Today, Kendra turned eight.
Eight years ago, on March 29, 2000, I went to the hospital hoping that the stubborn little creature housed inside me would submit to being turned head-down, helping me to avoid a C-section. (Not so lucky. And I’d take a C-section over External Version any day of the week!) Eight years ago, the doctor was going to send me home to wait another week or two, with my baby’s bottom wedged firmly in the birth canal, ignoring my pleas, my tears and my persistent-but-unproductive contractions, but Kendra had different ideas. After the stress of being turned, she refused to react in a way that made the hospital staff confident of her safety, so after a few hours’ deliberation, some annoying buzzes to my tummy and large quantities of orange juice and Lorna Doone cookies to put her into sugar shock, it was decided that she’d make her way into the world via abdomen.
Eight years ago I was terrified out of my mind.
I walked down the hallways of the Women’s Center, chuckling to the anesthesiologist that I was walking my own private “Green Mile”. (Who walks to their own C-section? Really?) I remember lying on the table, asking when they were going to start, and the doctor laughed and said they were almost finished. Kenny kept peeking over the drape and saying, “Oh, that is SO gross. Oh, I’m going to be sick. Oh, YUCK!” and then repeating the process over and over again. In hindsight, it was a nice distraction, I guess, but on that day, I wanted to smack him. Or staple his scrubs to the stool. Maybe both.
Eight years ago, at 1:01 PM, Kendra made her way into the world bottom-first. The doctors laughed and said, “Congratulations! It’s a girl! We just don’t know what color her hair is yet!” My tiny (and very angry) daughter was whisked to the corner to be cleaned up while I was stitched back together with “one long big stitch”, which was my doctor’s attempt at post-op humor, I guess. I got to kiss her as she went past, and I sent my husband to the nursery with her so she wouldn’t be alone. I didn’t get to hold her for another two hours, and my arms ached for her, my six-pound, fifteen-ounce little girl.
She was also a miracle baby, of sorts. When her older brother was born (exactly one year and two days before), my doctor told me he’d be my only baby. Imagine their shock when I walked into the office when he was four months old and told them I thought I might be pregnant again. (I knew I was. I’d already taken a test at home. You should have seen the shock on their faces.) We joke about how we prayed so hard for Alex, we got Kendra too! I knew she was coming, though. When I was in college I had a dream about two round-cheeked little preschoolers who I knew to be my babies and who I knew weren’t twins. I assumed that the daughter was the oldest. When my first baby was a boy, I knew another (girl) baby was coming soon. The day we brought Alex home, I announced, “I could do that again.” (Famous last words…) We chose to be surprised by her gender also, but I was confident that Kendra was a “she”.
And what a princess she was. (Is.) Being the second grandchild and the first granddaughter, she was spoiled rotten. Everything was pink, frilly, and girly. She was like a queen surrounded by her subjects. She flirted with men shamelessly, even as a newborn, and she had mastered the dirty look by her third week of life. She hated my mom and one of my sisters, but loved to be held and cuddled by her dad, her grandpa and her uncles. I was tolerated as a food supply, but when she was finished with me, she let me know it by arching her back and pulling away. Thankfully, when she hit seven months, her demeanor changed completely and she transformed into the compassionate, loving, kind-hearted little Princess we adore.
I am going to share some of my favorite “Kendra” moments with you. She’s a great kid, and I have lots of great stories, so it’s going to be hard to choose.
1. Kendra refused to take a pacifier, which was unfortunate, because she cried… a lot. When she wanted something, she wanted it yesterday, almost from the moment she was born. When she was about four months old, she figured out how to stuff her first two fingers into her mouth, and then it took us years to break her of the habit. She also became attached to a fluff-filled mini pillow of Alex’s, and she dragged it around everywhere. It was her lovey. It got lost (really, it did!) for about six months, and we had many sleepless nights until my husband broke down and bought her a much nicer, much larger down-filled one. When we found her old one, which was threadbare and only half-stuffed, she wrinkled up her nose at it and said, “I liked THAT?” (Oh, to have a recording of her dramatic wails and screams…) I keep the old pillow in my cedar chest, and every once in a while Kendra will look at it and laugh. She can’t figure out what its appeal was, although she remembers sucking and chewing on its corners and getting her fingers tangled up in its frayed strings.
2. Kendra has always had a love for music. She sings constantly, and she has a very beautiful voice. When she was about 20 months old, she was singing songs like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and “Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam” in their entirety. Imagine my surprise when, at 21 months, she belted out the ABC song, substituting “la la la la pee” for “L, M, N, O, P”. We had been teaching her brother to sing it, and she picked it up on the exact same day. (She’s amazing!) It took her almost a year to fix the “la la la” part, not because she didn’t know the letters, but because she thought it sounded better. Prettier. (Did I mention she was a stubborn kid?)
