~August 14, 2002~
“You’re doing great, Katie,” Kayla encourages.
I don’t feel like I’m doing great. I’m exhausted, cranky, and I’ve been pushing for what feels like days.
“Does it hurt?” Kayla’s voice breaks through my thoughts.
“Of course it hurts, Kayla!” I snap. “I’m in the final stages of labor, and my epidural wore off about an hour ago.” I have absolutely zero patience left for asinine questions. Who asks a woman in labor if it hurts?
“I’m sorry about that,” Dr. Ian offers. “I had to turn it off so you’d have enough sensation to push, though.”
“It’s okay,” I mutter, not meaning it even one bit. As nice as he’d been eight months ago, I’d really like to throttle him now.
“You are getting there, though, Katie,” Dr. Ian says. “Every time you push, she gets a little closer. I’ve seen her red hair. I’m confident that you’ll bring her here with just a few more pushes.” He looks over at my monitor. “Okay, you’ve got a contraction coming now. Push, Katie.”
Dr. Ian and Kayla count together to ten—much too slowly for my taste. When they finish, I take a deep breath and peer into the doctor’s eyes. “Red hair?” I ask. If she looks like her father, it’ll be almost too good to be true.
“Yes.” He smiles at me.
That confirmation is enough to give me a second wind.
I push through two more contractions, and during the third, there’s a sudden relief.
“You did it, K!” Kayla exclaims. “She’s here!”
“She’s here?” I whisper, unable to believe it. Thirty hours of labor and two hours of pushing, and she’s finally here. The tears of pain and frustration from before turn to tears of joy as I hear my daughter’s first cry. She sounds perfect.
~August 15, 2002~
You have a daughter! Our little Jasmine Mae is here. She’s gorgeous. Her hair and eyes are the same color as yours, but she has my nose and chin: a perfect combination of the two of us. I’m still in the hospital, but I didn’t want to wait even one day longer than necessary to let you know about her. She made her appearance late last night; I wanted to write to you right away, but Kayla made me get some rest. Jasmine has ten perfect fingers and ten perfect toes, and she weighed seven pounds, ten ounces, and was twenty inches long. Kayla took pictures as soon as Jasmine was cleaned up and is at the photo place now getting printouts made so I can include some for you. I know you’ll want to see her.
I wish you could have been here. Kayla did fine, but your sister is no substitution for you. I know that you’re serving our country, though, and I love you for that. Well, I love you simply for being you, but I’m so proud of you for your service.
I love you, and I miss you. Stay safe, and come home to us as soon as you can.
Katie (and Jasmine)
I’m practically crying buckets by the time I finish the letter; the ink is smeared in several places, but I don’t dare rewrite it. The smudges will be silent reminders within the letter, reminding him that he’s my everything. I just miss him so much. What I’ve written is true — I’m incredibly proud of him for serving, but I’m also scared every single day. I panic a little every time the phone or doorbell rings, terrified that it’s going to be someone from the government telling me that I’m a widow. Those thoughts have been in the forefront of my mind the past month, especially as I grew closer and closer to becoming a mother. Now that Jasmine’s here, I suspect they’ll just get stronger and stronger until I lay eyes on my husband again.
~June 16, 2002~
She’s perfect, just like I knew she would be. I can’t wait to get home to meet her. Thank you for sending photographs. Thank you for marrying me three years ago, and thank you for being the mother for my daughter.
I love you (both of you). More than my own life.
Next week will bring the end of this story. I hope you’re enjoying it.