I was looking forward to my 43rd birthday like I had every single one since I can remember: with gratitude, joy, and, well, just the promise it held. I had never been one to worry about my age, or try and hide it. Still don’t. Everyday I wake up is a blessing. Every anniversary of my birth, a miracle….a promise, an opportunity.
Over the years, I have watched and listened with true curiosity when a sister fell apart as she turned 30; a friend lied her way into 50; a child tried hard to rush headlong into their 20s while they were still in their teens. I didn’t get it. I have loved every age I have been, and while some years have certainly been better than others; some decades more rewarding, each has brought with it many gifts, but none like that birthday all those years ago.
At first it was just her and I, as my husband finished off his work commitments in another community. We were living on the top floor of a three story apartment building…with no elevator…and no outdoor space.
Everyday after work, and on weekends we would walk all over town, getting to know our community by exploring it on foot. We would walk to the grocery store and carry our bags home and up those three flights of stairs where we ate healthy meals. I loved every second of those days. We grew closer than ever and looking back, those were some of the happiest days I’d ever had being a Mum.
Some weekends we went exploring, taking what I thought were shortcuts, but weren’t. Like two billy goats we climbed rock bluffs, cut through back yards, and laughed our way around obstacles in our path.
As spring turned to summer, we found a cheap little car which broadened the horizons of our adventurers.
Weekends came and we’d pack a picnic lunch and head out of town. Talking the whole way, we would stop when a place looked interesting, and we’d go exploring. Crawling our way across still melting rivers and small waterfalls, I watched as my daughter blossomed. Her skin became sun kissed, her eyes sparkled again, her heart healed and her soul soared with the thought of impending motherhood. She was healthy in body and spirit, in amazing physical shape for the upcoming birth, and happy. Hearing her laughter was like feeling sunshine on my face. My heart swelled with love…and wonder, and the realization that I was going to be a GRANDMOTHER.
We talked of names, wondered what gender the baby would be, and laughed with joy as the little one growing inside her kicked happily to the music at a summer street festival. We joked about her due date…my birthday, and how women never give birth on their due dates…especially with their first child.
I watched with love and pride as she sat with headphones on her growing belly, or sat quietly reading aloud to the life inside her. We searched yard sales for baby gear, and found all we needed for this wee one that would soon be joining our family. We scrubbed the carriage, the highchair, bathtub, and washed stacks of baby clothes. And talked, and laughed, and shared our hopes and dreams for the future of their lives….her and her child. I wished every night that my daughter would have her own daughter…but we both knew it wouldn’t matter. This child would be loved and nurtured.
But she knew. She knew, even as she decided on names for both a boy and a girl, she knew the baby she was giving life to would be her daughter. Just as I knew when I was carrying her, that she would be a girl. In fact, like me, she never really settled on a name for a son. Just a daughter. A Gaelic name, to honour her Grandmother and her Scottish heritage.
The days passed, and soon it was the day before her due date…the eve of the anniversary of MY birth. The three of us; her Dad had finally joined us, took the dogs out for their evening walk. Just as we started the trek back up the hill we had wandered down, it began to sprinkle. As we reached the top of the hill, we all stopped short. There, right in front of us, was the most beautiful double rainbow. Not faint, but in full vibrant colours, it’s arch and ends clearly visible in the mist of the evening shower.
Joking, I laughed as I hugged my own baby girl and said, “It’s a sign!” As we three and two dogs piled into the truck, that rainbow stayed in our line of vision all the way home. We delighted in the splendour of it all…but our ‘signs’ had just begun.
The light autumn shower had stopped by the time we got home, and the rainbow disappeared into the warmer colours of the coming dusk. We had a nice dinner, and as I began clearing the table with my daughters help, I said to her…”I’ll do this. You relax”. A short time later she went out on our balcony for some fresh air. The evening was one of those rare autumn evenings in the north. Still and warm, but with just a hint of chill in the air.
The patio door opened and, with those huge blue eyes sparkling, she said, “Mum, you’ve got to see this.” As I joined her on the deck, the intake of my breath was audible.
The sky above us was a swirl of red, and mauve and green. Like the flowing skirts of many dancers one moment, to the slow drawn out brush strokes of a painter, the Aurora Borealis were really putting on a show. As I pulled my sweet woman-child close, I began to cry. My heart was so full of love in that moment…and hope. Together we stood looking up at those dancing lights. And we knew. Her child, protected and loved in that safe, warm place was about to enter the world.
About 4am that next morning, a soft tapping on our bedroom door woke me from a deep, untroubled sleep. There she was, standing there whispering “It’s time Mum.” Suddenly the quiet of those early morning moments exploded into a flurry of action. Truck heated up, brother called, bag remembered, and dogs let out. It could be a long day, after all – her birth had taken nearly 36 hours.
She, the calm one in our little family that descended on the hospital, had asked me weeks prior if I would go in the delivery room with her. I told her I’d think about it. I am a tad squeamish and didn’t want any attention on me ‘when’ I passed out. Plus, it was one thing to go through labour myself…I didn’t think I could bear to see my own child in that kind of pain. I finally, after many sleepless nights, discussions with her Dad, and thinking it through, told her I would be there with her.
All I remember about those next hours are showers, back rubs and nurses telling her what great shape she was in and it would surely help her labour. My mind wandered back to all those hikes, walks and stairs…more to avoid the present than anything.
About 9:30am, I went out and told her Dad and brother they might as well go home and get some sleep. It would be awhile. Her brother stayed while her Dad left to check on the dogs and grab some breakfast. 30 minutes later, I had her brother call him back…it wouldn’t be long after all.
Her calmness and focus during this whole time caught me off guard. I had expected her to be frightened…to be overwhelmed, with the pain of labour, but also with the enormity of what was about to happen. She was neither. Grace under pressure. Strength. Quiet determination. Fearless.
Suddenly it was happening. Seven hours after that tap on my bedroom door. It was time. The baby was coming. I stood by her head holding one hand while a nurse stood on the other side, coaching her and holding her other hand. Suddenly the room began to spin. OH MY GAWD!!! Don’t you DARE pass out!!! Those were the thoughts racing through my head as the nurse touched my shoulder and said ‘Perhaps you should sit down’….at which point those enormous blue eyes snapped up and me and she said “Mum please don’t let go. Don’t sit down.” I snapped out of it. I was right. It IS difficult to see your daughter in that kind of pain. No epidurals for her. Natural childbirth. She wanted her strength and love to be the only thing that brought her child into this world.
Suddenly, the words we’d been waiting nine months to hear. “IT’S A GIRL.” Those blue eyes locked mine and a small smile lit that beautiful, exhausted face. With a squeeze of my hand, she said “Happy birthday Mum.” Kylie. In Gaelic, or in English…she is indeed Beautiful.
Happy Mother’s Day Brandi.