Thursday, February 20, 2014

When I Say: "My Daughter"

Dear Ellie,

A few minutes after you were born, I remember a nurse told me, "You'll be able to see your daughter in the NICU once she's stable."  At first, the comment didn't register.  Didn't make sense.

"My what?" I thought.  "My daughter?  But I don't have a daughter, not yet..."  

For some reason, some primitive part of my brain wasn't relenting to the idea that I had a daughter, which was peculiar because I had wanted you since I was a child, myself.  All my life, I've told people I was going to have a daughter one day, but it was always accompanied by a future tense.  So when the nurse referred to my daughter, there was a tickle in my brain.  Like the furniture was being rearranged in my head.  It felt a lot like that moment when we first learned you were a girl.  Suddenly, the idea of YOU in my mind began sprouting all of those adorable, feminine gender pronouns.  "Her."  "She."

Still, after you were born, I was reluctant to use the term "my daughter."  I couldn't understand why, not completely.  For awhile, whenever I visited you, I'd tell people, "I'm going to the NICU" instead of "I'm going to the NICU to see my daughter."  The way I said it made it sounds as though I were going there to get a sandwich and some fries.

Slowly, I moved toward using the term "baby."  "I'm going to see the baby."  "I've got a baby in the hospital."  It was comfortably ambiguous.  Yesterday evening, though, I finally said, "My daughter."  I didn't really think about it that hard.  I didn't even notice.  Later, while I was walking to the hospital, the phrase came back at me and it seemed like such a happy, wonderful phrase.  But it also felt like a wound reopening.  Like staring into the sun on a beautiful summer day.

"My daughter."  Whenever you have a "bad day," I wonder how much longer I will be able to say it.   

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