(15) Happy Birthday Katrina JOY
Updated: Apr 10
We arrived at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness at 3 in the morning, on the 22nd of December (2004), two hours after my waters announced it was time to leave Lochcarron. Raigmore prefer to err on the side of caution when you live an hour and half away from the nearest hospital. There are deer along the way and there were stories circulating of husbands delivering babies in lay-bys. So we drove carefully through the threatening snow, patches of it already on the ground. Of all the people in the world who are not qualified to deliver a baby, I would have trusted Ian to manage it just fine, anxious inside but calm and reassuring in his manner. His snow driving was also spot on.
We had narrowed it down to two boy's names and three girls' names. David (a very best friend) and John (Ian's dad's middle name). We had only just begun to think of possible boys' names after Ian's dad, Duncan, died a fortnight before the due-date. I am sad that he did not get to meet her, and she him. He would have loved her so much, enjoyed her spirited nature, enjoyed her energy. But he was pretty ill and had been for a long time. Delighted that we were having a baby, his goodbye was poignantly timed.
We had many girls names to choose from and we narrowed them down to a final three - Beth, Fern and Katrina. Beth, for who does not love Little Women? Fern, because we liked being outdoors and ferns are beautiful, they whisper words from before the dinosaurs. Katrina was for two Kath/Catherines, who I admire greatly. We had been thinking Katherine with Katie for short, but another friend whose own Katie had died as a young baby, asked would I mind not doing so.
We had known exactly when the due date was (the 13th December) as we had known the exact age and stage of the egg, embryo, foetus, girl. We had finally got to the top of the IVF queue for the second time - had moved away from Argyll and Bute Council just as we were due to be given a date. We had tried and had waited for a number of years and had also experienced a couple of not-quites. It is so difficult to want to be pregnant and to not be. We always assumed that when we wanted to be, we just would be, until about three years of not being and wanting. It is hard to describe how this feels. I had always loved being a female, even loved having periods, and what they represented: powerful, mystical almost, fertile Woman. I came to see the monthly symptoms as mocking me, my body taunting me. I watched twenty year olds shouting angrily outside grocery stores, tugging small children roughly, with other ones clearly on the way, and I thought Please God, if there is a God after all, Please give me one. I will love her so much more than that (always a her in my mind). I became judgemental of those who could decide to abort because it wasn't convenient. I cried angry tears and even swore at mating dogs. Fuck. Right. Off.
Whilst being pleased for friends who became pregnant at the time, I also felt envious. This is, I think, the only thing I have ever been truly envious of. Some older people would casually assume that either I did not want children or that I maybe was doing something wrong. It was once suggested that masturbating obviously was the cause of my lack of a baby, an interesting and frustrating discussion to have with a 74 year old. 'I only had to look at ...... to be pregnant.' Yes, thank you for your help. I learned never to assume either that someone does or does not want to have children.
We got to the front of the queue and I felt calm and happy about it from then on. The daily injections were really okay for me, I was genuinely blasé about them. We were doing something positive, stepping in the right direction. The last injection was the only difficult one, its needle too thick. The dose, if I remember, was not the same as the others. I started fainting down the wall as I was injecting .The egg retrieval (there were over 24 good ones), the constant monitoring, while living it up at the Aberdeen IVF Unit's residential rooms, all fine. The explanations. The re-implantation. I went through the calmest, easiest period of my life from the first injection until I had to go back to work. It was an easy pregnancy, she was an easy baby, I was an easy mother.
There had been so many viable good eggs that it was suggested that six were to undergo IVF and six would be trying ICSI. Where IVF injects the eggs with sperm in vitro, ICSI puts egg and sperm together in a Petri dish and leaves them to find each other themselves. We were advised that ICSI has fewer chances (because really, the egg and sperm are just doing what they should be doing anyway, except in clinical conditions) but since there were so many, it would be worthwhile hedging our bets. Our best (and surprising) bet turned out to be with ICSI - five out of six of them actually formed embryos; only one of the IVF ones did. From the moment the two embryos were implanted (the other four were frozen), I knew I was pregnant. Perhaps I would have felt the same way if this all were leading up to it not working, but it did seem as if I knew it absolutely. On Friday 9th of April, it was confirmed and we almost skipped home from the GP's. I was pregnant and I was happy and there would be no more swearing at dogs. I loved my pregnancy. Feeling nauseous proved that I was having a baby. Discomfort was (almost) exciting when I had wished it for so long. I am not going to say that giving birth was easy but it was forgotten about as soon as she was in the world and lying on my naked torso. You came into the world fighting the midwife, who commented how extraordinarily strong you were. When we got you home through the snow, on the 25th December, after signing ourselves out, I couldn't stop gazing at you in wonder as you slept, in the crib, in my arms, on our bed. You are the second person I absolutely fell in love with. You have no idea how massive this love is, and this just continues to grow as you grow, Katrina.
Happy with the final three, I gave your dad the choice of name. Katrina was decided upon instantly and your middle name had to be JOY. I should have insisted that they be all capital letters. Whatever you do, you seem to do it with capital letters.
I have a book of your early firsts and your early favourites:
First head holding - really, you almost always could.
First big laugh - 3 months old.
First sleep through - it would have maybe been 3 weeks, had I not woken you up to feed you (and gaze), I stopped that at 6 weeks and you slept right through.
First non breast food - An olive you found on the floor at 4 months old, then seconds later some blue cheese to go with it. You did not spit them out.
Favourite toy - Bunny. He was my favourite too, since buying him at 8 months pregnant in Mothercare. Floppy, soft, velvety-eared Bunny. I could write a page or two about his misadventures.
First words - Mama, Dada, bananananan..... at 11 months, followed by bah-pah (back-pack) and buh - (Bunny). First crawl - 23rd August, 8 months old. We thought it was funny at first to call you Hurricane Katrina, but then it wasn't funny as the storm became a disaster.
First sentence with a preposition - June 2006, in France. 'Bird poo-poo on window'. Second sentence with a preposition, two minutes later - 'Why bird poo-poo on window?'
First bath in the big bath - 2 months, with me - You LOVED baths, my little narwhal, and you loved our made up bath songs.
Favourite songs at 14 months - Agadoo (Dad's poo version) ELO's Mr Blue Sky, TRex I Love To Boogie First free standing - 11 and a half months for 2 seconds First two steps together - January 1st
We don't normally record lasts. You never usually know while it is happening that it is a last:
Last breast feed - we kept just that final one of the day going until you were a year and a half.
Last go in the back pack - round about 2 years, in France. Last day in the pram - unrecorded.
Last day of someone else putting your socks on for you - likewise.
Last day of someone else tying your shoes.....
Last day of someone else choosing what you will wear.....
Last visit from the tooth fairy.....
They happen, these lasts, and they pass by almost unnoticed. You realise what they were a little later. They are somewhat sad, but they come hand in hand with firsts. First walk. First friend. First day at school. First kiss. New shoe sizes, new bedtimes, new confidences, new independence. Happy birthday my beautiful, wonderful, most wanted, much waited for, SO loved, not born in a lay-by, 14 year old girl. Thank you for being our girl. May you have a long lifetime of firsts ahead of you.