23 years ago today, a much younger me was lying on my bed, watching with an obsessive fascination the rise and fall of a small baby’s chest.
She was born at 2:30 that early Wednesday morning, a screaming, crimson faced 8.8 lbs bundle with flailing limbs and fury spitting from her scrunched, furious face, a shock of luxurient black hair and huge green eyes narrowed in rage. As she lay there between my legs, thrashing legs and arms in outrage at being summarily pulled into this harsh, glaring, cold world, we watched bemused. The doctor stood there grinning and looking at me, said laughing, “THAT is the most pissed off newborn I have ever delivered!”
From start to finish, the entire experience had lasted a scant three hours and full of energy still, I was entranced… in awe at this new human being we had brought into the world.
I lasted around 7 hours at the hospital, then against their advice, bundled my solid little infant in her new snowsuit, called a cab and went home. D. had left us around 5 a.m to head home, shower and go to work and didn’t drive at the time regardless; he wanted me to wait but I couldn’t stand the obsessive regimentation of the hospital. When I was told to wash my breast with “as hot water as I could stand” before offering it to my child, my natural Irish pragmatism, said ENOUGH and off I went.
I didn’t know this day 23 years ago that the path I was taking had just diverged, that as Frost said, my steps turned to the “path less travelled”.
I was focused, somewhat obsessive, incredibly driven and had vision. I had worked hard to reach the professional level I then enjoyed; head editor of a prestigious forecasting company, respected, incredibly well-paid and on the fast track. The child was wanted but in my pre-birth mind, was to be fit in around the realities of a job I had spent so many hard years working towards. I have worked since I was 13 – right through high school, putting myself through two degrees and with drive and ambition forging my way in a man’s world.
And then she arrived.
And my world tilted and the universe shook and life as I knew it irrevocably changed.
All those years of obsessive want became so much powdery dust, blown away in the clarity of her gaze, negligible in the suction of a small mouth on a turgid breast.
And the ensuing weeks only increased my resolve, deepened my adoration and engendered in me a fierce, enraptured understanding that there was no going back.
And thus, as the scant 16 weeks of maternity leave drew to an end, I sat, grasping my child fiercely to be breast and tears in my eyes, said to D. “ I CAN’T go back! I CAN’T leave her!|”
And he, smiling gently, said “I know, I was wondering when you would figure that out”.
And that week I quit my job, found a night job typing for $50,000 less in salary and never looked back.
Happy Birthday Maeve, my beautiful, brave, fierce daughter. You have added to my life immeasurably.