My mother kept a diary about her pregnancy in a small pink book with a baby bear on the cover. Once, when I was twelve or thirteen, she let me read part of it. It recorded her increasing weight (she gained only twenty pounds), a list of possible names (Casey for a boy, Mandy or Ashley for a girl), as well as her trip to the hospital, but she closed the book abruptly before we got to that part. “But it’s about me,” I protested. “You can read it when you’re older,” she said.
A few years later, when I was home alone, I slid the book out of the cabinet in my parents’ bedroom and flipped to the pages recording the delivery. In tidy handwriting with a blue ballpoint pen, my mom had written about the moment of delivery and about my dad’s blue eyes filling with tears. “We have a baby girl,” she recorded him saying.
As I type out this old memory, it seems fairly mundane. The page from my mother’s book could describe any birth, any blue-eyed man, any baby girl. But at seventeen, alone in my parent’s bedroom, I’d felt my face grow hot and my intestines squirm. The intimacy of her girlish scrawl, the careful record of her husband’s words–it had never occurred to me that the story of my birth might not be about me.
I was born two months after her twenty-second birthday, two weeks early, just over seven pounds, and long. “You were real long,” she says. “That’s what the doctors all said. You were small, but had these long, skinny legs.” I came out with my mom’s spindly fingers, and I grew into the same skeleton, with pronounced wrist and ankle bones and poky, asymmetrical ribs. I have my mom’s nose and sometimes her laugh. When I wash my face before bed and lean in close to inspect my pores, her face haunts my mirror.