A Decade: Happy Birthday, Emmeline
|Most of my childhood pictures have me with a baby doll|
December 1st was the official anniversary of the day when prayers were answered and a dream came true. My first-born, my Emmeline, is ten years old and I have been a mother for a decade.
In January of 2003, I was a fourth grade teacher in my ninth year of teaching. I was a wife of six years. During those six years, we faced my diagnosis with ulcerative colitis and its active condition, my spinal surgery, moving to a new state for graduate school, Joey's time in graduate school, my conversion and re-reversion(?) to the Catholic Church, and infertility. We were still renters, living in our second apartment, and we didn't feel shame in that, even if the Home and Garden TV channel seemed to say otherwise. By spring of that year, I was at a place of such peace when my friend, Regina, visited with her two daughters. Their visit was timed to take advantage of the blooming season of the Texas state wildflower, the Texas Bluebonnet, so we could take pictures of the girls in the beautiful flower patches. I remember telling Regina in one of our late-night conversations, that I was at such peace that I could even accept being childless. Later, when Regina and the girls left, Joey and I sat together, in our apartment, and looked around. We sat in the still silence and for the first time ever, we felt the silence and the feeling of something now being missing. We had no idea that I was already four weeks pregnant. A few weeks later, we had our first glimpse of Emmeline:
We decided to tell everyone as soon as possible because I had recently read several stories by women who suffered miscarriages and they both said they regretted not telling people before the miscarriage so they could have had some experience of shared joy about the pregnancy. After dealing with infertility, I wasn't taking anything for granted. A few days after our next regularly-scheduled ultrasound, I was afraid something was wrong. The doctor told me to come right in for an ultrasound and she diagnosed placenta previa, but she was very calm and hopeful. She told me that we had just seen a strong, healthy heartbeat only two days earlier and that the condition was not as dangerous early-on in a pregnancy. She said it usually corrected itself when it was that early. Joey took her words as gospel and took me to Toys R Us to look at baby items. A friend with whom I taught bought a sweet photo frame for our first picture of our little one.
The doctor was right, as she would prove to be throughout this pregnancy and two others, but it was such a scary month. I was able to take it easy for school events like field trips because of my fellow teachers and helpful parents of students. By summer, everything was looking great and the rest of my pregnancy was wonderful. I lost count of how many people told me I was glowing. Mama said I was in my own little world and sometimes I felt like I was floating, like when we saw our little one in 3-D ultrasound images:
There was the exciting shopping trip to buy the stroller/car seat combo and picking out the crib my parents wanted to buy as their present. We moved to a rental house, in a better area, for our expanding family. Mama and Joey painted the nursery a sunny yellow about the same time as friends at school threw me a baby shower. We were all so excited!
And finally, on December 1, she was here. We didn't know if we were expecting a boy or girl and the doctor and nurse were so excited to have a surprise on their hands. "It's a girl!!!" they yelled. She was named after a character from an adaptation of Anne of Avonlea. My husband's fellow British History grad students all asked if she was named after Mrs. Pankhurst, but no, she was not. An added cultural heritage bonus that sealed the deal for her name was the legend of Longfellow's poem, Evangeline, which claims that the character Evangeline was based upon an Acadian named Emmeline Labiche.
For months afterward, I would remember her birth each Monday. A week ago today, three months ago today... Everything was so new, so joyous, and I was so aware of the privilege of it all. When I was able to stay at home after finishing up the school year, I was again very aware of what a privilege it was to stay at home when so many women had to work for income to survive or for affordable insurance for their families. The next years brought the experience of being a mother of newborns and toddlers whilst also caring for a father in the final stages of dementia. It brought managing his affairs, including two properties in two states. It brought an attempt at homeschooling and a schedule often dominated by phone calls from lawyers and doctors, along with nursing home visits. It brought an understanding, at the most basic level, that life is not picture-perfect and is only fully lived when messy. It brought an understanding that the calm and peace is better appreciated when experienced amidst chaos and sadness.
I often felt guilty that Emmeline didn't have the early childhood I'd dreamed of her having during those months of pregnancy. I have slowly learned that reality is so much better than dreams. She is my answered prayer. She is my artistic spirit with a marvelous internal BS meter that keeps me on my toes and inspires her trademark raised eyebrow. She is an old soul, like her mama, but much more sure of herself than I ever was. She is a fellow Anglophile with a wonderfully sarcastic tongue. And she is forever a living lesson for me on the privilege of parenthood with its daily-ness of home life, and of God's grace, real and present, in my life.
|Our first glimpse at the mischievous side of our baby who my friend Amber once described as "freakishly well-behaved"|
|I love how her expression totally destroys any possible "Look how holy we are; |
our children hang out with nuns" vibe.
|Pigtails and missing front teeth were something I couldn't wait to see.|
|First bike: Christmas, 2 years old|
|An adult-sized bike for my tall 10-year-old|
|Homemade class cupcakes she has waited for two years to bring to school:)|
We usually have small home parties, but we promised Emmeline a few years ago that she could have a bigger on-site party for her 10th. So, a crafting party at Michael's Craft Store was her choice. The girls made their own duct tape purses and ate pizza and more homemade cupcakes. It was a fun and easy party with a bunch of sweet little girls.
|With the duct tape purse she made at her birthday party|