My daughters, Eleanor and Sadie, are 10 (almost 11) and 8 years old, and Ryan and I still tuck them into bed every night. Some nights are harder than others. After a long day of lawyer work and mom work, making my way up the stairs to kiss and hug and tuck sheets in under chins and have the inevitable pre-bedtime profound/procrastinating conversations can be daunting.
Recently I was tucking in Eleanor, and she propped herself up on one elbow, raised one eyebrow at me, and said, “Mom? What was your best birthday present EVER?”
I stood back and looked at her and tried to remember what my best birthday present was. I was tired. I was impatient. And I was stymied. I sighed, “Gosh, Eleanor. I really don’t know. I can’t think of what my best gift ever might be.”
“MOM,” she pleaded. “SERIOUSLY?”
I looked at her blankly.
“I THOUGHT YOU SAID I WAS THE BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT EVER.”
And just like that I snapped out of my exhausted, pensive state. Of course. Eleanor. My first-born, older daughter was, and always will be, my very best birthday present.
She was born on my 31st birthday, on November 5, 2003. Ryan and I had gone to one of my final prenatal appointments the day before. My due date was a week later. My doctor took my blood pressure, read the numbers, frowned, pumped up the cuff again, looked at the numbers, looked at me, and said, “OK, this is it. It’s time to have this baby.”
“OK…” I stammered. “I just need to go home and get packed….”
She shook her head. “No way. You are going to the hospital. Right now. Ryan can get your stuff,” and with that, she proceeded to call the hospital and inform them of my imminent arrival.
It turned out that I had preeclampsia, and it was imperative that we get the proverbial ball rolling right away. So we did. They checked me in, induced my labor, finally gave me the blessed epidural, and the next day at 5:15 A.M., Eleanor Neva Anderson shot into the world in all her glory, weighing only slightly over six pounds. She was beautiful and pink and tiny with intense blue eyes. I overflowed.
How can any thing compare to this exquisite, perfect birthday gift? Maybe that’s why I couldn’t answer Eleanor that night when she asked me the question while I was tucking her in. My tired mind immediately went to things. And I couldn’t remember a single thing that meant the most to me.
There is almost something mystical about sharing my birthday with Eleanor. It’s my birthday, her birthday, the day I gave birth to her. And you’ll think I’m crazy, but I feel like I predicted that I would give birth on my birthday. I illustrated this poem by e.e. cummings and gave it to my mother for her birthday in 1995, when I was fresh out of college and had more time for deep thoughts and creative, artistic and literary pursuits. I remember being moved by the poetry—by the wondrous notion of my mother’s birthday also being my birthday, figuratively speaking:
Happy Birthday, Eleanor!
Happy Birthday, Me.
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