautiful.

I felt in an instant that you were mine. I could feel your heart beat in sync with mine, and I never knew I could love anything as much as I loved you.

They put you in what looked like a plastic bin away from me and told me to rest. But every time you made a sound I would sit up and look in your direction, even though I was exhausted and still pretty high. I knew I had to help you if you needed me.

When we got to our room, it was just us. Everybody left. It was Christmas Eve. There wasn't even hardly a staff.

So it was me and you, and they told me not to keep you in the bed with me, but I did for a while. When I put you back in your plastic bin, I didn't want you to feel lonely, so I had a yarn Santa face and I taped it so you could see it and have something interesting to take in, ... although looking back, you know, the whole world was new to you, so it was probably a little bit of overkill. (And you couldn't really see anything clearly yet.)

Still, my sweet baby girl, it was the most amazing day of my life. My best day ever, easily. And you are truly the best Christmas present I have ever had.

Although, when you become a successful grown-up, I hear that diamond earrings are awfully nice.

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