Saturday, February 27, 2010


Today I will forgo writing about one of my songs, though I will put a surprise treat at the end of this post. I feel it appropriate to write, instead, about one of my most divine creations. (Well, not really mine, but I was part of it.)

Thirty years ago I received a most fabulous birthday gift. We were living in New York while Dave clerked for Judge Van Graafielland in the U.S. Second District Court of Appeals. Johnny was 15 months old and kept me on my proverbial toes while Dave worked his 12 hour days. I had just come home from a Young Women’s meeting and laid on the couch to rest my weary swollen feet while I watched a re-run of Heart to Heart. Dave went to play basketball at the church. During the first set of commercials I felt contractions, which was not all that unusual at that point in my pregnancies. But as the show progressed I noticed that I was having pretty serious contractions at every commercial break. Every 15 minutes. By the time Dave got home I was on the couch sobbing.
“What’s wrong?” he whispered, all sweaty from his workout.
I finally got the words out:
Weeeeee’re haaaaaaving a baaaaaaaaaby.”
I know it probably sounds unbelievable to anyone reading this, but I had been in a sort of denial about this fact for the previous 8 months. We had not really planned on this quick turn-around time frame. Johnny had been barely six months old and I had been nursing and exercising my buns off (literally) and I wasn’t losing any weight and I was SO tired. Turns out I was SO pregnant.
I went along enjoying my one little boy, aware on a conscious level that another was on the way, but it took those serious contractions for it to hit me that it was true, there were going to be 2 diapers to change, 2 cries to comfort, 4 little hands to wash and mostly still 1 of us at home to do all of it. Besides I was only 21 years old and wasn’t I too young for all of this?
Too bad. No going back. Those contractions continued through the night. I blew on a little nebula on the astronomical poster hanging on the wall of the bedroom in our rental house (the people left it furnished for us.) All night long. Pursed my lips and practiced my Lamaze until finally at 8 am the next morning I said “We’d better get going!”
We barely made it to the hospital, and Dave almost missed it because he had to admit me. Sarah was born 3 weeks early, on my 22nd birthday. What a gift! She has always been, from the earliest years, very conscious of the fact that her birthday is also mine. Even at 4 years old she made the kids at her birthday party sing Happy Birthday to me.
In one week she will be 30 years old. How can that be? Amazing.
Amazing…does not begin to describe it. Not that she will be 30, though that is worth celebrating. But what is amazing is that at 30 years old she had completed 24 straight years of education and now…this very day…she is DONE!
Today, as she was finishing up her final shift in her final residency rotation in the Pediatric ICU unit at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, she heard the doors to the unit open. She turned and saw her husband, Dave, with their two little munchkins Timothy and Anna Bella shuffling down the hall toward her. A magnificently large bouquet of colored balloons hovered over them like a joy-cloud. Dave carried two dozen roses (one for every year of school, from 1st grade to this day) and a large sheet cake with these words:
Congratulations Dr. Petersen!
Timo and Anna tried to stay grounded in spite of 36 helium mylar balloons pulling them upward…one for each patient in Mommy’s unit. What a picture.
Sarah has finally done it. She has accomplished this goal she set when she was a little girl.
“I’m gonna be a doctor”, she’d say, and people would smile and exclaim “Good for you, honey!” But few people really and truly expected she would do it.
The few… the proud… the Connors’…knew better. This was the girl who, knowing she had promised to stop sucking her thumb when she turned five, plucked the withered thumb out from her mouth on March 5th, 1985, tucked it between her knees in her bed, and never sucked it again.
Seventeen years later, after 4 years of undergraduate studies with Bachelor of Arts (painting) and Bachelor of Science (pre-med) degrees, she was admitted to the U of U Medical school. I still remember the exact dressing room at Target where I screamed out loud when she called to tell me she had been admitted.
She started med school pregnant (our Timo) and finished med school pregnant (our Bella) and I have to tell you it was not smooth sailing for them. Her hormones were not happy campers, and Sarah suffered more than anyone knows, from serious post-partum struggles. It makes my heart hurt when I recall all she has been through. But she stuck it out! And Dave hung in there with her, allowing himself to delay his own career so that the kids had a parent home raising them. What a picture I have imprinted in my mind: a good dependable man whose little ones feel safe with him, walking toward a beautiful woman in a white coat, holding out an armload of roses and leaning over to kiss the woman he loves. Two little gigglers wrapping one of each of their arms around her legs while their other hands hold their happy balloons.
Timo and Anna walked the circle of the PICU unit, stopping at each doorway, where they handed the nurse a balloon for the child-patient on the other side of the glass doors. Many of those children were unconscious, but their parents smiled, or cried, or both, when they saw those little 3 and 6 year-old kids stretch out their hands to offer the gift from Doctor Mommy.
Sarah called this evening as she and her little family were walking out of the hospital. The kids wanted to stop and play on the playground one last time. “Thanks Mom.” Her voice caught with emotion. “Thanks for all of it.” I knew what she meant. We both wept there on the phone.
I am thinking, at this moment, that there is an angel in heaven who is clapping her wings right now. Probably more than one. For sure more than one. I feel the air move around me and I know it must be them. They gave her their name, and their blood, and their rich history. She gives them honor.
Congratulations, my Sarah Bella Boo.

Here's the song of the day for ya! 3 year old Anna Bella Petersen (with a little help from her Daddy.)


  1. HOLY CATS!!! 1. My Ginna and her husband both got their graduate degrees in Kansas City - his dental, her MBA. My daughter just turned 30 also, and is one of my heros. That granddaughter of yours is a-flipping-mazing. She's beautiful (no surprise there), utterly bright (um--still no surprise), articulate (ditto). And the last not-at-all-a-surprise, but amazing for all of that, is the complexity of her song. She handled the rhythm perfectly, maintaining the pattern. And then with such sober focus, unwound that whimsical and sort of sad lyric (I did not feel alone after it, but I worried for the dough) with a melody line that most adult songwriters would never have come up with.

    I am guessing there is some influence from her father's and grandmother's work -which I am sure she listens to. But she delivered on the promise, kept me interested - everything she was supposed to do and more.

    I think it frightens me. Certainly I am deeply charmed. The children - if people only realized what they had in their homes, the world would be a different place.

  2. Wow!!!That story made me cry!!And your granddaughter is beautiful!! You should write a book, along with writing songs , because you, too, are amazing!!!You are a wonderful storyteller!

  3. amazing!! sarah is amazing!! way to go sarah! we love you and are so proud of you!!

  4. Simply Amazing. There must be another word but I can't think of it right now. You all deserve to stand up and cheer for all you have done for each other to make this happen. Congratulations to Sarah and all of you!

  5. Thank you, once again Mom, for the beautiful tribute. Thank you for the memory I will always have of the kids walking in with giant balloon bouquets, a cake, and Dave with a dozen roses. Thank you, most of all, for your incredible love and support. This has most certainly been a team effort and will continue to be. You have always been my biggest cheerleader. Everyone needs a cheerleader - and a mother - like you. Love you! Happy Birthday to you on Friday, too. :)