You’re here. In fact, you are bundled up just one foot in front of me with your hands resting on your cheeks. Your little head is covered in fine light brown hairs making your perfectly round head so soft it feels like I’m touching nothing at all when I cup your scalp with my hand and pull you close to me. You make it hard to do anything but stare at you. It’s your perfectly rounded cheeks, beautiful skin, tiny nose and lips, almond-shaped eyes, long feet, long legs, and long fingers that keep us entranced.
As of yesterday, you are one week old, our Thanksgiving baby. It was sweet of you to arrive right on your due date. Because we waited so long to have you, it seemed all too perfect that you were due Thanksgiving Day. And then sure enough, you helped us remember just how thankful we are for you, our precious gift from heaven. Heaven and Earth collided when you were born; however, there were moments in the 36 hours preceding your birth that made me question whether or not you would ever come. Here’s the story of how you came to be Thanksgiving Day of 2016:
Tuesday, November 22
10 p.m. – After a long and uncomfortable three-hour class, I drove home looking forward to sleep. I was wandering around the apartment picking up clutter when I felt something unusual. I didn’t think much of it and went to bed.
Wednesday, November 23
12 a.m. – I awoke to tightening and cramping shortly after I drifted to sleep. The pain was mild, more annoying than anything because I wanted desperately to sleep, but couldn’t. I woke up every half hour to more cramping and wondered, is this it? Is this how it begins?
5 a.m. – Your dad wakes up and gets dressed for work in the pitch black. He asks if I’ll be OK on my own. I say I’ll be fine. The cramping episodes aren’t close together and I’m still in denial that this is it. False labor is a thing, or so I’ve heard. I lay in bed most of the morning feeling exhausted. I finally start to fade and take back the shut eye robbed of me the night before.
12 p.m. – Your dad is home! Work let him come home early because it’s the day before Thanksgiving. At this point, I’m still looking forward to the Thanksgiving Day Parade, sweet potatoes, and a house full of family. Your sweet dad encourages me to rest and we realize we should probably get our hospital bags completely packed instead of lying open in the corner containing nothing more than trail mix and a nursing bra.
3:45 p.m. – It’s time for our 40-week doctor’s appointment. I have a contraction walking up the stairs to Dr. Smith’s office and stop to breathe. I have another contraction right before climbing onto the the crunchy doctor’s office paper. I hear your heartbeat again, but it’s a little slower this time. It’s more sure sounding than ever. The doctor comes in and gloves his hand. He tells me I’m a 3+ and he won’t be surprised if you make your arrival by Saturday at the latest. He “strips the membrane” like he did last week and assures me your head is down and you’re ready to go.
4:30 p.m. – I desperately want a Caribbean Passion Jamba Juice. Little did I know this smoothie would be my only sustenance for 14 hours. I contracted every handful of minutes sitting on the tall plastic stool waiting for my blended concoction. It hurt. I was getting in the car when I had the worst contraction yet.
5 p.m. – Upon arriving home, we immediately started timing contractions. I was floating around the apartment one minute picking up shoes and throwing them in the closet, rinsing the few dishes in the sink and putting them in the dishwasher. The next minute I was doubled over breathing through the discomfort, bouncing on the yoga ball, asking your dad to punch me in the lower back.
6: 30 p.m. – Fat snowflakes are falling diagonally onto the roadways and I’m tolerating contractions while sitting in the front seat of the RAV4. Your dad is driving cautiously, but assertively. We can’t believe we are driving to the hospital. It’s a moment we had played out in our heads for months … years. Actually, our entire lives. And there we were. Driving.
7 p.m. – The nurse instructs me to take laps around the labor and delivery floor for an hour to help labor progress a little more. She said I was in “gray area” as far as being admitted goes, but she wouldn’t send me home because it was snowing and I would be on my way back to the hospital as soon as I got home. In my starchy hospital gown, I paced the long hallways, stopping every few minutes to clutch the railings and hug your dad. We looked at newborn photos on the walls. Then my college roommate May Bo found her way onto the floor with her camera at the ready. May Bo stayed with us from the moment we arrived at the hospital until the moment you were born. It was so special to have her there.
7:30 p.m. – I’m admitted. I’m peeing myself, shaking violently, groaning. I’m in my head. It’s worse than I imagined. We watch the movie Elf because it’s supposed to keep my mind off of the pain. We listen to The Weepies, Ben Howard, and Dave Matthews Band. I drink a lot of apple juice. I go through hours of this without progressing.
11 p.m. – Dr. Smith comes into the room wearing Jordans and basketball shorts to break my water. There is a lot more “water” than I realized. The pain is excruciating now.I throw up. I shake even more violently. I’m on the verge of tears with each contraction and your dad looks increasingly concerned. He whispers words of encouragement and pushes even harder on my hips and back. With every contraction, I become increasingly afraid of the next contraction. I go through another two hours of this without progressing.
1:30 a.m – I get the epidural and I don’t feel bad about it. I just want you here. It has been a long, painful 24 hours. I want to be present when you arrive. I want to be happy. The prick in my back feels pleasant compared to the pain in my pelvis. As my body relaxes, I immediately begin to dilate. I can still move my legs to a degree, I know when I’m having contractions, but I can’t feel any pain. Your dad can finally breathe deeply and he falls asleep on the couch for a few hours. I doze in and out, awakened every 30 minutes or so by the blood pressure cuff tightening around my bicep. CNN is playing in the background because nothing else is on.
6:15 a.m. – The night seemed to pass by in an instant. A nurse came in to check me and told me it was time to push. Dr. Smith was on the way. I pushed once and your dad caught a glimpse of your head. I wasn’t sure how hard to push, so I just pushed until my face turned red. I don’t need to see those photos. I was surprised that your dad watched the entire thing. The doctor walked in with his hair disheveled, one side of his face still compressed from his pillow. I looked at your dad and his face was discolored. He said he hadn’t eaten enough, but I think it was low blood sugar mixed with a spectrum of emotions that was making his face gray.
6:50 a.m. – I only pushed through four contractions and you were here. Suddenly your little, warm, squishy body was resting on my chest. You immediately started crying. Those little wails were a sweet symphony to my ears. My sobs were charged with every emotion. Disbelief. Joy. Relief. Love. Goodness you were so perfect in that moment. You still are. I rubbed the pale skin on your back and your wrinkled hands and feet. Your dad cried looking at us. It’s one of the few times I’ve ever seen him cry. He fell in love with you instantly. I looked down at you and then back up at your dad and he had an oxygen mask on. Like I said, he was dealing with a spectrum of emotions that were difficult to digest all at once. Your presence filled the room.
The aftermath: I’ll try to keep this short. Episiotomy = stitches. Inverted uterus = pain. Without the epidural I would have been taken to operating to fix said “inversion.” The anesthesiologist assured me I made a good choice by going with the epidural so that this complication could be quickly fixed. You had many visitors in the hospital who stared at you in wonder. At home, I delivered my placental membrane in the bathroom. This unwelcome experience made it to the Top 5 most unsettling things that have ever happened to me. Birth is, well, messy. I went to class five days after you were born and it sucked. I watched the clock and thought of you, my head in a complete haze. A week later, I got a breast infection. Let’s just say it’s all uphill from here!
You are the best thing. Everything that was going on our lives prior to your birth pales in comparison to staring at your face. You really do have the cutest face.