My baby, my youngest child, is five years old today. She is a beautiful, complicated person with a strong sense of humor and an even stronger will. I adore her.
But this isn't about her, this is about me. This is about me and me becoming a mom.
Fiona is my fourth child. The others range in age from thirty to six. I have two "sets" of children, I guess, something more and more common in this new age we live in, a time when reinvention and recombination is encouraged, and families can be created over a lifetime. This step-wise arrangement has been a good thing for me, because I have both boys and girls and have experienced the joys (and other "stuff") of both and can talk about the differences with some authority now. (I still fear the upcoming "emotional" years with the girls, when the waves of hormones start crashing on these shores.) Also, I can still distinguish Legos from knock-off generic blocks and do a wicked french braid while both the braid-ee and I munch on buttered English muffins.
And even though I just told Fiona that just because it's her birthday, she can't act like a little pischer, I don't know what I would do without her. She calls me "Moo-shu," after the Chinese take-out food, just because she likes the sound of the words. Even though there are times when she talks circles around me and runs me off my feet, I am thankful for her every day...usually by the time she is asleep, at least. You see, I am utterly convinced that I could not have easily managed four children within a conventional time-span, such that I would have had four actual under-age children under my care at the same time. Utterly convinced. Just writing about this makes me tired.
Here's a fun Fiona fact: she is the only child, out of the four, who was premeditated.
Her oldest brother was a surprise. In my own defense, I was a college freshman away at school with my first serious boyfriend, recently informed by a well-respected OB-GYN how terribly sad it was that I would probably never have children without some kind of medical intervention. Picture the heavy sigh and sad shake of head as said doc lets me know I really don't need a script for birth control. Picture also, the heavy sighs and sad shakes of head when I revealed my college-interrupting condition to my parents. Did I mention I was seventeen? They were actually amazing, once the smoky clouds of shock and dismay dissipated, though I am certain my mother has never forgiven me for anointing her as a grandmother just as she turned forty. I am certain because she mentions it every year around my oldest son's birthday.
My only mistake actually, was agreeing to marry my sons' father. Though even this has to be qualified, because if I hadn't married the-- uh, him, I wouldn't have my younger son, whose impending arrival became apparent just as I was planning to take my oldest son and leave the marriage for a number of very good reasons, including my first husband's increasingly abusive behavior. I don't know what I would do without Justin, either, and since my parents were already broken in as grandma and grandpa, and I was still married, there was much less distressed fanfare accompanying his debut.
I will leave out, for now, years of single parenthood, during which I am sure that I have somehow scarred my sons for life. To date, both are solid citizens and I am very proud, but I am a Jewish mother, so the worry lingers. Whatever it is, it will be my fault. That is all I know.
So, advance the way back machine, if you will, to a couple of years after the boys graduate from high school. I'm done, I think, with the mom basics, and in the American feminist renaissance tradition, it is time to do something for myself. My current husband and I decide on mid-life career shifts, and head to law school, across the country. The boys are grown-ups, old enough to go through the airport security by themselves and visit when they can, so I feel good about going back to school. First semester goes well, but by January, I can't shake the ugly flu that seems to be ravaging the other One Ls. I just need some antibiotics... Or do I?
You can picture the visit to Maine Student Health, then housed in a temporary trailer across campus from the law building, where a (young) middle aged woman sits on a paper-covered exam table, convinced that a pregnancy test is really unnecessary-- really, I mean law school, stress, flu-- just get me some amoxicillin and I'll be fine. I might have been slightly less shocked than my equally middle aged husband, who held the results up to the light to be sure he was reading them correctly. Enter Delia, that September. Thanks to the supportive community at the school and two solid summers of Con Law and Trial Practice, I graduated with my class, just after Fee was born.
Why a second baby during law school? Couldn't I have just tied one hand behind my back and refused to use electronic resources to up the level of difficulty?
Wait, didn't she say that Fiona was the one she planned?
And even though I just had to tell Fiona that, just because it's her birthday, she can't have ice cream for breakfast, even with cereal sprinkled on it, I wouldn't trade her, or any of the four, for anything. Ever.
Especially when they are sleeping.