Carroll or Tolstoy – the question is
when you’re fourteen months
You are born in Phnom Penh on the 24.04.04 at 03.40 at the polyclinique “Aurore”.
Your entrance into this world at this particular date and hour is no coincidence. Your mother was three weeks over her expected time of delivery and Australian Doctor Gloria came to our house in the afternoon on the 23rd and gave her a pill to set the labour in motion. Where after your mother went to her usual late afternoon English class and when she returned her only comment was that she felt a little bit “heavy”.
At half past nine in the evening Doctor Gloria came back and this time she gave your mother a pill vaginally.
Then things started to move really fast! Around midnight you mother was making little sounds of discomfort. At twelve thirty I called Doctor Gloria to inform her that the labour was in progress. Doctor Gloria asked me to call back when the pains were coming regularly.
At one fourty five I called her and said that your mother was walking around moaning constantly. Doctor Gloria told me to call again at four o’clock unless something special was happening. Something was. Because your mother now moaned so loudly that the neighbours came running looking very anxious. They all gathered around her and rubbed her belly with you inside.
She begged me to take her to the hospital. Doctor Gloria promised to come right away. Around two thirty she came and after a quick look at your mother she was escorted down to the waiting car and driven through the empty streets of Phnom Penh writhing in the back seat.
We arrived at “Aurore” just around three and I supported your mother up the stairs to the second floor and directly into the delivery room. Half an hour later you were born.
I have recorded your birth on video. If I am looking a little confused myself it is probably because it never really occurred to me that there was a theoretical possibility that you might be a girl.
Throughout your mothers pregnancy I held a steady belief that you would be a boy. In fact my belief was so strong that I made a five dollar bet with your mother about the outcome. That money has been duly paid. And I have also given her the gold bracelet that my father gave my mother on the day of my birth, and where my birthday – May 19, 1957 – is engraved. Now there are two birth dates engraved on it, yours and mine, and your mother is wearing it.
That bracelet is well earned. I am certain that she must have carried you around for a full ten months period. And during these ten months she added seventeen kilos to her body weight so that in total she put on more than a third of her normal weight. At the time of birth you weighed 3,7 kilos and your head and shoulders were so big that Doctor Gloria had to cut quite a lot in your poor mother in order to get you out of her.
How gracefully she has carried you! There have been times – here in the hottest and driest season with temperatures of over fourty degrees centigrade – where the sweat has stood in pearls on her forehead and she has been moaning with exhaustion. But during the last couple of weeks it was as if she grew lighter by the day. And I was watching with pleasure and admiration when in the afternoon she would go to her English class, with her back finely curved backwards and little quick steps and the books in a bag over her shoulder.
This made Doctor Gloria make comments like, “You are blooming, my dear!”, “You are glowing!”, “You are so healthy!”, and “You are doing the right thing!”.
The latter statement I would like to take a little credit for. I have paid much attention to your mother’s intake of iron and calcium. Two of the basic components of which both you and the earth are built.
Your mother has been eating mountains of raisins and cheese and drinking rivers of milk and grape juice. But you have also grown to be a whole kilo heavier than other babies born in this country. And your mother is not quite made for such a big baby.
Oh, how long it has been waiting for you! I cannot count the number of worried emails I have had to answer from Denmark. And you mother’s family has called so many times that it became an embarrassment.
I have been more worried than your mother who has taken everything with a stoic calmness.
Both of the months of March and April have been completely cleared for anything else than project baby. But there were limits to just how many DVD films from the Tuol Tum Pong market at $3-4 apiece I could overcome to watch, and how many books from the London Book Center I could read. I have not been this bored for a very long time!
In pure frustration I sat down and drew the design for the house in which I hope that one day we shall live.
I must confess that you did not look pretty to me at your first appearance in this world. (Your mother is mostly worried about your nose – but that is all because she is so sceptical about her own). But it is true what Doctor Gloria says that you are changing from hour to hour. And time is surely on your side!
As I said, I have had to adjust to the fact that you are not a boy. But something else has occurred to me. Your mother and I are not just a couple anymore – a good couple, a married couple. Now we are an entire little family. And this I can assure you – from now on there are two women in my life!
You sleep, you cry, you eat from your mothers breast. In between you look around you with very big, thoughtful and wondering eyes. I have already noticed that you have a clear and good voice. Your features are slowly getting softer and more harmonious. I begin to detect your personality. And I like it.
Welcome to life, my little big girl!
As your gift of birth you received from your mother a Cambodian citizenship. Of me you get a Danish passport. In the passport your name is written: Amanda Weber Carlsen.
With all my love, your father.
Written in Phnom Penh, April 24-27, 2004.