In two days my Katie will be four years old. This is my baby, the youngest of my three children. I know everyone says this, but the time really has flown. I have such a vivid memory of the day she was born. She wasn't due for several more days (much to my discomfort). I woke up at about 6:00 on the morning of September 13, 2004, and immediately started having contractions five minutes apart. After waiting it out on my own for about half an hour--all the while putting on my make-up and styling my hair in between very, very deep breaths--I decided to wake Kevin up to tell him "It's time."
Kevin sprang into action. We called our dear friend Kari and asked if she could come over and stay with Callie and Caleb while we went to the hospital, and she kindly obliged. Then we called Kevin's parents to tell them to jump on the next plane from Mississippi to Maryland to meet their newest grandbaby. On the way to the hospital, we continued to call our families to share our exciting news and ask for their prayers. My sister Julie asked if we might could hold off until the next day, so that she and Katie could share a birthday. I think I said something like, "No [pant, pant, OUCH!] . . . Sorry."
Once we got to the hospital, an attendant met me with a wheelchair and took us up to a labor and delivery room. Immediately I was bombarded with questions by medical personnel. Since I was trying to focus on getting through the INTENSE pain of each contraction, I signaled Kevin with a sharp cut of my eyes and a point of my finger (no, not the middle one) to answer as many of the questions as he could.
Now settled into the hospital bed, I waited--for the doctor to break my water (Sorry, guys.), for the next contraction, for my blessed epidural . . . It was actually really quiet in our room, though. I had learned that the less noise, the better for me when I'm in labor. No words, no music, no sounds of the ocean, no yelling. Just breathing and the sound of the monitors. Since this was our third run, Kevin knew what he was doing, too. He sat quietly on the edge of the bed, smiled sweetly (but not too big), held my hand if I wanted him to, and occasionally asked if he could get me anything.
For the most part, the pain subsided once I got the epidural. But then Katie came so fast that the epidural had not worn off enough for me to feel any of the pushing! I seriously had to act like I was pushing and ask the doctor if I really was. Kevin and I were actually laughing during the delivery, which is just so telling of our Katie-Bug, her personality, and her world.
Katie was born at 11:19 a.m. that day, and she was perfect. The moment was so sweet--just Kevin, me, and our new baby. She was the fastest and easiest to deliver, and she was such a good baby. I even recovered so much faster after her birth than I had with my other two (well, until day four, but that's a different story altogether and shall not be included here).
Kevin's parents arrived later that afternoon, and they brought Callie and Caleb with them to meet their new baby sister. Everyone was enamored with her, but no one was as touched as Kevin's mother when we presented Kathryn Dorothy Partridge to her. She had no idea that we were going to use her first name as Katie's middle name, and she was overwhelmed. In fact, I don't think she even said anything; she only spoke with her tears, which were happy ones. What a special moment for all of us!
In the past four years, our Katie has brought us so much love and laughter. She is certainly the most affectionate in our brood, coming to me multiple times every single day for nothing more than a hug and a kiss. Her favorite phrases are "Pick me up," "I want you," and "Hold me." She's also the sneakiest--in more ways than one--the most consistent being her ability to place herself in your lap without you even realizing it. She loves to giggle and do "shaky bottom" (at which you really just can't help laughing); she cracks jokes and makes the funniest faces I've ever seen; she squeals and sings and dances; she's incredibly independent when she wants to do something, but she hates to be alone; she's tough and rowdy but also sweet and shy; she collects compliments on her big blue eyes and golden hair everywhere we go; and she lights up a room with her smile.
There was a time when we thought we might lose our precious Katie. The only reason I can make it through the retelling of the story is because it had such a happy ending. Just a couple of months after her first birthday, I took her in for a routine well-check with the pediatrician. Since this was the first time we had been to this doctor, I took Katie's growth chart and records and everything. But before the doctor even looked at the chart, she simply looked at Katie and said, "There is something very wrong with your child." What?! I was so confused. We were there to get weighed, measured, and get a couple of shots; then we'd be on our way. Instead, the doctor sent us to the local children's hospital in somewhat of a panic, telling us that we were probably looking at a long, hard road ahead of us, and it might involve physical therapy and who knows what else.
We were in a fog. This is Katie. She's fine. She's just laid-back, content, not concerned with "reaching her milestones." She was the third child, after all. It turned out that there actually was something very wrong with baby Katie. After a week in the hospital, where they tested her for cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, and hosts of other diseases--where they drew blood from her tiny, tiny veins multiple times a day, fed her Pediasure through a tube in her nose and down her throat, and made her sleep in a steel baby bed--where we met with pediatric neurologists, geneologists, and gastroenterologists--where they put my baby girl to sleep and sent her tiny body into an enormous MRI machine. I can hardly think about it. I prefer to reminisce about pushing her around and around and around the hospital in a little pink car, stopping only at the nurses' station for them to refuel her with Pediasure and dote on the child they deemed "Precious Moments."
By the end of the week, the report came back. Katie had Celiac Disease. Holding our breaths, we waited for the full explanation of this disease we didn't even know how to spell at the time. And when the explanation was finished, we practically jumped for joy! After all the horrible, horrible possibilities, our daughter was labeled with a disease that was treated with what she ate! No medicine, no physical therapy, no handicaps, no shortened lifespan. All we had to do was make sure we kept gluten out of her mouth. Once we did that, Katie became a completely different child; she became the little girl that we now know is neither laid-back nor content with sitting still. And bringing her home from the hospital that day may have brought me even more joy than when I brought her home the day after she was born.
In two days my Katie will be four years old. And I am so thankful.