a year ago tonight, late in the dark last hour of the clock, i stepped out of my house and shut the door on a chapter of my life.

i had meant to stop there, on the threshold, and breathe deep. i had meant to note, in the night air, this is the last time i will ever be pregnant.  i’d meant to mark the momentous occasion, honour it, compose myself whilst glowing gracefully in the anticipation of my coming baby.

i don’t even remember leaving. i think i blew out that door like a lumbering, lumpen White Rabbit, mutters of I’m late, I’m late, for a Very Important Date interspersed with merciful Jesus, Dave, move yer ass! my water had broken with my cerclage still in, and as i’d delivered Oscar not long after arrival at the hospital, i was convinced this poor babe was poised to tear my cervix to shreds right in the car. never mind that the hospital is only five minutes from our house. i remember nothing of my last exit from my home as an expectant mother.

what i remember, instead, is the surprise of a long, steady, unhurried labour, marked by kindnesses and support and mercifully little one could call an emergency. i remember the cot brought for Dave so he could snore beside me through the quiet night, and capable hands and encouragement and the triangle of dark chocolate Toblerone i was allowed to sneak, fourteen hours in. i remember the OR lights above me and two doctors fighting between my splayed legs with the recessed stitch that had kept my baby in for months and didn’t want, in the end, to let go. i remember the thick, fibrous pages of the novel that kept me company in the wee, cramping hours, and the surprising solidity of the rocking chair’s varnished arm when suddenly, finally, in the early afternoon of the next day, labour finally announced itself familiar and clear.

i remember the last moments when i pushed her from me, the moments where the pain and fear and memory threatened to take me over but i surfaced and held and just for a moment i understood the beauty of a body bringing another body into the world. it took me three births to taste that, to glimpse the animal power and glory of those last fierce reserves from which babies slide, bloody and blinking.

mostly i remember her, the little squished face and shock of wet, black, waving hair, body red as a cherry popsicle. Josephine, daughter. born 10/09/08. my little countdown.

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last night, 363 days later, i nursed her before i fell asleep. i keep meaning to stop this nursing, this night nursing in particular.  she goes all day without me now, takes a bottle or a sippy cup happily, and at 20+ pounds has probably not needed a dream feed for months. and yet each night before i lay me down i find myself at her door, and i heft her away to the big bed and hold her close and nurse her quietly, just a few minutes more.

her first birthday – even before it happens – has ended up being a comedy of errors and happenstance, a milestone that will likely be no more marked by solemnity and reflection than the night i stepped out the door and into the first day of her life. it is the busiest week of the year for me at work, so we hijacked her cousin’s birthday party last weekend so as not to have to throw one of our own. klassy. and the battery charger for the fancy camera we bought so that the second child wouldn’t feel less photographed than the first? lost. camera’s dead as a doornail.  the homemade cupcakes i made last week when her grandparents were visiting, for the early semi-birthday celebration we actually made an effort with? looked like a pink poodle had shat on them, no exaggeration. i bought a cake today to bring to her daycare party tomorrow, and because of a restriction on chocolate at the day home and the limited selection the grocery store happened to have, it’s a blue cake, three days old, with Happy Birthday Posey scrawled on it in hideous red by an apparent illiterate, colour-blind house elf. Cake Wrecks is coming knocking. and possibly Child Services.

and yet, i know it doesn’t matter.  she won’t remember. and i will teach myself to forget. the things you think you should remember are never the ones that matter.

in the dark last night, her hands fluttered and came to rest against my collarbone, skin to skin. they are delicate hands, soft, with long, tapering fingers that she laces together just so. the night she was born, at six hours old, she lay in my arms with her tiny hands fluttering, and then wove the tips of her fingers together under her chin. last night, in the half-light of the nightlight, i watched her make the same sleepy, drowsy cathedral of fingertips. and i pulled her tight and whispered her name like a little song and marvelled that she has only been in my life a year.

happy birthday, Posey.  a lifetime of happy birthdays to you. one of these years, i’ll get it right.