Six years ago after what seemed like the longest nine months of my life - 13 putrid weeks of round-the-clock nausea and five agonizing months of worrisome ultrasounds - and the shortest imagined delivery that almost ended in the car, Ava was born.
She was, perhaps, the most anticipated baby ever - she was planned, and she was the highly coveted girl.... albeit without the dilated right renal ureter that continues to be loosely followed by a CHOP urologist. the grandparents' only other grandchild was my firstborn, Owen, so they were beyond thrilled for another and a GIRL!! My mother-in-law was beside herself; having had two boys, she'd missed out on the little dresses and pink frilly stuff and cool girlie sandals she now buys with frivolous abandon.
She was born amidst worry over what we didn't know - would she be "normal"? What would this "hydronephrosis" mean for her life? She, like her brother, developed jaundice after birth, but required nearly two weeks on the wallaby blanket and frequent visits from a visiting nurse who would stick her foot to check her bilirubin levels. During those visits my newborn baby girl would kick her spindly legs and flush in fury the deepest shade of red. The nurse commented on how strong she was - a little fighter - as the moment her foot was touched she'd launch into her miniature tirade. Naive me - I beamed with pride and smiled nervously as her foot was again stuck for a blood sample. Little did I know this "little fighter" would one day face the biggest challenge of her young life and make every day a test of my own strength.
Over the days, weeks and years since, I've watched her evolve from a clingy momma's girl who could not be touched, held or even looked at by anyone outside her inner circle (me, daddy and Owen)... slowly to open her arms my mom and mother-in-law and, after two years or so, begin to talk to and even hug my dad. It would take nearly two more years before she would even talk to my brother or her father's brother.
Publically she is polite, quiet and shy - leaving all who meet her to comment on her sweetness and how cute she is (and after they walk away she says indignantly, "I am NOT cute"). She will never let on how spirited she truly is; she reserves her most challenging moments for lucky me. One of my friends once called and was shocked to learn the source of all the ruckus in the background, as Ava ran through the house screaming at the top of her lungs.
At home and inside her ever-widening comfort zone she is silly, loud and boisterous, singing little songs she's either learned or made up, doing her best Beyonce butt-shake and getting up in your face and invading personal space. She has a quick temper that turns aggressive when things don't go her way, particularly when she's engaged in Wii with her brother. She drives me crazy with her demands and insolent refusal to cooperate when it is most critical, dodging blood glucose tests as I chase her through the house and screaming like a homicide victim when I catch her. She is not above fearlessly boycotting food just minutes after an insulin bolus for 60 carbs, for such ridiculous infringements like Owen smiling at her, or my refusal to to let her eat dessert first.
She is what my mother warned me would be a "challenging" child, and while it is frustrating at all levels for all of us from time to time... it is this tough-as-nails constitution that is her source of strength through all the things no child should have to endure from the tender age of two. She endured 5-6 insulin shots a day for the first year of her diabetes life, having to wait for food and watching other little kids stuff themselves with the cholesterol-raising cupcakes and cookies that she so craves but knows full well today she should not have all the time. She has had to endure up to 17 finger sticks a day to check her blood glucose, hundreds of insulin pump set changes... with (as she already understands) no end in sight... and yes - there are many days when she's just had enough. What would you feel??
And yet, on the flip side, with those she is closest to, she is sensitive and affectionate, squeezing her brother in a bone-crushing hug while declaring "I love you... you're the BEST brudder." She has an almost intolerable need to be close to me, and I have to remind myself that one day I will miss her desire to sit on my lap for lessons or just a snuggle. She is warm and open, and often mischievous with those she knows well... family or friends. She has a fantastic sense of humor, and a joyful laugh ... and it doesn't matter whether you share the joke or not. Often, NOT sharing the joke somehow increases her hysteria.
She is smart as a whip and a fast learner, grasping academics with ease... and quick-witted with lightning-fast delivery of comments more likely to emerge from a 14-year-old. Her sense of logic is sometimes far beyond her years, how she rationalizes concepts you'd never expect her to understand, like how she will take over her diabetes care and when, who she will see in heaven and who will go first, whether or not she'll have babies and who I will marry next (no kidding). I cannot at this very moment think of a single specific thing she said recently that blew me away, but believe me -they are daily and numerous. (I'll blame it on sleep-deprivation.)
I celebrate my spirited daughter... with all her unnerving, annoying and endearing qualities... she is in so many ways my "mini-me," which is probably the source of my constant frustration and empty wine bottles. It took me nearly 3 weeks to write this to my satisfaction.. I kept stumbling for the right words as she drove me to the edge of madness where screaming is the only method of communication, making it so difficult to adequately express how special she is to me and how I love her so... equally as much as her brother, but differently. So, this is the best I can do, today.
Happy Birthday Baby Girl! I love you and the "best mom" is only as good as her best girl.
Ava Elizabeth Tomme
May 21, 2005 at 3:24am
7lbs. 5oz., 22 inches