As of 4:41ish, I have 2 teenage girls. Today is Kai-Kai’s 13th birthday, and even though she’s acted like a teenager since age 4—from her awareness of the latest fashion trends to her general outlook on life and her parents—today she finally crosses that line.
13 years ago today, I awoke at 2 a.m. feeling a twinge. A few minutes later, I felt another twinge so I got up and went to the bathroom, only to have the toilet clog on me. I woke Scott and said, “I think I’m in labor.”
We knew the 2nd child should come faster than the first, but we didn't hurry. He got out of bed, showered, and called our friends Kent and Patty who were our “on call” baby-sitting service for Ling and shuttle to the hospital. “Oh, and ask them if they have a toilet plunger,” I reminded Scott.
When they arrived, I plunged the toilet—Patty says she’ll always remember me doing breathing exercises while plunging. Once the clog was clear, we decided to get on our way, with Kent all of a sudden realizing that a woman in labor might not be good news for their newly leased Civic. So we grabbed a garbage bag for me to sit on, and took off for St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.
During the 20 minute ride, the pain increased so that I really had to work on my breathing. By the time we got to St. E’s and I walked into the birthing center, assuming I was only 3-4 centimeters dilated, I thought, “Wow, this hurts a lot more than I remember,” .
But the nurses exclaimed, “You’re 9 inches dilated! This baby's on the way!”
“I guess I’m not getting an epidural, am I?”
They shook their heads. “Nope, no epidural this time.”
I needed to go to the bathroom, but the nurses became very concerned—worried that I was going to deliver my newborn into the toilet, hardly believing me when I said I had to do #1, not #2. “Are you sure you don’t need to push?”
I shook my head, waddled into the bathroom, did my business without depositing the child in the toilet and came back. No sooner had I sat back on my bed than that undeniable force of nature called “needing to push” hit me like a ton of bricks.
“No! No!” the nurses said, “You can’t push. The doctor isn’t here yet!” Apparently the doctor who was on call had already delivered a bunch of babies, so they wanted me to wait for my OB to arrive, but she was 20 minutes away.
I spent the next 20 minutes with 2 nurses coaching me through how to keep your body from pushing when every nerve and muscle cries out to do so. It was miserable.
When my OB finally arrived, I finally pushed for 20-40 minutes. A slew of medical students tromped into the room to observe my nether regions. One bearded young man’s eyes bugged out and I wondered why I didn’t care that all these total strangers were gaping at my most private body parts.
Kai-Kai was born 2 hours and 41 minutes after my first labor pain, ripping me to shreds in the process, probably because she came so fast. Dr. Jackson sewed me up for the next 40 minutes and because I hadn’t had an epidural, I could feel every stitch.
When they put Kai in my arms, my first thought was, “Oh! She looks like Ling!” When Ling came out, she looked like a total stranger to me. With #2 it was nice to realize our kids had a family resemblance.
Kai’s Chinese name means soothing peace that comes after victory. I don’t know if we’ve had a lot of peace since she was born, but we’re sure happy our curly headed girl came into our lives.
For many years I didn’t get why we celebrated the child on her birthday, why we baked her cakes and plied her with presents. After all, she didn’t DO anything to get born. Instead, I felt like the mother should be the one who gets lauded, fed and showered with goodies. I did all the work of carrying the child, pushing the child into the world, and a huge proportion of the raising the child as well. It’s the same reasoning that it doesn’t make sense that Jesus died on the cross and we get to eat lamb and chocolate bunnies on Easter.
But I guess that’s what the gospel’s about—humankind hasn’t DONE anything to deserve our grace, but God loved and suffered for us so that we could be spiritually born anew.
Of course, my attitude about birthday celebrations has little sympathy from the kids, so I’ve planned multiple birthday parties, baked about 6 Barbie princess cakes, face-painted galore, and come up with all sorts of creative celebrations. (Maybe that’s just because throwing terrific birthday parties is one of the only things I know I do well as a parent, so it’s really all about me after all).
On Friday, 10 girls will descend for pizza, primping before the 7th grade dance, and then a sleepover. The Barbie princess birthday cake is long gone, with decorating your own cupcake replacing her.
To Kai-Kai--Happy Birthday! We love you and are so glad you're our daughter!
To everyone else: Pray for me--I have 2 official teenagers now!
How to make a Barbie Princess Cake
|Someone else's Barbie cake|
1. Swallow hard and buy a Barbie, even if your feminist mores make you morally opposed to Barbies. A Barbie of any ethnicity will do—I have used every single kind.
2. Strip her naked, raise her arms above her head as if in abject surrender, hold her upside down so her hair flops above her head and wrap her head and hair in plastic wrap, making sure her hair is completely covered. You can put her hair in a top-of-the-head ponytail if you like. She will look like the fantasy object of masochists and all the grown men walking through your kitchen will make comments to that effect, to which your toddler daughters will ask many questions.
3. Do not answer the questions.
4. Buy or find an 8 cup Pyrex bowl, the kind that’s round and looks like a hoop skirt if you turn it upside down.
5. Buy a cake mix, any cake mix you like, follow it’s directions, pour it in the Pyrex bowl and bake it until a long skewer poked in the middle comes out clean generally between 1.5- 2 hours. (Use a cake mix because after baking for 2 hours, any homemade cake recipe is hopelessly ruined so you might as well just go for ease)
6. After the cake is cooled, turn upside down on a platter and spear Barbie’s legs through the top so that she’s now standing in the middle of the cake. You will see that the cake only comes up to the top of her thighs.
7. If this distresses you, you could also bake a whole other sheet cake, cut it to the circumference of the bowl and give her skirt a little more height. Or you can just fill in a lot of frosting around her thighs and butt—a visual metaphor for the saying, "I might as well paste this donut straight to my thighs."
8. Buy a Wilton cake decorating set along with at least 4-5 Wilton cake icing food coloring canisters. Read directions on how to pipe cake frosting.
9. Either make or buy frosting (I used a buttercream recipe I found). Make different pots of differently colored frosting.
10. Frost Barbie’s skirt with one color, adding large lumps around her butt and hips so it looks like a skirt
11. Pipe little stars all over her breasts and waist and back to create a bodice. You will once again get all sorts of comments from the older male contingent about licking, frosting and breasts. Do what you will with those comments.
12. Pipe decorations and designs over the hoop skirt
13. Let Barbie dry for awhile
14. Carefully lower her arms so she doesn’t knock off her top
15. Unwrap her head and hair. Hopefully you let her dry long enough that her hair doesn’t stick to her clothing
16. Put candles wherever you think are appropriate, light them,
Present the cake to your little princess while everyone sings “Happy Birthday” and bask in the glory of what you’ll lower yourself to do in this adventure called parenting.