In the late hours of February 17th 2010, the world met Katherine Anne LaFleur Flaherty. Katie. My biological daughter.
I'd be lying if I said I was immune to the sentiment. Even if I had nothing to do with the act of conceiving her, and will not likely be part of raising her, she's... out there in the world. She carries my DNA. She's part of me. When I held her, I felt a connection, but I can't exactly describe what. It's a little like the connection you feel to someone whose body you are occupying. Asked if I had any thoughts on a middle name, I suggested Anne, for Anne Marie.
Erica was absolutely bursting when she first saw the little peanut. Hopped up on the emotions of a fairly difficult labour, exhaustion, euphoria, she watched this little pink somebody squirming in her arms and just broke down in tears of delight, beaming. She whispered "You're here, you're here."
Sean was still out west, amidst the craziness of the Olympics and his reason for being there, which is a potential job. What kind of a job takes you two weeks to get (or not get) I have no idea.
The night before it happened, I'd had one of my recurring nightmares. I don't think I've actually mentioned them on the blog, because every time I have one I am just too weirded out to get a handle on myself and write about it. In this one, I was in Toronto, but sometimes I'm back in Connecticut. But the nightmare's recurring theme is the Inn: I look down and suddenly I'm back in Anne Marie's body. I've got her breasts, her chubby thighs, her little knees, her arms, her feet, her wide hips, her round bum, her pussy. I feel everything I did the way when I was her. It's a little colder, my muscles ache a little more, I feel a little lethargic and my breasts feel tender with age. I feel myself get a little wet, but not with arousal, with nervousness or fear (it's a dream, it doesn't have to make sense.) But everyone knows it's me. Alia was in this one. She was in her own body, but she wasn't acting like herself, but in the dream it was her and not Crystal. And I felt like she was getting angry at me for being Anne Marie, but she wasn't really. She was totally indifferent, but her seeing me like that made me feel so ashamed. Sometimes it's not Alia, sometimes it's my mom, or Bryan, or Erica, or my third grade teacher. But this deep, sore feeling wells up until I jolt awake. I don't get back to sleep most nights when I have them.
So anyway, I was up, and understandably freaked out. I was thinking about making a drink or smoking a bowl (except Erica doesn't have any at her place, where I've been staying, which is probably just as well as it is one of many bad habits I have been trying to leave behind.) Anyway. I was up on the couch, just not falling asleep, when suddenly I hear this rustling from Erica's room, followed by cries of intense (agony?) She calls out my name and bursts through the door. "Todd, Todd, it's happening!" she pants.
After a brief period of confused panic, during which I tried to figure out how to discern she was actually going into labour, I got her to the hospital (driving her car, a Kia.) While she was wheeled off, I called Sean in Vancouver to let him know he was going to be a dad.
I wasn't sure whether I wanted to be in the delivery room, but she did ask, so I thought, "Who am I to reject a pregnant lady's demands?" So in I went, to act as birthing partner, even though I hadn't done any Lamaze classes or anything (during my time staying with her, she did give me a primer on what would be expected, should she give birth, but it's one thing to hear, another thing to experience.)
What she couldn't know, and what I feel a little bad for thinking so hard about, was how traumatic it was for me. I mean, as far as she knows, I've never been a woman, don't know what having a vagina feels like, can't imagine something bursting out of it. But while no, I didn't know anything about the actuality of birth, I definitely lived through enough menstruation and other vaginal events to be able to synthesize it in my head. It's like imagining getting a finger cut off: you have fingers, and the rest you can fill in with your imagination.
This lasted a few hours, all the while I was wincing in sympathy pain in my imaginary vagina. 14 hours later, just before 11 PM, the cord was cut, and the little girl was in the open. Free and clear.
Bryan and Crystal were waiting outside, although Bry had nodded off. Crystal cooed over the baby like, well, a woman who really wanted one (which Bry took with self-effacing humour: "You're too young to want a baby.") Bry patted me on the back, and I joked "Hey, my work is done here. She's Sean's problem now."
I had only a little moment with her alone. I told her, "Katie, someday, you're going to wonder about this day. I don't know what your mommy and daddy are going to tell you, but someday they'll have to explain how you got here, and why daddy wasn't in the room with mommy, and who was holding her hand when... when she brought you into the world. I don't know who I'm gonna be to you, kiddo. I don't know if I wanna be Uncle Todd or other-daddy, or what. I don't want to be a stranger, but I think it's sad... I think it's sad that even if your mom tells you the truth, that still... you'll never be able to know the truth about where your real daddy was the day you were born."
When I got home, the first thing I did was e-mail Deb down in Florida to let her know that her daughter had been born.
Then I went to sleep for the first time in about 24 hours, going to work in the morning and returning to the hospital as soon as I could.