This post is dedicated to Liz, who wondered why I never blog about my son, and Stephen, who greeted the news of my pregnancy by making me promise not to turn into “another f•••ing mommy blogger.”
One year ago today, my midwife looked at me and said that she was going to call in the Ob/Gyn, because after thirty-three hours of labour, it was clear that we were going to need some help delivering this baby.
We had spent a day and a half labouring together, my little crew: me, my husband, my sister (our doula), and the midwife. When we got to the hospital, a nurse joined us in the room, adding her quiet support.
Now, with my nod of assent and our midwife’s invitation, a stream of new people entered the picture. First, the Ob/Gyn, then an anesthesiologist, a new nurse – shift change – and who knows who all else. I was stark naked, dripping wet from having laboured in the bath, and as shameless as I’ve ever been in my life. I didn’t care who came and went, so long as my core team were at my side.
A heart monitor was placed on the baby’s head, and we could hear his heartbeat: slowing from its usual 150 beats a minute down, down, down, dipping to 50 beats a minute, then up, then down again. I was given an oxygen mask. Everyone seemed calm, so I stayed calm too.
I was moved to an operating room, prepped for a c-section. They were going to try delivering the baby with forceps first. I remembered the words of my friend Candis, who had told me to hold my birth plan lightly. All that matters is a healthy baby and a healthy mom, she’d said. I knew she was right. Whatever was going to happen, would happen.
I was anesthetized, completely numb from the bottom of my rib cage down. Couldn’t feel enough to know whether I was pushing well. But I did the best I could, and in what seemed like mere seconds since I’d been whisked into the room, the baby – our son – was born. David, my beautiful husband, was next to me, holding my hand, looking into my eyes, and my sister was at my feet, watching as the OR team swept our little guy off for a brief health check and airway clearing before returning him to lie on my chest. (I tell everyone that my sister’s was the first face he saw.)
He was all of the things newborns are: wrinkly, ancient- and alien-looking, funny-coloured, perfect. I did all of the cliched things that new mothers do: marveled at his impossibly tiny fingers; stared and stared at his face, trying to find something I recognized; felt instincts kick in that I’d worried I wouldn’t possess.
I loved my husband more than ever, because he’d convinced me to do this crazy thing and held me with love through every single breath of it. And because I knew with certainty that he was going to be the best father I could imagine.
And after a few minutes, we left the OR and came to our tiny room, and I fell fast asleep while David held our son. I woke up a couple of hours later, and there they were, father and son, babe nestled into his papa’s arms, sleeping soundly.
Now we were three.
Twelve months later, some observations:
My son thoroughly enjoys the company of others. Especially older kids. Sometimes I think he missed his true calling as a younger sibling. Plunk a toddler or a school-aged kid in front of him, and he’s in heaven. Doesn’t matter what they do; he loves them all.
He laughs at just about anything. He has one of the best baby laughs ever, low and chortling. Strangers freak out with delight when they hear it. I wish I could bottle it. I’ll do anything to make him laugh – tickle him by shaking my hair down over his belly when I’m getting him undressed for the bath, make stupid fart noises, goof around and dance like an idiot.
He throws things. Hard. Seriously, if you want him to entertain himself almost indefinitely, just give him a bunch of toys he can throw around, and some space to do it in. Just make sure the toys aren’t made of wood and that you don’t get in his way, because he capable of serious shin damage.
He’s vocal. (Given his two loud, uber-talkative parents, he didn’t have much of a prayer of turning out otherwise.) He has been a squealer from an early age, and babbles incessantly these days. He loves the sound of his own voice. Sometimes he sings along to things, or just to himself. I frequently catch him going through a door and emitting a confident “Ah!” followed by several seconds of thoughtful silence, as he listens, seemingly gauging the acoustics of the room. (The bathrooms and the garage, all echo chambers, are favourites.)
All the cliches are true. He has changed my life irrevocably. I have spent the past year in a fog of sleep deprivation, getting up four times a night on average to soothe and nurse him. There have been moments of primal desperation, minutes of inexplicable delight, hours and days of wonder.
But the biggest change in me is this: More than anything, now, when I look at my life and what I want to do with my short time on the planet, I want to leave a legacy for this small human being. That’s a cliche, too, I know. But it’s true, so I’m having to suck it up and let the cliches fill the page today.
And that’s appropriate, because in many ways, this year has been about discovering the ways in which I am not as special as I once thought – the places where I once thought to stand apart, but now fit in to the same old story. I have been making my peace with that – seeing that embracing the odd cliche doesn’t mean erasure, invisibility, or triteness. Relaxing my hold, slightly, on my desire to be unconventional.
So here we are, at the end of a year together, and I’m predictably astonished by him. I get glimpses, from time to time, of what the future might hold. And I wish him this:
Baby boy, may you always know in the core of your being that you are loved – that you were born of love. May I have the strength to stand back and witness your unfolding without unhelpful interference. I am so grateful for the gift of your presence.
Thank you for this first year.