How much can one mama love one girl?

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You arrived way before I was ready—upside down, backwards and 2½ weeks early.

My pregnancy with you was easy and uneventful for the most part—except for all the craziness of the world outside. I was two weeks’ pregnant when the L.A. riots erupted and catapulted the city of angels into a city of fear and hatred.

The first time I felt you move was sometime in the late spring of 1992. A friend had given Hollywood Bowl tickets to your dad and me. It was a classical concert with an oh-so-serious audience of music aficionados. When the orchestra started playing Brahms’s Lullaby, I felt a fluttery feeling inside my belly. Then again. And again. It was you!

I grabbed his hand and placed it on my abdomen. You did another flip–and we laughed in unison. What a glorious moment that is ; the first time feel your baby move. We were elated. Unfortunately, our fellow concertgoers were not impressed. We were shushed and scolded and we fired back.  “You’re the rudest couple ever,” I hissed. Gio chimed in with his surly two cents. And then we piped down and sat there beaming, listening to Brahms’s Lullaby secure in the knowledge that you were healthy, alive, well, growing inside of me – and enjoying the concert with us. Later on, in the fall, you also came with us to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band—along with Aunt ReRe, Uncle Marty and another in utero concertgoer—cousin Tony Montano. Afterwards, ReRe and I bought t-shirts for us and miniature ones for you and Tony.

After those initial flutters early on, I didn’t really feel you move much. I remember gulping down a big glass of o.j. and feeling you stir later on in the year. I worried about that, along with so many other things. I now know that you were just very mellow and gentle and content in your safe and snug little world.

I wondered if you’d be a boy or girl. I fretted about whether you’d be healthy. Most of all, I worried if I would be up to all of it; if I would regret becoming a mother. But there was no turning back.

You were due to arrive around January 6, 1993. Instead, on December 18 in the early morning hours, the day had come. Your Nana had a theory about why our water broke that day. She said you must have tried to stretch a bit in those tight quarters inside of me, and reached out a tiny finger with a growing nail, and pop! It sounded like a plausible scenario to me.

Your Dad and I had religiously attended every prenatal class, with the exception of one—the week they covered C-sections. I’d been having a great pregnancy (until I developed high blood pressure in the 37th week and was ordered to immediately cease working). I wouldn’t be having a c-section, I decidedly pompously.

Off we rushed to L.A.’s Cedars Sinai Medical Center, nervous but giddy with excitement. I had one little cramp; that was it .Your dad went off to phone key family members, while a nurse performed a routine ultrasound just to check on your progress. And then, she murmured something under her breath. What was it she was saying? “Ohhh, nooo.”  You were breach, I soon learned. Upside down and backwards. And since my water had broken , you had to come out. ASAP. An emergency c-section was ordered.

The nurse performed all the necessary preparations, and before I knew it, I was in an operating room surrounded by two doctors, an anesthesiologist and a few additional nurses. After administering the medication via IV, they were began the operation, chitchatting about mundane matters. Then it was time for your to make your debut, but it took some work. Let’s just say it’s a very strange sensation to have two pairs of hands pulling and tugging inside of your abdomen.

You absolutely did not want to come out and start your new life outside the womb. (Even before you were born, you didn’t like endings. You didn’t know then that it was an exciting new beginning.)

After several tense minutes of pulling, tugging and maneuvering, the moment arrived. Out you sprung, like a little monkey in a box, and soon let out a healthy cry.

I gazed over and saw you for the first time. Intense feelings of relief, astonishment and wonder washed over me, and I said your name for the first time: “Gabriella Mary De Francesco.”

Now here we are, 21 years later. We’ve grown and learned together, you and I. You’ve given me so much joy, and I really could not be more proud. You’ve developed into an exceptionally smart, sweet and caring woman, and have made me the luckiest mama on the planet.

I love you more than every hair on every head, every word that’s ever been said, every candle on every cake, every wish you could ever make.

Happy 21st, my marvelous “Monkey Girl”!

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