Monti2Devil Baby turns two today, which she indicates with a little “nanu nanu” gesture, holding up all five of her chubby fingers and trying with all her might to get two to stick out of the pack. 

It has been a wild ride with this little girl, pretty much since conception.  Devil Baby is one-half of a heterotopic pregnancy, a rare occurrence where you have two fertilized eggs, one of which never makes it down the tube, causing an ectopic pregnancy alongside the viable uterine pregnancy.  In short, she should have been twins.  Without dredging up a lot of difficult details, suffice it to say that it took a long time to figure out that I had a ruptured ectopic seven weeks into my pregnancy.  In the meantime, half of my blood volume ended up swishing around in my abdomen before I was rushed in for emergency surgery.  I had so much blood where it wasn’t supposed to be, that I couldn’t breathe and I remember being thankful, through my delirious, suffocating, panic, to be knocked out for surgery.  We were told that it was likely I would miscarry my other pregnancy, but, honestly, I was just happy to be alive, to be around for Saint James, Supergirl and Dash.  I found it surprisingly easy to shelve all thoughts of the baby growing inside me, to focus my energy on healing and gratitude.  I felt stupid and selfish and greedy for having risked my life for a third when we had more than enough – two beautiful, healthy children.  My responsibility was to them.  That morning we had gone to a farm with a petting zoo.  There were pictures on my camera.  For Saint James and Supergirl, those came breathtakingly close to being the last pictures of life as they knew it.

But as the weeks passed, the baby just kept on keeping on  and soon I went from a high risk pregnancy to a run of the mill, take a number pregnancy.  Happily.  We started to talk about the baby again with the kids, to imagine the possibilities. We called her Little Trooper.

When Little Trooper was born on June 11, 2006, she looked just like Saint James, partially due to the fact that they were both born looking as if they had gone a few rounds in the boxing ring.  But she was perfect and healthy and we all breathed a sigh of relief.  For a little while, anyway.

As the first few days slipped by, it began to dawn on me that she and I hadn’t shared that moment I remembered with my others: the moment when she was supposed to look into my eyes so we could say hello and drink each other in.  Her eyes were pretty swollen, but I started to get this nagging feeling that maybe she was blind – that maybe she wasn’t opening her eyes, because there was nothing to see.  I hadn’t completely shaken the scare from early on, postpartum is a completely irrational time anyway, and, well, she really wasn’t opening her eyes!  She would lift her heavy, bobbing head and seemingly look around, her eyes shut like a kitten’s.  I began to wonder if her eyes really were fused shut like a kitten’s – should I lick them?  It started to freak me out, and then I made the mistake of telling my mother and then she started to freak out, which really freaked me out because she’s a pediatrician. Doctor Dash had gone out to play tennis with my brother and returned to find us in a state of hysteria, crying and running around, shining a flashlight in her eyes – the top pediatric opthomologist at my dad’s hospital having been secured for an emergency visit at 8:00 a.m. the next morning. 

I have never prayed so hard in my life.  Please don’t let her be blind. Please don’t let her be blind.  Please don’t let her be blind.

Doctor Dash calmly took Little Trooper away from us, sat down on the couch, propped her up on his legs and tried to see if her eyes moved along to the light of the flashlight behind her puffy, gossamer eyelids.  They did.  And so the appointment was cancelled and relative calm was restored.

But Little Trooper wasn’t finished with us yet.  She cried.  And she cried.  And then she cried some more and pretty much didn’t stop until she was six months old.  And then she was better for a month.  And then she screamed for the next five months.  She was colicky with a capital C, only I never let myself go there, never let myself label her, because what would that solve?  The beauty of this having happened with my third is that I knew it wasn’t me – clearly, it was her.  But the ugly flip side is that I blamed my baby, and that felt much, much worse than blaming myself.  When you’re that strung out and exhausted, there is nothing to do but slide into survival mode.  Poor little Supergirl had to grow up quickity-quick and learn to help herself because Little Trooper, fast becoming Devil Baby, had me crawling on my hands and knees, begging for mercy.  

As she’s grown, things have gotten better, but mostly, she manages to find new ways to send me to the brink.  Example: for us, bath time had always been a bit of a treat, a relaxing little respite where my kids could splash and play with toys and I could sit next to the tub for a few moments of rest.  Unfortunately something about that warm water seemed to get Devil Baby’s little anus all atwitter and she would poop in the tub with crushing regularity. Seriously, four out of five times. Suddenly bath time wasn’t so peaceful.  Supergirl would scream and lurch out of the tub, sending poopy water spraying everywhere and I’d end up having to get everyone cleaned up in the sink and spend the next half hour and disinfecting the tub and all the bath toys.  I eventually learned my lesson and began pulling Devil Baby out as soon as she was clean.  But every once in a while she was having so much fun, and being so calm and quiet and smiley that I’d linger for just a moment too long . . .  

And now Devil Baby is two and she’s terribly challenging, but so very funny.  She throws her weight around like a hockey goon to get what she wants.  She is stubborn and defiant and LOUD.  Lately she has taken to yelling HELP! HELP! HELP! when I’m carrying her kicking and screaming out of Target, the pool or any other place she’s not ready to leave.  Then she starts yelling WOAH! WOAH! WOOOAH! like I’m whipping her around or something.  (I swear to you, I’m not.)   She is going to get me arrested.

I remind myself regularly that she is a GIFT!  We almost didn’t get to have her!  Without her my life would undoubtedly be easier, but so much less interesting.  She has sent me to depths of rage and exhaustion and exasperation heretofore unknown to me.  I feel like we’re in the trenches together, walking through fire, so that I can keep her safe, help her grow up and teach her to be her best self.  

She is such a presence in our family, such a HUGE personality.  Our baby cannon-balled into our lives, grabbed us by the scruff of our necks and claimed us as hers.  She didn’t meld into our family; we molded to her.  None of us is the same.  Especially me.  She has pushed me into totally foreign territory even though I thought I had done it all, seen it all.  

Lately I get the feeling that she is starting to figure out that we are all putty in the face of her charms and humor.  She is extra funny (probably because she is extra naughty) and when we’re all sitting around the dinner table laughing at something she is doing, I can see a little shimmer of understanding forming as she belly laughs, looking from one smiling face to another.  In the coming months and years, as her little animal instincts begin to be tamed and pushed aside by her higher faculties, I suspect we may be in for some highly entertaining times.  

So happy birthday to my wonderful, exhausting, hilarious, Devil Baby.  I look forward to rechristening you on this blog sometime soon . . . but we’re not there yet.  I love you.

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