Hey, sweet girl! Happy birthday to you!
…but I actually want to talk about something that happened on your most recent UNbirthday.
You and I both hit a milestone yesterday. (Weirdly, your last birthday post was also about an unconventional milestone.) Well, I hit a milestone. You probably care less about hitting the milestone, because what you really remember hitting was a metal pole. With your head. And also the ground, with your face.
You got your first mild concussion! Congratulations! And I managed my first concussion as a mama!
For posterity and those following along, you were at recess. You’d forgotten your gloves, and I guess Mrs. Friedrich has a loaner pair that you borrowed, but they didn’t fit quite right, and mostly they weren’t yours so they didn’t feel quite right on your hands. The story, as I understand it, involves you trying to slide down a pole, losing your grip, hitting your face on the ice at the bottom and your head on the pole. I’m fuzzy on the rest of the details because, well, you were pretty fuzzy as well.
The nurse called me, saying protocol was to observe you for 45 minutes, but it had been ten and she was worried about you. I was to come get you and take you to in. I struggled to get your siblings in the car—you know how long it takes us to get loaded up under the best of circumstances, and we were having lunch and your baby sister had a dirty diaper for the first time in weeks (she usually uses the toilet for that) and I was was flustered and not moving in an especially organized way.
Here’s what was going through my head: Traumatic brain injury. Hemorrhage. Death. A lady I follow on Instagram has a daughter—eight, like you—who hit her head and… it’s going poorly. Eva is making small improvements and they’re praying hard for healing, but right now, they talk frequently about how much they miss their girl who could talk and play and crack jokes.
That’s what I was picturing. My firstborn, in a hospital bed. Your dad and I, probably flying back and forth between Seattle Children’s and home with the other three. Your siblings, asking questions I wouldn’t be able to answer. A CaringBridge page. Fear. Sadness. Uncertainty.
Nurse Alyssa called again, wondering how long I would be. It had taken me ten minutes already, even though we live a two-minute drive from the school. She was worried because your O2 was a little low. (92, so not dangerous on its own, but not normal, either.) I got the sense she was trying to decide whether to wait for me or call an ambulance. (I don’t know if that was the case or not.) “We will be in the car within five minutes, and at the school two minutes after that,” I promised.
The little two bickered on the way downstairs. There was pushing and an uncharacteristic refusal from Lilly to let me buckle her in. I was frustrated with them and worried about you.
We parked and I led my weird little parade into the nurse’s office.
There you were. A little hazy, but conscious, responsive, aware of the date and the accident. You had normal pupils, your speech was normal. You seemed stunned, but you were with it enough to add a little dramatic flair. We didn’t go to the ER as Nurse Alyssa suggested, or even to urgent care. She doesn’t know you well enough to distinguish between “hurt plus a little bit of flair” and “really, really hurt, take her in right now.” We brought you home, you laid on the couch with a movie, and by late afternoon, you wanted to come shopping with us for a dress for your birthday and choir concert tomorrow. (Today.)
Jenna, I do not recall ever spending so many minutes wondering if I was about to lose you. I’m really sorry your head hurts, but it probably doesn’t look like sympathy because I’m just so. darn. happy. You’re fine! It’s a headache! Here, have an ibuprofen! Also, a hug! (Sorry. Too tight.) Yes, you can watch another movie. You’re asking me for screen time, just like every other day! Do you need an ice pack? Some Lucky Charms? Here you go!
The day before and day of your birthday are always days I spend thinking about when you were born… me, draped over a huge yoga ball, laughing at the first Twilight movie with RiffTrax with your Uncle RyLee and a couple of his high school friends, all home from their first semester of college. None of them knew I was surreptitiously timing contractions. Me, laboring on the same ball, inexplicably in the hall bathroom, listening to a CD of holiday piano music while your Dad played Halo. (I just wanted to be alone. I didn’t know this at the time, but that’s just how I do labor.) Him and I (again, in the bathroom) discussing whether we were going to name you Jenna or Kathryn/Katherine. (This is the Very Deep reason we chose Jenna: we couldn’t agree on a spelling.) The drive to the birth center, settling on your middle name, painfully needing to pee but not being able to because you were pinching something, feeling every. single. bump. Getting out of the car at midnight at the birth center (when it was still downtown)… Dana wasn’t yet there, but I absolutely was not going to sit in the car for one more second, and no it didn’t matter that it was twenty below. Heading in with Dana, who’d delivered Uncle RyLee in Nana and Grandpa’s bedroom 18 and a half years prior, being grateful she was on call. The tub. The fast birth. Me freaking out, yelling, “There’s something coming out of me!” and Dana nodding patiently, “Mmhmm. That’s a baby.” You came out so fast after we got there that Vanessa (the second midwife) didn’t make it until you were out. Going home and Kannon deciding you belonged to him and nobody was allowed to hold you without his explicit permission. You had your own giant, fluffy bodyguard.
All of that is still there this year, but also this overwhelming relief mixed with a light residue of sheer terror at what could have happened. I might be a bit of a mess.
J, you’re a gift always. I’m just a little more cognizant of it today than I usually am on birthdays. And you are definitely growing up just right.
(The last three images are from Sarah Lewis Photography.)