I’ve dedicated the past week’s blog to the assemblage of ingredients and bake-ware necessary to bring my twin boys into this world, but today, I want to focus on my firstborn: the beautiful baby girl who started this whole motherhood thing off while I was barely out of swaddling clothes myself.
Caitlin Anice. Named after a childhood bestie and a beloved doctor aunt. Her destiny — as friend and physician – was sealed at birth, it would seem. As opposed to the boys, she came into this world in the old-fashioned way, a completely natural conception, easy-peasy pregnancy, and drug-free childbirth. Now that’s not saying labor was a cinch; she clung heartily to the cranky, contracting warzone of my womb for twenty-six hours before making her grand entrance. It was like she was memorizing every stage and step, in case there was a test later. I should’ve known right then and there just what this little one was made of. Simply coasting is not her style. She works hard for every single accomplishment — and accomplished she is. But I get ahead of myself…
Her hair and eyes were dark at first, like clouds at midnight, but as she acclimated to those long June days after birth, she began transforming. While nursing, her warm little body nestled up next to mine, I watched her midnight blue eyes absorb more and more light with each knew understanding. She learned sounds, then faces, then language and more. With each new skill, those eyes crackled and sparked. Out of the darkness and into the light, a child after Prometheus’ own heart. She loved to learn.
At twenty-one I was almost as much of a baby as she was — and this little girl, this little spark plug of passion and piss, taught me far more valuable lessons than I ever taught her. She taught me how to mother. From Caitlin I first learned about the tingly descent of ants stinging my breasts during letdown; how to successfully diaper an infant, midstream; how to bandage boo boos and bolster bad attitudes; how to sing lullabies and read storybooks and rock a baby to sleep in the soft, gentle breath of dusk. She taught me patience and perseverance, strength and resolve — lessons that have gone on to serve me well with both her siblings at home and my high school seniors at school. But back to mothering my girl.
I failed quite a few times. Caitlin, though, was a master teacher from the beginning. I’ll never forget the time as a baby she soared off our front porch in her walker, ass-over-teakettle. Somehow she survived, and I never made the same mistake again. Or the time as a toddler she stood amidst a swarm of yellow jackets that branded her with a dozen stings before I could reach her. I swear she wiped my tears before I wiped away hers. Or the time she contracted the shigella bacteria as a preteen. Poor girl, sick at both ends in the most violent and non poetic of ways. But as soon as the bags of fluids and fever and lethargy had passed, her loving aunts and I composed the “Don’t Cry for me, Caitlin Hester” shigella theme song and our entire extended family serenaded her during our beach reunion. It was funny; it was creative; it was in poor taste… and she was not amused. Like I said, I failed her. Sometimes shamelessly. But the ever-patient teacher that she is, she guided me right back to the drawing board, knowing I would get it right eventually.
Patience and perseverance, strength and resolve: Caitlin has them. Right along with gumption and grace, know-how and knack, compassion and courage. Her motto is “Love All,” and she lives it heartily, scattering warmth and love in her wake, and washing everyone in its sweetness and light.
For a while, life was easy for her. She basked in the summer sun of youth. She soared through elementary and high school, winning the Principal’s Award and high school homecoming queen. In college, and even med school, she rarely stumbled, light and love pouring out of her.
Now though, as an adult, she finds herself setting her courage to the sticking place and doing battle with her fiercest of competitors: general surgery. She’s been wrestling her way out of the war-torn womb of surgical residency, a long and arduous birthing process, for three years now. It is dark there. And deep. She is battered. Her light is dim. But she’s on the cusp of fourth year. She should begin seeing the light – the light that has never stopped burning inside her. The light she absorbed in those mid-June mornings in the procreant cradle of a mother’s love. After fifth year, she’ll shine that light into the dark black night of the licensed surgeon and she will soar. She will be ready. After all, she is a child born of the clouds of midnight, infused with the early summer sunshine. She has balance and grace. She has chosen the road less travelled — and it is lovely there, but it is also dark and deep – and she still has miles to go before she sleeps. But she is a child of Prometheus. She’s got this.
My little girl who taught me so much — is still teaching me so much today. She is the model of true strength and courage, patience and resolve. And she has the most incandescent heart I have ever known. Happy Birthday, my mid-June Monkey Doodle. You have never failed me. You are my sunshine.