Birthdays–more than just counting years

Twenty-five years ago, my second daughter, Caryn, was born. Twenty-five years ago, my daughter, Holly, went from being an only child to having to share her parents with another, something I’m pretty sure didn’t thrill her much at the time.  Twenty-five years ago, I was blessed with becoming the mother of a trying but unique little girl, one  who would take me on a journey that would test my sanity, push my patience, and make my life far richer than I could ever imagine.  A rambunctious young lady, who would teach me about love, and heartache, and what it means to be a mother.

Every child that a mother has holds a special place in her heart, and there always room for more. Holly was the first; by the time she was two, she already had it all figured out.  Lori was my youngest daughter, sweet and innocent, and the baby, for a while anyway.  Sean came along, the only boy and instead of one mother, he got four.

Caryn’s birth was a difficult one for me, much more difficult than my first. The labor was harder, the pain more intense, and for some reason, I felt that maybe she didn’t want to be born just yet.  It was a cold January night in 1986 when I walked the halls at St. Luke’s Hospital In Cedar Rapids, Iowa. 

Caryn wasn’t due for 10 more days but I felt the first pangs of labor on Jan. 15.  I wasn’t sure of this was it because I had felt false labor with Holly.  “Let’s just wait a while,” I told my husband, Bruce.  So that’s what we did.  We timed the contractions and though they were light, they were regular.  We took Holly over to Bruce’s mom’s house and went to the hospital.

Once we got there, I was checked and told that I was only dilated three centimeters.  “You can go home and wait, or you can walk the halls,” said the OB nurse.  We chose to stay and walk because it was so cold out, (below zero) I didn’t feel like going home and just coming right back in, because, well,  that just seemed to be my luck.

So we walked.  And walked.  And walked. We walked up and down the long halls.  I watched women being rushed to the delivery room, and still I walked. The contractions became stronger, and still I walked. Finally, after what seemed like hours, I went back to my room to be checked.  “You’re getting there!” the nurse called enthusiastically from the foot of my bed.

I was not in the mood to be as enthusiastic, but managed a weak smile, because I knew that it would be over soon. I wanted my birth to be a natural one, like I had for Holly, so I held out for medication.  But it became extremely hard to resist.  The pains became more intense and they finally broke my water.  “I’m really in a lot of pain.  Can I get some pain medication?” I asked, almost pleading.

“No, the doctor says you’re too close, we have to get that baby out,” the nurse said, changing her tone.

So there I lay, in the most pain I didn’t think I would ever feel again (I was wrong, I had two more kids)  They say that women in child-birth reach a threshold and an automatic pain reliever kicks in a nd you don’t remember the pain. Well, they’re wrong.  

 But the moment they put that tiny baby girl in my arms, nothing else mattered.  When we went home the next day, it was bitterly cold. We bundled her, afraid that three layers of clothes wouldn’t be enough.  Holly had been born in May and we hadn’t had to worry about it.

I was excited to be home with Caryn but soon found that to be exhausting.  Holly got the chicken pox when Caryn was a week old and we were afraid Caryn would get them.  Then Caryn developed colic and she cried all the time.  At first we couldn’t figure out why.  I was breastfeeding and using formula to supplement. Apparently she didn’t like it and we spent hours trying to console her. She did grow out of that, but not for a few months.

When Caryn was 2 month-old Caryn was hospitalized with pneumonia, something that would follow her right through to adulthood. (She also had earaches and sinus infections and it seemed like we were at the emergency an awful lot.)

I was a little worried about how Holly would react to her little sister, but they became fast friends. But they were very different. Caryn wa s a very cautious child, who took to a security blanket and sucked her fingers when she was unsure of something.  She was quiet and clung to her dad a lot of the time.  But boy did she have a temper! 

It was clear that Caryn was her own person.  She wanted to be.  Not that she was really that independent but she made her own style.  She was a trendsetter.   She was a girly girl and loved to wear dresses and fix her hair. We bought her a pair of white cowboy boots that she loved dearly.  She loved them so much that she wore out two pairs of them!

I tell this story often, mostly because it enables me to hold on to that special memory of Caryn that is hers alone. Growing up was difficult for Caryn; divorce and step-parents only complicated her middle-child existence, and all I could do was tell that it would get better.  And it did.  She grew up and she was able to make her life the way she wanted it.

Now Caryn has three children of her own and finding out what it’s like to be a mother. Sometime she calls, at her wit’s end and close to tears.  Other times, she gushes how much she loves being a mother.  It’s all that…and more. 

So today I pay tribute to my daughter for surviving the awkward adolescent, teenage, and young adult years, and being able to enter the true adult years with grace and dignity.  Happy Birthday Caryn!  I love being your mother!

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