Ladies and Gentlemen:
Twelve ridiculously short years ago, I was sitting in a hospital room, amniotic fluid dripping down my legs, playing cards with my brother and my husband. Hearts, I think, and I won – though truth be told, given my delicate condition, they may have let me win.
You see, I suck at cards.
Anyway, I was supposedly in labor, but I didn’t feel like it. Just some cramps here and there and a bunch of ominous nurses keeping hepped up on antibiotics and using sinister words like “pitocin” and telling me my labor was “delinquent”. They regarded me with tight lips and narrowed eyes.
I actually liked being called a delinquent.
But here’s the thing, despite the slow start, my labor went from zero to a million later that afternoon, and my child emerged – bloody and gooey and squalling – in a single push. A thing of beauty. A howling angel. A screeching goddess. And I was terrified.
Here she is:
And there I am, clearly clueless. When I became a mother, I was twenty-five, shiftless, rootless, directionless, in love with my own youth, in love with my own plans, and terribly, terribly in love with my husband.
And over the moon for that little girl.
That baby, those blue eyes, that red skin, that complicated heart – she made us a family. We were not ready for her – not in the least. She didn’t care. She made us ready. She made me a grown-up, because I certainly wasn’t one just a few days earlier. The reason why I work as hard as I do, the reason why I throw all of my intelligence and my spirit and my being into my work as a writer, is because of that little child. So I can deserve her. So I can be the mama that she needs.
Twelve years ago, I sang and sang and sang myself hoarse. I sang as she cried, I sang as she nursed, I sang as she slept in my arms.
Welcome to the world, my darling, I sang. Welcome, welcome, welcome.
And now, a dozen years later, I continue to sing.
I am a better person now, Ella. Every day that I am your mom, I am a better person. Thank you for surprising me; thank you for challenging me; thank you for your presence and your spirit and your intelligence and your joy.
And I will sing my love to you forever.