3. One night we had a Family Home Evening where we were focusing on the traits we most admired in each other. Kendra was about 2 1/2 at that time. I told her how much I enjoyed watching her care for her dolls, and how I knew she’d be a great mother when she grew up because she was so full of love. Her eyes filled up with tears and she threw herself into my arms. “How did you know I want to be a mommy?” she cried? “I want to be just like you!”
4. Kendra was four when we moved into our house. After a long, exhausting day of moving our belongings, we faced our first night in a new and unfamiliar place. Kenny had gone to Wendy’s to grab some dinner, and baby Hannah was sleeping. To pass the time (and because it had been impossible to get to in our teeny-tiny apartment, but suddenly it had its own room!), I pulled out some sheet music, sat down with Alex and Kendra, and played my piano for the first time in months. Maybe even years. We sang familiar Primary songs, Disney songs, silly songs, and I even taught them a few new ones. Kendra was sitting next to me on the bench when I played “If We Hold On Together”, and she laid her head on my shoulder as I started to sing. Halfway through the song, Kendra made a funny sound and I looked over to see what was going on. There was my sweet daughter, shaking with sobs, while silent tears streamed down her cheeks. I put both arms around her and asked what was wrong. “I’m so happy!” she hiccuped. “I love this house, and I love this song, and I love our family. I’m just so happy!” It was the first time I ever saw her moved to tears. It was a perfect moment. Sincere. Our new house hummed in vibrations of love.
5. When Alex went to Kindergarten, Kendra was extremely put out to think that she couldn’t go with him. We’d walk him to school and she’d wail all the way home. To keep my sanity and stop the ear-splitting, headache-inducing protests, I named those mornings “Special Girl Days”. Hannah would go down for a nap, and Kendra and I would play games, read stories, do crafts, or watch a movie. It was a really fun way for us to spend one-on-one time together. When it was her turn to go to school the next year, she was thrilled to leave me, and I was heartbroken to let her go. I miss our “Special Girl Days”.
6. When she was five, Kendra had tubes put in her ears and her adenoids removed. The poor kid had so much fluid built up in them, she had lost a good share of her hearing. (Oh, the guilt I felt for all the times I yelled at her for not listening better…) As part of her surgery prep they gave her Versed to make her groggy, so she wouldn’t remember getting an IV or having the procedure done. She brought her pillow with her, and it was shedding feathers. At one point she kept picking intently at her sheet, trying to lift something that wasn’t there. When I asked her what she was doing, she said she was trying to get a feather off her bed. (It was at least an inch away from where she was touching.) We started to giggle at the drug’s affect on her vision, and she looked up at Kenny. “Daddy!” she said in a dreamy voice. “There’s two of you! Do that to me!”
7. When she was in Kindergarten, Kendra’s class performed its yearly Christmas program. It was a very involved affair, with instruments, costumes, props and solos. (An amazing feat for 100 five-year-olds, due in large part to their amazing teachers!) Anyway, for one of the songs, “Angel Band”, Kendra was chosen to play the bass drum. This was the most highly coveted role in the whole program, and she had beaten out several other kids in her “audition” process. Having seen (and heard!) this song the year before, we knew what to expect, but it still didn’t prepare us for the sight of our little daughter standing next to this enormous circular drum on its stand; nor did we expect her to beat it so accurately or loudly. The kid didn’t miss a single beat throughout the whole song, and the bass drum drowned out the rest of the kindergarteners’ voices, their instruments, and the roaring laughter of the audience. It was equally one of the most hilarious and proudest moments I’ve experienced as Kendra’s mother. Everybody was buzzing about the tiny girl with the big rhythm and how *on* she was. It was great.
8. My last memory is one that is expecially meaningful as we move further from childhood and closer to the teenage years. *faint* Recently, Kendra and I were having a casual conversation about something when she hugged my waist and told me she loved me. I hugged her back and said, “I hope you’ll still hug me when you’re 13.” She was shocked and wanted to know why. I explained that some kids (MOST, but she doesn’t need to know that!) go through a stage where they don’t like their parents, and they fight with each other because they get frustrated. Parents don’t want their kids to grow up too fast, and kids feel like their parents should let them do more. She looked at me in horror and exclaimed, “Mommy, I would NEVER fight with you. Ever. I promise you. I will NEVER do that. Wow, do kids really do that? I can’t believe it.” In hindsight, I should have gotten her to sign a notarized statement agreeing to be, well, agreeable through her teenage years, but now that her words are immortalized in blog-land, I’ll direct her here if the need for a reminder should ever arise.
That’s my girl. My Kendra. My little mom-in-training. The little/big sister, the athlete, the artist, the singer and the cuddler. She makes me so proud to be her mother! She is an amazing little person, and I have every confidence that she will continue to be even more amazing at each new stage of her life. She brings me joy. She makes my heart sing.
She is my princess.