She was named in the hospital, after naming her Charlotte. After learning she was a girl (what?!). After the kerfuffle between the OB and lead nurse who took her away from me. After she had spent a mere 11 minutes in the birth canal, too fast to squeeze those tiny lungs clear. After sending my friends home because I didn’t know how long the birth would be. After an afternoon of my partner and our best friend feasting on burgers and shaving his soon-to-be-dad head. After calmly announcing I think I might be in labour, and getting a coffee down the street. After watching my belly get bigger and my ability to predict the future get smaller. After watching people shrink away, or step up. After seeing the little blue line and smiling in spite of my fear. After my boyfriend gently suggested I take a pregnancy test, and blinking at him like he was speaking a different language.
Monica. The name landed on her so hard there was no removing it. Not after all that.
Monica rocked my world. She knocked everybody I knew on their ass. Her arrival made people nervous. Her multiplying cells sped up my life. I spoon fed her apple sauce and she force fed me focus. There was a lot of kicking and screaming, from both us. Fuck she was a tough baby. Do you remember? Do you remember how tired I was? How loud she was? She looked like a porcelain doll and sounded like a siren. Monica asked things of me I felt offended to have to answer – like Do you have what it takes Mir? Her method of communication ensured her survival, as though she knew she had been born to the un-ready. She kept me awake, kept me on my toes and kept me in line. Monica knew. She’s always known.
Monica screamed her way through infancy, like the notion of being a baby was infuriating. Her lack of control, her limited communication, compounded by her dumb parents who couldn’t read her signals – it all seemed to overwhelm her. It was like she had done this before and she knew she was shit-out-of-luck having to do it all over again, and so she raged with a fire only newborns possess. But when she stopped long enough to connect, her presence was breath-taking. Do you remember?
Toddlerhood redirected her energy. Her developing language calmed her, gave her a voice. Her developing voice empowered her, gave her a will. Her will was so strong I often found myself in a deadlock with a 2 year old that felt unnaturally balanced. My inability to maintain my authority speaks more to my wavering expertise as a young mother, but her intelligence has always been a little unnerving. It is hard to stand behind an argument when the conviction of your opponent is unrelenting and comes from one so small, with a fire only toddlers possess.
Today Monica sits on the edge of pre-teen. She doesn’t care for endurance sports, documentaries, or Danny from The Mindy Project. She loves hearing stories about herself and staying up late with her parents. Insightful, emotionally intelligent, focussed, quick as a whip and if she tries – or if her brother pins her down – she can be silly. When she flirts with the carefree I breathe a sigh of relief. Stay childish. Stay light. She has always had a tendency to know, take on, feel and understand too much.
As soon as she could talk, Monica wanted to know where she came from. You were picking your parents I said – a response that captured an intuitive feeling that I had been selected for this job. From the moment she dropped from a star and took up shop in my body, I knew she wasn’t mine. I felt the weight of being a guide, and at times I have protested hard. She’s watched me fumble, heard me apologize and still seems to like me. Every day she’s a step ahead, and every day I try to keep up.
Conservative to a fault. Monica.
Motherhood often feels like a bad basement party; dark, loud and somebody is always standing lonely in the corner. I don’t find I excel at the endless tasks, restrictions, stresses and failures. I shirk many conventional behaviours that motherhood demands and make an effort to dress as well as I did when I was childless. But true to form, Monica knew what she needed and landed herself in a family that is brilliantly flawed, fiercely loving and knows she belongs to the future. After 10 years I can see the value in that, and am grateful the future came to me when it did.