In a few days, my oldest son will turn 20 years old. Surely I am not old enough to have a 20 year old son…or perhaps I am. These days, I barely can recall where I last set down my reading glasses or car keys. How then, is it possible that my memory of Christian Damian Datoc’s grand entrance into the world is so crystal clear? How is this possible? I remember every detail like it was only yesterday. Okay, maybe that’s not such a good comparison since these days I barely can remember what I ate for breakfast today, let alone what happened yesterday, but you know what I mean. I remember every detail and every year around this time, I reminisce about it. I recount the story of Christian’s birth and it never fails to cause the release of a wellspring of emotions in me. I recall the awakening of my protective maternal instinct and the exact moment I came to know this Universal Mother Truth: IF YOU HURT MY BABY I WILL KILL YOU. I must, however, confess that not all of my post-partum emotions were filled with the stuff of which Doris Day movies are made. In fact, motherhood did not come particularly naturally to me.
When I went into labor, my husband’s reaction was one of joyful excitement. “Aren’t you excited? Oh my gosh! We’re going to have a baby!” He was the oldest of four siblings and as a recent medical school graduate, had a couple of labors and deliveries under his belt. He was very much a “baby person.” I, on the other hand, was not a “baby person.” I was grossly inexperienced when it came to the handling of infants. When I realized my water broke the, “Oh my gosh! I really am going to have this baby,” I blurted was prompted by something quite different from Pat’s eager excitement. It was prompted by fear. I was 29 years old and I had never changed a diaper, never fed a baby, never burped a baby. The first time I’d even held a baby was when, pursuant to slapping his bottom and proclaiming, “It’s a boy!” the doctor handed Christian to me fresh from the womb. I never played house and pretended to be the “mommy,” like most little girls. Of course, I had baby dolls, but I chose instead to dress up my slightly over-weight Chihuahua-Poodle mixed breed in doll clothes and push her around the neighborhood in my toy pram. As you can imagine, squeezing a dog into a onesy was no easy task and as such, my childhood memories are filled more with pretending to be Gunther Gable than somebody’s mama.
It’s true… I nestled newborn Christian in my arms and made a silent, solemn promise to him, “If anyone, anyone tries to harm you, I will kill him.” And when that brief mother-son moment was disturbed by the sound of my doctor’s voice, “Pat, would you like to cut the cord?” all I could think was, ‘WAIT! Don’t do it… Can’t we put him back for just a little while? I AM NOT READY FOR THIS!” After several lessons from the lactation consultant and 100 or so diaper changes later (translation: one day), Christian and I found ourselves tucked safely into the backseat of Pat’s Honda. We were on our way home from the hospital and as I gazed into my sleeping baby’s face, one question pervaded my thoughts. “What am I going to do with you all day long…what am I going to do with you?” The answer, of course, was simple; I would do whatever my baby needed me to do, and I would, quite matter of factly, do so forever. There is an amazing gift that comes with being someone’s mama. It is the gift of being needed. I soon realized that no matter who was around, Christian’s eyes searched for me. I was the one he wanted to sooth him when he felt cranky, to feed him when he felt hungry, to rock him when he felt tired. There’s a glorious power in a baby’s need. It is the power to turn just another ordinary woman into a mother.
On the day Christian was born, the question pervading my thoughts was, “What am I going to do with you?” Twenty years later the question is, “What would I have done without you?” Happy Birthday, Christian. I love you.
Till tomorrow… Good night. Sleep tight.
© Antoinette D. Datoc 2011