Fourteen years ago today I became a mother. Fourteen years ago today I was humbled beyond words, keenly aware of the wonder of creation and so profoundly changed even now it is difficult to explain. On that day, a part of me was suddenly separate from me, autonomous and unique. I can still feel that baby moving inside me. Usually, the memories are distant echoes and increasingly elusive to grasp. Not today. As is time has folded back on itself, a nodal point for re-entry, I am transported to that day. A clear, sunny at dawn, driving over the Cooper River bridge to the planned birth. The pregnancy was shifting and I was ill. In retrospect, more ill than truly evident. My blood pressure was always “normal” at my prenatal checks, but my “normal” is 100/70 or less. No one batted at the mid 120s/80s. And then like a flash, I was swelling and spilling protein and hypertensive. Bedrest didn’t change it. So….in we went to have a baby at 37 weeks.
It was not an easy delivery. My sunny side up baby just wasn’t ready to be born and no amount of pitocin or pushing was going to make him. It took forceps and the doctor’s foot braced on the end of the delivery table to get him to join us. Except, for my entire pregnancy, I was certain I was carrying a girl. Now, ole Miss Ruthie, a loving, elderly Gullah woman who was one of my patients, sat rubbing my belly the previous week at her diabetes visit. She sat rubbing light circles and chewing a large wad of bright pink bubble gum with whole leaf tobacco mixed in, her tongue sweeping the cud across her toothless gums, her eyes cloudy with cataract. She said softly, “Youhavinahboy.” It takes a while to heard the words within the speech of a Cow Country native, but Gullah was even harder. She said is more than once speaking to the air around us. Then she looked right at me the last time and said it is earnest, “Youhavinahboy.” In my arrogance, I smiled and patted her knobbly hand as it rested on my belly. “I think it is a girl, Miss Ruthie.”
She shook her head slowly and smiled back at me, clucking her tongue against the roof of her mouth. “Nope.” She smacked her lips together and withdrew her hand. I later learned that Miss Ruthie had been predicting the gender of babies her whole life. The clinic had kept an unofficial score and she had never been wrong. Ever.
Our baby was born and cords were cut before we even asked the gender, so sure of it being a girl. My little Sweet Pea was 6 pounds even, a tiny little wrinkled thing. His cord was thin and the placenta was small but he was fiesty, a scrappy litle guy. When they finally let us go home two days later, my left leg was no longer paralyzed but my baby was turning orange. Orange. It was a fright because the lab reported his blood work inaccurately, sparking urgent intervention when in fact, he was just a premie, male infant with newborn jaundice compounded by a huge hematoma on his head from 90 minutes of ramming his head against my pelvic bone. He was a punky eater at first, losing weight and mewing like a cat. Then, days later….BAM! he figured it out. Thank god for the ladies at the Charleston La Leche League. With the cordless phone cradled in my neck and my newborn in my left arm like a football in the crook of a running back’s arm, he latched on. Mission accomplished.
I can still feel him in my arms or lying close up against me in the afternoon sun in our bed, sleeping with his little fists under his chin. I can still see the smattering of “stork bites” across the nape of his neck. I must have taken a hundred pictures of the back of his head. I can smell him, freshly bathed in that liquid baby soap he used until he was nearly in kindergarten.
Cameron has been an absolute joy as a child. He is my sunshine. He has an easy smile and the sweetest disposition. He is wicked smart and crack the whip funny. His mind moves fast and he is intuitive. He was a very compliant child, rarely obstinate or defiant. But as an adolescent, he has found his voice and his opinions. He can express himself and make an argument without being a know-it-all. He is curious and analytical, he solves problems easily. He can be bold and formidable. He makes people laugh. He is nearly as tall as me with a deep voice like a man 10 years older. He complained the other day that his Adam’s apple was actually tender. And HOLY COW…he has an Adam’s apple. He is not my little guy anymore. I can’t papoose him in a Gymboree blanket like a baby burrito. I can’t sit him on my lap and read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom or More More More. No more Putt Putt or Spy Fox. Shoot…no more World of Warcraft either. He is forging his own path, making his own way and he is an absolute delight to watch. I am proud of him beyond measure. He makes my heart sing. He taught me how to love and what love truly is. He is my blessing and my window on the supernatural world. I love you Cam Cam….Happy Birthyday.