It was right about this time, 16 years ago, that I was waiting for a doctor to come and talk to me about surgery. The decision had been made the night before that our first baby needed to be born, even though it was way too early. I had gotten increasingly sicker during my pregnancy, and now waited with a crash cart parked outside the bedroom door, hoping I didn’t go into seizures from the elevated blood pressure.
After some conversations with the doctor, a phone call to my mother, who was in Florida visiting my stepsister, and some prep work done by the nurses, I was wheeled into surgery. At 2:36 PM on August 24th, 1991, Brighid Lora was born. She weighed 2 pounds, 10 ounces, and her arrival was tearfully announced to my soon to be stepmother and our family priest, who were both waiting in the waiting room. They both thought the baby had died, the way Jim appeared to them, white as a sheet, drenched in sweat, and crying. Father Dan Sherman rushed back into the nursery with Jim, and with a nurse as a witness, he baptized our tiny baby girl, and then she was raced to the neonatal intensive care unit, where she would spend the first 31 days of her life.
I was terrified of Brighid when she was born. She was by far the tiniest baby I had ever seen, and I didn’t know what to do with her. I was so nervous when they let us hold her – which was far less often back then than it is now with preemies. I actually dreaded the day that they would tell us we could change her diaper and give her a bath. Her limbs were like a spider monkey – spindly and frail looking. She was so tiny, we could fit her in one hand – all 16 inches of her. But through my fears, I felt such an attachment to her. It was like meeting your soul mate, the person that you are meant to be on the planet for. I felt connected to her in a way I have never felt connected to another person.
I watched her father and how easily he fell into his role, scooping her up at every opportunity, singing to her in front of nurses, jumping at every chance to feed her and handle her. I think he felt the connection, too. Even now, memories of Brighid’s birth will bring tears to his eyes. All of our kids are special, but Brighid is his first, and he has a fierce loyalty to her, even though that sometimes translates poorly in teenage terms.
We’re going to have a quiet, small celebration tonight – just a supermarket birthday cake. We have her birthday party planned for September 7th, and she’s excited about that. But today is the special day. No fancy dress or huge cake. This is the day I’ll always remember – for as awful as it was and as amazing as it was.
Happy Birthday, Brighid!