Today we celebrated Little Daughter’s birthday. Eleven years ago, she joined us and almost didn’t stay. The growing of Little Daughter was fraught with worry, vomit, crying, panic and blood – most of those pregnant months were spent trying to claw myself out of an abyss of depression. At six weeks, I started bleeding and doctors warned me I would probably miscarry. I took leave from work and waited. Prayed. Hoped. The bleeding stopped. The puking started. So did the depression. It continued through to the sixth month of pregnancy. Every now and then, the bleeding would start up again. More scans. More warnings. More prayers. At 30 weeks, I got very sick with pre-eclampsia. (Again.) I was flown out from Samoa to Auckland. An ambulance was waiting at the airport for me. At the hospital, specialists told us that our baby had stopped growing a while ago. There was little or no fluid in the placenta thingy. She wasnt getting enough food or oxygen. She hadnt been getting enough for awhile. ‘Be prepared’ they said. ‘Even if she makes it, she could have extensive damage to her internal organs…brain damage…’ We were afraid. They delivered our baby by c-section. She went straight into an incubator in the neonatal unit. Her skin was almost see-through. I couldnt hold her. She was so tiny. But she was feisty. She ate, yelled and grew. Everything about her was perfect. They told us she would live in hospital for months. But we took her home after three weeks. I bathed her in a cake mixing-bowl. And slept with her on my chest. Hoping my heartbeat, my breathing – would be in synch with hers, keep her breathing, keep her with us.
We named her Zion. It means ‘Pure in Heart.’ Her middle name is Cam. After her uncle who brought us food many nights when I was drowning in vomit and misery during a pregnancy that seemed like it would never end. Her uncle who would check on my other children, laugh with them, read to them, berate them – because he knew their mother was too sick to bother.
Zion Cam Young is a child who brings us great joy. She continually lives up to her name. She is gentle and kind – TOO gentle and kind. In her first year of school, she cried every time the teacher raised her voice at another child in the class. When we had another baby – Zion cried every time the baby cried. ‘Our baby is sad. Please help her. Please dont let her cry.’ Today, Zion worries about the whales. The homeless. Hungry children in famines. Dogs with no nice owners. Elderly people living alone. Pollution. ( She wants me to stop the car when we drive to the store – so she can pick up rubbish on the street. Ummm…no!) She cries because ‘Mum, you’re getting old. And one day, you’re going to die.’ She wants us to recycle. And donate money to the RSPCA. She makes cards for random kids at school that she thinks look sad. She is our constant reminder of what ‘being nice’ means.
I went back through my old blog and found this one I’d written a long time ago. I’m sharing it again today as I give thanks that I can be a mother to a child like Zion. She teaches me every day how to love better.
Her head turns to the sound of my voice. Her eyes follow my every move. Her cheeks are soft against mine. My heartbeat lulls her to sleep. She trusts me completely. She is my every waking thought. ( and lets face it – shes waking me up heaps!)…..Ive spent the last month faling in love. Surrendering to the wonder that is my daughter. .Until she is everything to me.
You see, unlike most mothers, it takes me time to fall under my childrens spell. That instantaneous superhuman mother love other women feel as soon as their child pops out – that just aint what I’m about. My newborn babes alternately bewitch and bewilder me. Totally knocked out for my first delivery – I remember them wheeling me to a room full of mewling infants encased in incubators. “There, thats your little boy!” they said, pointing to one scrawny skinny little thing amongst many…’You dont say?’ was my hazy reply as it ocurred to me that they could hand me any old kid, tell me ‘its YOURS!’ and i wouldnt tell the difference. Yes i gave him milk. And held him. And cried when they poked and prodded him for blood. BUt not until 3 weeks later as i wandered the deserted halls of a sleeping hospital at 2am unable to sleep for thinking about him alone in his glass box…did it hit me. This tiny boy is MINE and Im his mother. Hes stuck in there helpless and aint nobody else but me that will ever know him and take care of him the way i can… and I love him desperately. There was no parting us after that.
My second child was a full term 8 pounder. After 18 hours of horrific laboring hell they placed this huge THING on my chest. Im sorry to say I shuddered and asked – ‘eeewww what is that?!’ I’d never seen a newborn baby before…(wondering how could they be so mean to me after I’d suffered for so many hours.) “Its your baby!” they replied brightly. ‘You must be joking’ was my shocked thought. “Its grotesque!” Happily, my daughter wove her magic and eventually snuck her way into my heart.
Yes, step after faint little step my little ones crept in when I wasnt watching. Perhaps at 3am on a starfilled nite as i lay totally wiped out from endless breastfeeding…or was it one afternoon after bath time and bejewelled sunlight danced on their perfect skin as they nestled in my arms…or when anguish filled them as a nurse injected their chubby little leg and they turned confused hurt filled eyes upon me their mother – their supposed protector… All I can say for certain is that each of them inspires a fierce protectiveness and an overwhelming love. And now Zion joins them.
As i lull her to sleep on the verandah on a windswept evening -i am in awe of her. Tiny pink fingers unfurl in the light, eyelashes a-flutter in the face of eternity. I shall reach up and pick a handful of stars for you my love, a silver shimmer to adorn your hair as we float in the night sky. Glorying in the heavens, I am reminded of a line I once read –
Now wonderingly engrossed/ In your fearless delicacies/I am launched upon sacred seas/Humbly and utterly lost/In the mystery of creation/ Bells, bells of the ocean.
That’s how I feel with you – lost in the mystery of creation.