Motherhood & Words

The weekend was a blur. I spent Saturday at the first Minnesota Blogger Conference, which was a tremendous success thanks to the countless hours that went into planning and executing the event. (A huge thanks to Missy Berggren of The Marketing Mama and Arik Hansen of Communications Conversations for all their work.)

And yesterday, we had two birthday parties for Stella—a kid and a family party. She was buzzing around all day, unwrapping presents, giggling with her friends, unwrapping more presents, eating cake. (And of course talking to Nibbles, who has recovered nicely from The Incident. Thanks for all your well wishes.)

This morning, my alarm went off at 6:15. I quickly turned it off so I wouldn’t wake Zoë, who was in our bed because she wet her crib in the middle of the night (which happens at least four times a week because she refuses to wear diapers at night. “I’m not a baby!” she says adamantly when I try to convince her of the merits of diapers at night.)

I snuck out of the room and I slipped into Stella’s room, where she was sprawled across her bed, sound asleep. I sat down on the edge of her bed, and just stared at her, marveling at the fact that she’s seven, a first grader. I brushed the hair from her face and whispered, “Happy birthday, sweetie.”

Her eyes opened a little. “I’m so tired,” she said, stretching her arm.

“I know, honey.” I was tired, too, and I wanted nothing more than to climb into her bed and fall back asleep with my birthday girl. I kissed her temple and wrapped her into my arms.

And as happens every year on Stella’s birthday, I’m pulled back in time, to the day she was born. I go back to the magnesium sulfate, the vomiting, the suffocating heat in my veins. I go back to my supersonic hearing, the twisted sheets, the tests, the tests. I go back to the fear, the not-knowing, the eventual C-section. I go back to my three-pound daughter being whisked away as soon as she’s pulled from me.

The events of my preeclampsia and Stella’s birth follow me around all day in such clear detail that it feels as if I could step back in time, as if I could leap into a parallel universe in which all of those events are still happening.

But then Stella reaches her arms around my neck and says, “I love you, Mama.” And I’m back where I belong, with my seven-year-old clinging to sleep in the early morning on her birthday.

I love you, too, Stella. Happy Birthday, big girl!

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I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. Andrea on September 13, 2010 at 11:11 am


  2. cath c on September 13, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    just think, you went through all that so that she could be who she is now. and what a great kid she is!

    happy birthday, big girl! seven is so cool.

  3. Elizabeth on September 13, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    Beautiful! Happy Birthday to your eldest!

  4. Mary on September 14, 2010 at 1:14 am

    Beautiful post Kate! I'm so glad that when you jump to your parallel universe you have a healthy and sweet 7yo Stella to pull you back to today. Happy Birthday, to both of you!

  5. LutherLiz on September 15, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Oh that magnesium sulfate. It is awful beyond measure. Congratulations to her and to you mama!

  6. Cecilia on September 15, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    Wow…it's a wonderful "ending" and beginning to your story. I love that those old feelings and memories are right where they should be – in the past – and you have all this wonderfulness laid out ahead of you. Happy big birthday to Stella!

  7. jen on September 29, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    so beautiful. wow. 3 pounds.
    it's amazing how our bodies remember and forget.
    my stella had quite the birth too.
    happy seven years! to stella and mama!