Maria Grace turned 6 yesterday at 2:41 pm. I still remember her birth like it happened this afternoon. I remember how nervous but excited I was to have her through natural childbirth, aka, no drugs. Mom had me that way, Meg had Jackson that way. I wanted to follow in their giant footsteps. Actually, the thought of getting a needle as long as a pencil shot into my back and losing all sensation from the waist down terrified me 10 times as much as the thought of foregoing drugs.
I got pretty cocky in the delivery room for a while after they broke my water. The contractions were uncomfortable but tolerable. I remember looking at my mom and Jon and bragging “this isn’t too bad.” And within minutes after that brash declaration, the universe shifted in ways only a momma in childbirth can understand. Excruciating pain. Sharp wrenching cramps. Uncontrollable urges to bear down with nurses chanting “do not push yet.” I kept thinking to myself “if I have to tolerate this for 30 minutes, I will die.” Luckily, within fifteen minutes, the nurses told me I could lay down and start pushing. I can only liken this to having a huge dresser laid on your pubic area; having someone remove it for a few seconds; and then throw it back on with a few more clothes and knick knacks in it. I was relieved after hearing the nurses tell me to start pushing but only for a few seconds until I realized that the actual pushing was just as painful as the restraint from pushing. And then to look up in the mirror on the ceiling and see that there really was a tiny human that was poking her “little” head out of my body. Holy cr–!
“Little” being the extremely relative word in this instance. “Little” is what the head was an hour after birth when I had been stitched up and regained some of my senses. “Little” is not what the head was when it was trying to poke through my body and see the outside world. It was HUGE and OBNOXIOUS and CAUSING IMMENSE PAIN! But the body is an amazing thing because as much as I hurt and wanted to stop pushing, I also pulsated with joy and anxiety in meeting my daughter who I had nourished and cared for the last nine months in her safe cocoon. When I saw her head crowning, that joy drove me to push harder and harder until I heard the shrills of excitement from the bystanders announcing that a baby was on its way out!
And then she was bundled up in that hospital blanket and placed in my arms. Jon stood by me looking down at us. There she was with her dark eyes and her black hair and warm skin. A little Maria Grace ready to dominate the world. And 6 years later she is well on her way.
Her style can be commanding “Uncle Jack, come stand HERE!”, or gentle “It’s ok, Baby Gracie, I got you.” Her attitude can be sassy “Ok, dad, I get it – you don’t have to repeat it.” or sweet “Mom, you are the best mommy ever!”
Maria makes her presence known wherever she travels through that loud booming voice of hers. She has the Heile/Menkedick vocal chords. Her favorite pastime is yelling just like she used to do as a baby in her crib every two hours of every night. How Jon and I survived the first 15 months is beyond me (yes, 15 months before she slept through the night – we really need to be sainted). Maria loves to take care of younger kids – the mother hen is alive and well in her. No matter if it’s Gracie or Lucy or Maggie or Maura, she sits with them and shows them books or toys, she holds their hand when they try to walk across the room, she makes funny faces at them and makes them laugh, she pats their backs when they start to whimper. She is a natural.
She is observant like her daddy recognizing people’s goofy mannerisms or certain things in books or places that I would never have noticed. She is wild like her momma running around and being loud whether it is at parties or at the house. She likes to live life large. She loves food and drink. She is always ready for a loaf of garlic bread and pasta and meatballs, and could go without anything else if she had that plate at her side 24 hours a day. Maria loves to help cook (which is a fascinating phenomena since her mama embarrassingly rarely cooks). When we make pancakes or cookies or macaroni, she wants to read the box and add the ingredients and stir the food. She looks forward to setting the table and having all of us eat together. However, she is less fond of making a lot of conversation at the dinner table. She is like her dad – there to eat and not to chat. She enjoys pretty dresses and beaded sandals but is still not hesitant to put her knees on the ground and dig for worms. She loves to put on make-up but detests brushing her hair and wails at the thought of anyone else brushing it.
She still climbs into bed at 6 am and snuggles her body up against mine; many times she lifts her head and places my arm under it (I always hated sleeping this way with boyfriends but with my daughter it is a joy!). She adores her daddy and goes through serious withdraw when he leaves town for more than a couple of days. He stands up for him when he is getting grief from me or another family member but quickly turns on him when Grandma Ionno is around demanding that she “take care of Dad because she is the boss and he is her son!” She loves her mama as much as she loves her daddy but as it tends to be with mothers and daughters, it is much more emotional in nature. She either thinks I am the greatest thing to hit this Earth or the most evil person to walk into her life. I can only imagine how much more pronounced this will be as she gets older – teenage years are thankfully seven years away.
Maria exudes a spirit that few kids her age possess. She is free and spontaneous and relaxed and aware and empathetic and magical. I think she is the coolest girl on the planet, and I want to give her mondo kisses and lovin’ every time I lay eyes on her. Luckily, I can still get away with doing that; I am certainly going to live it up while I am able.