Today, my girl is eleven. And I can't imagine having a more fantastic kid. She exudes fun and love; she is the light in the center of a crowd. She can make me guffaw sincerely, and she bowls me over with her ability to focus exactly when needed. Anyone that knows me well, knows that Maya was my first true love.
I can see her trying to figure out the outside world now with thoughtful caution just as her confidence is falling into place like perfectly laid bricks. Lately she has sprouted up into a tall athletic body and I catch glimpses of what she'll be like as a woman. This doesn't sadden me or make me long for baby-days. I only think: What a stunning and amazing and world-changing one she will be.
Maya was born at a naval hospital in San Diego. When I was pregnant and when I told people where she would be born, many cringed which makes a first-time mother feel really, really good. There were so many horror stories about the naval hospital, but you know what? I felt untouchable. I felt encapsulated, and nothing was going to happen to me or Maya.
I've described often the coming and going of the ocean's tide with my labor contractions, but in the labor room it seemed as if everyone else was in a panic; everything was fast-paced outside of my encapsulation. I felt still within a swirl of motion. My labor was not without its issues. I threw up in pans and I experimented with labor positions often enough to cause my little, back-closing gown to came off. I said, "Let's just take this stupid thing off" and I then labored naked probably to the horror of others. At one point, Maya's in-womb heart rate dropped enough to cause nurses to panic, and they ran around more and injected my thigh with something. They stuck something up me to "wake the baby up" -- I think they were making shit up on the spot -- and yet I felt so calm even when they seemed to purposefully try to worry me. Maya and I were untouchable, didn't they know?
Maya's dad, BD, was in the room as was his wonderful mother, Grandma Carmen, but I barely remember their presence. I remember Grandma Carmen rubbing my lower back with a tennis ball because a nerve felt crushed by all the goings on. The nerve thing was suffocating, but the tennis ball technique helped. She would whisper weepily to me, "Mi'ja, I've had five children, but I've never seen a birth. Thank you for letting me be here." This swelled my heart, but I even felt encapsulated from her; more like, I'm so happy Maya and I can bring you this joy, but it didn't connect me mother-to-mother to Grandma Carmen in that moment. Other things have, but not that.
I could feel a bond with Maya on the rise as she was about to enter the world. When she was in the womb, I felt more like a Grand Nurturer, a budding Goddess, but I did not feel a complete connection with the baby. But in the delivery room I could feel a force of her pending presence, and I looked around feeling like I knew a secret. I felt completely empowered. This caused a bit of disconnected from BD too. I wasn't allowing him in my encapsulation. After five hours of labor with little dilation thanks to whatever they injected into my thigh, I called for an epidural. I sat on the edge of the bed and followed instructions to stay very still and I looked down through my rigid arms at the legs of the scrub-clad anesthesiologist and of the legs of BD. As the doctor inserted the needle, I saw BD's legs buckle and a nurse yelled, "Sit down! Sit down!" I kind of chuckled to myself which is sorta fucked, but I felt that whatever he was experiencing or whatever his worry was for me or his own feelings in the delivery room were completely outside of mine.
The pushing gave me issue. After I shit the bed, I started to feel very anxious. It had been fourteen hours, including over an hour of pushing, and I wanted to see Maya so badly then. As I tried pushing again and as the nurses counted to ten, I heard yelling in the next delivery room. They were shouting, "Apgar 2! Apgar 2!" which is an evaluation score of a newborn's condition; 10 is the best. Healthy babies usually score 8-10. I watched two nurses rush by my room door bundling the Apgar Two baby. Then I bore down and pushed Maya out.
BD put his head down sweetly on a table and cried and Grandma Carmen wept in her own corner, and I all but grabbed Maya out of the hands of the doctor. She was swaddled in a white navy-issue blanket bordered in a pink stripe and a light blue stripe. Her face was swollen and red, her eyes especially, from too much time in the birth canal and her black hair was thick and matted. I wished the room away. I put my face so close to hers and we stared and stared at each other. I could feel her tiny puffs of breath against my lips. I was astounded. As I stared -- my own breath held -- everything else in the room did quickly fall away and out of focus. I saw nothing but Maya for years after that moment.
Happy Birthday, my big girl baby. I love you so much.
You are amazing and a world-changer already.