Today is my gorgeous daughter's 13th birthday. Thirteen on the 13th. My husband and I were reminiscing yesterday about where we were 13 years ago. I was in a hospital bed getting ready to have an epidural. I'd progressed over two days from a TENS machine to diamorphine (which made me sick) to epidural. I'd been placed on an oxytocin drip to speed up the contractions. Finally, on this day at 9:30 a.m. a team from the United Nations was in place. There was me, the American. My husband, the Briton. The midwife from Ireland married to a man from Burma. The OB/GYN was Australian, and the pediatrician hailed from Nigeria.
My daughter was positioned at an angle that was not conducive to a straightforward delivery. They put me in a larger delivery room because they anticipated a C-section. First, they wanted to try forceps. "I'm not having forceps" I told them. "I know someone who had a forceps delivery and her son was born with cerebral palsy."
"OK," they said, "we'll try the Ventouse, but if that doesn't work, it'll have to be a caesarean."
"I'm not having a caesarean," I said. "You may not have a choice," they replied.
The Ventouse worked, thankfully, and my beautiful daughter was born with her eyes wide open. She looked all around her as if to say "Hello, world, I'm here."
She's still like that. She has my mother's green eyes, nose and mouth. She is darker than me; her chestnut hair has auburn streaks that the sun picks out. She is nearly my height now. Years of dance have ensured that her body is muscular, though with a small layer of puppy fat still. A typical Libra, she gets upset by conflict, though she doesn't shy away from it. She is stronger emotionally than me, more confident than I was at that age. Not surprising. She shares her birthday with Margaret Thatcher.
We seem to have achieved a trusting relationship. Yesterday, as we drove home from the hairdresser's, she told me about girls in her class (12-year-olds) who have had sex. She told of another now in Year 10 who had an abortion over the summer when she was 14. I don't know whether to believe these stories. You know what girls and rumours are like. I asked her to promise me she wouldn't have sex before she's 18. She said she couldn't make that promise. I then said, "At least make sure he uses condoms because pregnancy isn't the only thing you have to worry about. And please be in a mutually loving relationship."
She asked if I was 18 when I first had sex. I lied and said yes. I'm not ready to tell her yet that I was only 15, that I regret to this day my early sexual activity. I will in time when she and I are ready. I never had conversations about sex with my mother. I felt very uncomfortable if she ever brought the subject up. My daughter is more innocent than I was at that age. I intend for her to stay that way for as long as possible.
Tonight she is having a party with a few school friends and some boys. She says the boys are mates. She is taller than all of them. Thank God. Twelve- and 13-year-old boys don't like taller girls, as I recall. But then I moved on to older boys. I've warned my daughter against that. "Older boys will expect you to do things older girls do. Don't ever do anything you're not comfortable doing."
That she did promise me.