Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thirteen Years Later, I'm Still All In

I’m no martyr.

Yes, I know plenty of new moms who, before their little baloney loaf was even wiped down and weighed, were willing pack their bags, swaddle up that baby, install the newborn carseat and all but drive themselves home. 

Not me.   When Darling Daughter was born, due to some medical complications, I was given the option of staying an extra night or two at Presbyterian Hospital.  Thank you, Jesus.  No need to ask twice.  No need to wait for the umbilical cord to be snipped.  My answer was unequivocal:  Sign me up.

That was exactly 13 years ago.  Today is my girl’s birthday.  Which means I am now, officially, mom to two teenagers.  And before you ask, it doesn't make a difference whether I’m up to the task, because there’s no turning back.  I’m in.  All in.

I knew it from the beginning.

After DD finally and quietly emerged, purple and blotchy with a cord around her neck, I basked – no, reveled – in those extra couple of nights in the hospital.  The laundry, cooking, cleaning and inevitable day-to-day responsibilities of parenthood and housekeeping – not to mention that supposedly essential bonding with Son -- could wait. Instead, I hunkered down in the hospital room with DD, whose sweet little foot was so tiny, it could fit in my mouth.  And it did.  (She hates that part of the story.)

The best part of those few days, far and away, was when the nurses would bring DD to me for feeding at night.  Although hospital policy encouraged newborns to stay with their moms during the day, babies were kept in the nursery at night.  The idea, I suppose, was to give recovering moms the chance for a few extra winks.


Around 10 or 11 at night, a nurse would retrieve DD from my arms, and, utterly exhausted – both from childbirth and the parade of friends and family wanting to know whether I’d finally decided on DD’s middle name -- I’d achieve REM sleep before the hospital door quietly shut behind them. 

For about 20 minutes.  Maybe 25.  The rest of the night, instead of falling deeper and deeper into sleep as the hospital halls grew quieter and quieter, I become more and more alert.

Newborns were returned to their moms during the night for feeding.  But instead of being carried down the hall, each newborn would be rolled in its own little cart.  Like room service.  Only you didn’t have to sign anything.  Or tip.  (I know.  Why be a neo-natal nurse if you don’t get to carry around those sweet-smelling squishy swaddled babies?)

Thing is, those little baby delivery carts had little squeaky wheels.  So instead of getting much needed sleep (which I fully intend to catch up on once the kids are in college), I’d lay in my remote-control operated hospital bed wondering, “Is that my baby?” every time a cart creaked down the hall.

All night.  

“Is that my baby?”

“Maybe that’s my baby.”

“That sure sounds like my baby.”

As if I’d recognize the sound of the squeaky wheels bearing my 9-pound (I know, right?) bundle of joy.  Thirteen years later, I still can’t think of anything as thrilling as hearing that cart roll toward my room, easing to a stop, just before the door cracked open, spilling light into the room and illuminating perfectly pink Darling Daughter.

In honor of DD’s thirteenth, the best recipe I could offer would be for Chocolate-Chocolate-Chocolate Cake.  Yes, I know I ran it this same time last year, but it’s her favorite.  (It was also one of my favorite posts ever, What I Want For My Daughter.)

And on her birthday, when she asks whether I’d mind making it – yet again – I can’t help but answer, Sign me up.

Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Cake

3 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups sugar
1 cup corn oil
2 cups cold water
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
5 cups powdered sugar
8 tablespoons whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 scant cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Make the cake.  Preheat oven to 350.  Butter and flour three 9-inch cake pans.  (This is a delicate cake, so be sure to prepare pans well.  If you have the patience, I’d strongly recommend preparing each pan and then, lining the bottom of each with a circle of wax paper, also buttered and floured.)  Sift first five ingredients into a large bowl.  Mix water, oil and vanilla in a separate, small bowl.  Make a "well" in dry ingredients, pour in wet ingredients and whisk well.  Scrape batter into prepared pans, dividing evening.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup chocolate chips over batter in each pan.

Bake 25 minutes, or until layers test done.  Cool in pans on racks for 15 minutes, then turn cakes out and allow to cool completely.  

Make frosting.  Beat butter in large bowl (an electric mixer is best) until fluffy.  Gradually beat in three cups of powdered sugar.  beat in six tablespoons milk and vanilla.  Add cocoa and remaining sugar, gradually.  Beat until blended and fluffy, using remaining two tablespoons of milk, if necessary.

Assemble cake, with layers chocolate-chip-side up and about 2/3 cup frosting spread between each layer.  Spread remaining frosting over sides and top of cake.  Tastes even better the next day -- for breakfast!
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