For twenty-five years, I have, fairly enough, considered my daughter, Casey, my baby. She may be 5’ 7”, curvaceous, and sassy, but she still has the almond eyes, kissable cheeks and bee-stung lips of her infant self. It takes me a moment to process, therefore, when I flounder and she offers counsel, wise, adult counsel. Of course, she know what to say; she’s compassionate and smart, with a quarter century’s experience to draw on, but I have to remind myself that she’s grown up.
Casey is an actress, born to drama. She can produce real tears on demand. As a toddler, as a little girl, well, into her twenties, crying was tops in her repertoire. One time, when she was tiny, she was sobbing inconsolably. My mother said, “Dearie, you’ve got to stop. You certainly do cry a lot.”
Casey sniffed. The sobbing ceased. She considered a moment. “You have to admit I’m the best crier you know.”
Her worldly entrance was dramatic as well, even beyond the inherent drama of birth. My waters broke six weeks before my due date as I stood on a bridge chatting with my friends Wendy and Chris about stories of women who’d broken their waters in embarrassing places. Seriously. I swear this is true.
Once I ascertained that the trickle down my leg was not, ahem, a little “accident,” I prepared for the hospital and told my two-year-old son Tucker I’d be back in a few days with a baby.
It didn’t go that way.
Doctor Hoffman was conservative and admitted me to Greenwich Hospital in order to give the baby more womb-time. Because the placenta was no longer intact, the doctor wanted to preserve as sterile an environment as possible, so he said, “No visitors except Dave.”
The hospital staff encouraged me to walk a bit, for the sake of exercise, so I’d stroll to the nursery to visit other mother’s babies and bask in the germs of other mother’s guests.
On one occasion, I lay on my bed as a pink-uniformed orderly with a wild tangle of gray hair mopped the floor of my room. Every now and then, she coughed in her hand as I tried to hold my breath.
A nurse passed by the door, glanced in and stopped. “You’re back,” she said to the orderly. “Are you feeling better?”
“No, not really,” replied the sharer-of-germs. “I just decided that I need the money.”
Hospitals. What can you do?
It was 1983 and I’d studied Lamaze, read countless books and planned to deliver naturally. I’d foresworn alcohol and aspirin throughout the pregnancy, all the better to nurture my little one. While in the hospital, I developed a cold, the nastiest cold I’d ever had. Was the mopping lady or some other person’s visitor to blame? I was afraid the congestion would hinder my ability to breath deeply, then shallowly, and then pant-and-blow during the different stages of delivery as I’d been trained. No problem. A regimen of daily horse-choker-size pills was prescribed. So much for the purity of my body.
Hospitals are tricky places.
A month passed as I waited for Casey in the maternity ward. Dave brought in gourmet dinners to supplement the hospital fare. He brought in my sewing machine so I could use the time constructively. I stitched up bumpers for Casey’s carriage and a bedspread for Tucker. I walked laps in the corridors, rubbing elbows and exchanging air with passers-by as I sought to jog my girl loose.
What did my little guy, Tucker, think about my disappearance? Dave brought him in for a few visits, but I wasn’t allowed to hold him or pick him up. It was confusing and sad for both of us.
Meanwhile, my mother and mother-in-law were taking shifts, staying with Dave and Tucker. A toilet-training effort was underway, and Tucker was bitterly resisting. He was angry and uncomfortable and was not about to surrender what little control he had left in his world.
Enough. Enough. I’d had it with coughing cleaning-ladies and other people’s visitors. Plus, I’d visited with any number of babies born three or four weeks early, so I knew my child would be fine. I needed to get home to my son. If Dr. Hoffman was not willing to induce me, I would slip into my clothes and slip out the door.
As it was, rebellion was unnecessary.
I was induced at 8:00 AM and she arrived four hours later, on March 22, 1983.
Dave and I didn’t know that ahead of us lay “fuffy flies” and sore “froats.” We didn’t know how much she’d love her pink bunny. We couldn’t foresee all the tea parties, Barbies and “Tapio Tids,” her beloved Cabbage Patch dolls. We had no way of knowing about dance classes and boyfriends, friends, concerts and plays, much less waitressing at SBC and her new life in the city.
So many blessings our bundle has brought us. Happy Birthday, dear Casealace!