Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fourteen years in an instant

We sat in a mostly empty movie theater, watching Good Will Hunting.

March 14, 1998...it was lightly snowing that night too, much like tonight.

We shared popcorn, a Coke and some type of candy I can't recall. I held her hand while she squirmed occasionally in her seat, trying to find a comfortable position. We enjoyed the movie but our thoughts mostly were elsewhere.

We were filling time...waiting for something big to happen.

And it did...four hours later.

We traveled through large heavy snowflakes that coated the road on our drive to the hospital in Augusta, Maine, her contractions light but growing closer together.

At 3 a.m. we checked into the maternity unit. We saw morning pass...then afternoon...then evening.

Her body was more fatigued and in pain than it had ever been; the baby she carried grew weary as well. I could tell from the rhythmic changes in the fetal monitor attached to her belly.

More time passed but the labor didn't "progress." The baby was stuck in the birth canal, the doctor said. A C-section would be needed.

They wheeled her into the cold, bright operating room. I  followed, garbed in disposable blue OR scrubs. I placed cool clothes on her forehead to help ease her nausea while the doctor worked to deliver the baby.

She was born at 8:49 p.m. on March 15, 1998...an 8-pound, 7-ounce baby we named Emma Kay, the middle name a tribute to her grandmother.

Her journey into the world was neither quick nor easy and her appearance was far from the cherubic image I had in mind during nine months of waiting.

Her head was cone-shaped, the result of being "stuck" for so long, and she looked like a boxer at the end of a prize fight with puffy, swollen, purplish eyes and scratches on her face.

And she was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen because she was mine...the daughter my wife and I were convinced we'd never have.

I held her in my arms when she was 15 minutes old - not really sure if what I was doing was right or if I had what it took to be a good Dad.

And I fell in love with her...while my love for her mother grew stronger because of her ability to bring this child into the world.

Tomorrow, at 8:49 p.m., my daughter Emma will turn 14 - a fact that I find somewhat unbelievable.

At moments like this, it seems time has accelerated - like I held my newborn daughter in my arms on the maternity unit and, suddenly, she transformed into the young lady I see before me.

I marvel at all of the memories we have created yet am puzzled that the years have passed so quickly.

This week, she chose a high school after considering several in the past weeks. Next week she will select classes for the fall...the start of her freshman year.

And, in the blink of an eye, she will start the process again for her transition to college.

I know now - as I did 14 years ago - that my daughter is beautiful.

Those who know her may think I'm referring to her outward beauty...and they wouldn't be completely wrong in that regard.

I see a different beauty, however...that which resides within. She was beautiful as an infant with innocence and a world full of opportunities.

As a 14-year-old, her beauty resonates in her kindness, her compassion for others, her spiritual foundation and her mindfulness in trying to do what it right for herself and those around her.

Her mother's beauty shines through her in that regard. And that's how it should be.

Happy birthday, beautiful Emma! 

6 comments:

  1. What a lovely tribute to your beautiful, strong, talented daughter. My baby turns 18 three days later. Yours has chosen a high school. Mine has chosen a college. Enjoy these next four years watching Emma become even stronger, more beautiful and more talented. Stay loving and proud. Go to every game. Be as involved as you can be. Because in another blink of an eye, you'll be writing about her graduating and going on her journey, making her life. I look forward to watching her over the next four years! You and Missy have done a great job!

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  2. Hi John.

    Something about your post on Twitter led me here.
    I recall the births of my children as if it were yesterday. Time flies ... now my boys are 28 and 32!

    Your daughter is beautiful - mostly I think because you can see her happiness. I'm picking a large measure of that will be 'Dad Magic'.

    Best wishes from the sunny South Pacific.

    Jonathan Gunson

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  3. Beautiful tribute!

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  4. A beautiful tribute to a special person! I am blessed to have Emma in my life!

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  5. Such a sweet gift to Miss Emma!

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  6. Happy Birthday Emma, a beautiful person born to very special people!

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