Six years ago today I became an aunt. On the 18th we went for breakfast at Darlene’s where they were having a craft sale too . . . or something like that. It was a warm sunshiny sort of day. Over pancakes Sherry announced contractions, there’d been false alarms but we thought this might be the real thing. Steady throughout the day, but still not time. It was a weekend I think, a Friday or Saturday night, and I went to that guy’s house, (mister cool dude who left such a lasting impression upon me that I can never remember his real name) who I’d been hanging around with all fall. We were sitting at the kitchen table drinking beer, thinking about going out to visit friends, wondering about road conditions because snow was coming down. It was probably going on 11 o’clock when the phone rang and Mom said it was time.
Mom and Dad picked me up and we made our way through the snow to the hospital. Hanging out all night waiting for a baby when you’re half drunk and on pilled high-speed fast forward play is a pretty intense experience. They crammed us into a miniscule room to wait it out. We could hear Sherry puking her guts up in a room down the hall. I went in to see her, only briefly because she didn’t want any of us to see her like that. If you looked up ashen in the dictionary you would see a picture of my sister from that night. She was the colour of E.T. when he lay dying. This was my first experience with birthing from so close and I hadn’t thought it would be this scary. After what may or may not have been hours it was time and they wheeled her into the birthing room. We waited. And waited. And paced. And read magazines. And tried to stay awake. And waited some more. And no word. No sign. No Gary. No Sherry. No baby. No doctors or nurses. Nobody told us anything. Did it take this long? I had no idea. And finally in the wee hours of the morning Gary came out and told us the baby’s head was too big, it was impossible and Sherry was going in for an emergency c-section. This was not part of the plan. This seemed serious. My stomach lurched and the back of my neck turned cold. This scared the shit out of me. But it happened all the time I was told by people more experienced in these matters, practically routine.
The waiting continued and for me it seemed more ominous than before. I was jittery, having a major problem staying still. I was pacing the hallway outside the little room when I saw Gary coming, big silly grin, wheeling his baby to the nursery. We swarmed him before he even got through the doors into the ward. A girl. Paulina Blaine after my mother and father. Dark. Sherry’s mouth. So tiny. All her mother in these first few moments it seemed to me. Amazing how she hadn’t been here an hour ago and now here was this new person, our blood, family. Looking at her later through the nursery window while we waited for Sherry to come to her room so we could make sure she was okay, I wondered where Paulina had been and where she’d go. Pure potential. It was overwhelming.
At first I was afraid to hold her, she was so tiny and fragile and perfect. But I got over that pretty quick, especially once Samuel and Jules arrived on the scene a few weeks later, and I spent a lot of time with Paulina — godmother and babysitter. We used to see each other every day. A hugger, cuddler, stubborn, articulate, super smart. I’d rock her to sleep singing My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean, when I didn’t have to blare Blue Rodeo. And now she’s getting so tall I can barely pick her up. First grade, reading at something crazy like a fourth grade level. Knowing more about animals than I’ll probably ever know. I miss seeing her everyday.
Happy birthday, Paulina!
Listening To: my stomach growl
Hair: accentuating my eyes