I picked up my life and moved across the country to be with your father in May. By December, we knew what we’d already suspected: we wanted to spend our lives together and build a family.
After casually trying to have a baby for nearly 6 months, an unfamiliar fear started creeping in. We knew couples with fertility issues, but only vaguely worried that we might join them. Uncharacteristically pro-active, I went to the doctor to get the wheels turning for testing and decisions and possible interventions. He did a pelvic exam, gave me an MMR booster, and told me to relax and enjoy life as a newlywed.
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I remember the night I learned I was pregnant. Something in me must have known – with an irregular cycle I could never count on a missed period or tender breasts as a sign of anything – but that evening, while Gee was at work, I peed on the precious stick and the answer smiled, then shouted back at me.
My first reaction was terror. Not about motherhood, or about the changes that my body and I (and you) were about to go through. My first fear was for your safety, because when I counted the days and did the rudimentary math, I knew that I was already very newly pregnant when Dr. D injected that deadened disease into my arm. And I knew that I was already more than a little bit pregnant when I had been home on vacation – back with my best friends and sisters and more than several martinis – thinking I was riding the free-ride of a freshly-pressed, doctor-issued negative pregnancy test.
There you were, barely bigger than a single grain of sand, and already my greatest concern in the world.
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I remember riding the bus to work when you were still a cluster of misshapen cells in my womb. My friend Shanna used to refer to the bus as the “bone shaker”, and with each pothole, her words echoed in my ear. I was so afraid that the nasty combination of public transit and damaged roads would jolt you out of your safest place. Even then, just weeks a part of me, I was terrified of losing you.
Luckily, the women in my family do pregnant well. We aren’t afflicted with morning sickness, we do not (mercifully) miscarry, and we eventually waddle our way into the delivery room not much worse for wear. I enjoyed having you as my constant companion during those months, rubbing my tummy every time you had the hiccups, trying to soothe you, to give you comfort that you may not have required, but that I was compelled to give, because I was your mother, evermore.
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When the contractions started on Saturday afternoon, I knew it was the real thing. You were already 2 days late, but they told me that was to be expected with a first born. I spent the night listening to my body, wondering when would be the right time to head to the hospital, knowing (wrongly, but knowing still) that once I left my home that night, I would not return without you.
All night, the subtle ache in my belly lied to me. It wasn’t like the books said. Nothing on the internet talked about labour starting so quietly and lasting so long. The contractions came frequently, but weren’t strong. Although the literature didn’t tell me, I knew it wasn’t time to go yet. Night turned to day turned to evening turned to night again. It was March 30. Your dad was born on March 31, and while I didn’t want you to have to share your birthday with him, I wanted even less for you to be born on April 1st. Before your birth, even, I was trying to spare you from the taunting and cruelty that might stem from you being an April Fool, un poisson d’avril.
After feeling you make your way to the edge of my body for more than 27 hours, we finally left for the hospital. All hope, and joy, and expectation and even pride was dashed when the nurse told me that I was barely dilated, and that I would probably be more comfortable if I returned home, unless or until I couldn’t cope with the pain. Disappointment turned to anger at the word ‘cope’. Suggesting that following my instincts and coming to the hospital was wrong, that I was weak. And yet, like a wet yellow lab with her tail between her legs, I returned home, with you and yet without you, to wait some more.
The second time they let me stay, but it was a long stay. Every nurse that came on shift promised me that you would be here soon. They prepared the birthing kit, and then cleared it away again, fearing it had been exposed to the air and to germs too long. Nubain. Epidural. Stripped membranes. Pitocin drip. Foetal monitor. Not what I would have chosen our birth experience to be, if I had thought about it, which (thankfully, I guess) I hadn’t.
Finally, Dr. A coming in the room, checking my progress. Finally, her wide beautiful grin. You’d better not sneeze, or you’ll have this baby. Me, not believing. Here, give me your hand. Guiding my fingers down, around my belly, and barely into myself, touching the soft spot of hair on the crown of your head. It was real. You were coming.
So many people in the room as the shift started to change again, and me the only one watching the monitor, waiting to see the contraction that I couldn’t feel. Pushing, pushing so hard – too hard, really, the damage would be done – and then, like a miraculous opening in my soul, feeling you vacate your home in my womb. Feeling you go from the private world we’d shared for the last nine months, into the big beautiful one that you will discover and explore for the rest of your life. Watching your father’s wonder and love and fatigue explode together in a look I’d never seen before, and have only seen one time since.
You were born at 7:21 pm on March 31, two hours before Gee officially turned 31. You would be his favourite birthday present, the most exquisite gift I could have offered him, and the greatest thing I had ever done.