And this is what I learnt.
I know that I am not supposed to say such things, that in polite company I should keep such a sentiment completely under wraps, because it makes other people feel uncomfortable to hear that sort of declaration spoken about your child’s birthday and all.
But my memories of that day are not comprised of happy tears and counting little bitty fingers and toes.
They are of clutching bed rails, gritting my teeth and trying to reverse a contraction because a nurse was telling me not to push, not under any circumstances. The baby was breech, but that wasn’t why they were rushing me towards an operating table. I was only 25 weeks into my pregnancy. The baby I was carrying was so fragile that the strength of my contractions could break her neck in the birth canal.
I fought futilely against my own body so that giving birth to my only child would not be the thing that killed her.
And then they cut her out of me, slit me hip to hip with a mask over my face and they did not hold her up above the curtain, like in the movies. They put her straight into a plastic bag and my husband said it was a measured frenzy the way they forced the ventilator tube down. I remember the way the anesthesiologist’s eyes looked as they hovered above me and the cadence of the nurse’s voice as she tried to talk my daughter into breathing again.
They pushed the cart into my line of vision, so that I could see her as they ran IVs through the stump of her umbilical cord and a doctor stitched me up.
The scale said 0.7 kilograms, but it didn't register the weight of my immediate, indescribable love.
In the middle of the trauma, for just a moment, I was drenched in the beautiful magic that happens when you bring a child into the world.
That joy fused with the fear, cloaked in dismal statistics that said this baby I just had probably wouldn't live, or that if she did, she would likely be deeply scarred by the tragic timing of her birth.
And then they whisked her away.
I remember the first time they wheeled me in to see her. They had put a splint on her leg where my body had broken her and it was made out of tongue depressors, the kind that are the same size as popsicle sticks. She didn't even have ears. She was this tiny, miniature version of a baby, but she was still not fully formed.
I stood there looking at how overwhelmingly, devastatingly small she was, at how her entire arm was smaller than my index finger and I thought that she was definitely, without question, going to die.
I felt as though I had failed her and a piece of me wanted to die too.