It’s not quite a normal morning. As I reach for the cereal, I see it. I get the flash of Brian, dressed in blue scrubs hanging back in a room where doctors are trying to help our baby girl into the world safely. I’ve had this flash every year, for nine years now. It’s supposed to be a happy day. I promise myself to try to make it so.
We hang balloons all over Catherine’s door so she can hear that it’s a special day when she comes out of her room. Sarah and Catherine’s nurse and I sing “Happy Birthday,” and we take pictures to mark memories. I feel a pit in my stomach, though I smile through it. We line Catherine up beside the clock and count down until exactly 8:25 AM, the moment they pulled 1 lb, 9 oz of baby girl out of my body. Nobody would say she was healthy. How could they? I don’t ever remember that part. I do remember asking what time she was born over and over again – or was that when Sarah was born? I definitely remember Brian – standing in the wings as they rolled me into an OR that had been readied for an emergency C-section to save not just Catherine’s life, also mine.
I remember being in recovery. I remember a door opening and Brian being on the other side of it. He had the list of people I had asked him to call to deliver the news. Catherine had arrived. Those calls must have been impossible. Rather than joy and excitement, I’m sure they were filled with questions and concern. There is no way Brian could have answered the only real question everyone must have wanted to know – would she be OK? He gave the stats and they were so tiny I can only imagine how shocking the news must have been to family and friends. And then a friend came.
I remember her on the other side of a door that opened and closed, too. I remember being so grateful she came. That’s all I remember about that visit.
The next memory feels like it must have been hours and hours later. I eventually got rolled in to the NICU to see Catherine. I can barely remember her through the porthole of the isolette. What I really remember is crashing into the doors of the NICU and someone apologizing about it. I think I remember her. It must be a memory because we only have 2 pictures of her actual birthday and what I see it my mind is not one of those pictures. I have hundreds of Sarah. And we only have 2 of Catherine. I am thankful for those two.
As I desperately try to remember, at the same time, I want to forget. Writing this brings tears flowing down my face with the intensity of a river being released from a dam. I can’t keep them silent enough, and Sarah comes running to the computer to ask, “What’s wrong, Mommy? Why are you sad?” I tell her they are happy tears. And she reaches up to wipe one away with the back of her little hand. It’s like a movie scene. Just like the scene in my head of Brian.
Happy Birthday, Catherine. However you came into the world. I am so glad you are here!