Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Day that I Met You

But if I was blessed

with just one day

That I could hold forever

I would save

The day that I met you

When I was a young newlywed, I knew that I wanted children…someday. There were days when it seemed like such a natural, wonderful thing. But there were days when I wondered if I would have the patience and be willing to make the necessary sacrifices that it would take to be a mother.

A friend with young children told me that I would know when it was time when the urge to have children came – and stayed. Boy, was she right! I was 24. We had been married for two years, and had had time to be a couple and do all of the things that couples without children could do. We had set a tentative date to start trying to have a baby…January 1990.

My plan was to conceive in February, and have the baby in November. That worked for my schedule, which was busy during the summer, but more forgiving in the winter. I would be on maternity leave over the holidays, and have a winter baby. (I love babies in snuggly blankets!) My mom reminded me that you cannot plan these things too tightly.

At Thanksgiving, my cousins came to visit, and two families had small children. They were SOOOO adorable! I threw away my birth control pills that weekend.

December came and went, which was fine, I was distracted by the holidays. Not that I didn’t get all excited and take a pregnancy test when I was 4 minutes late…but the negative test was not unexpected.

January came and went. I was becoming agitated.

February came. Still nothing. I was devastated. I felt like I had always been able to do anything that I tried…sometimes more successfully than others…but I’d never completely failed like this. I got a little crazy, and drove my family crazy. It was all that I could think about.

Thankfully, I was able to receive an answer to my prayers. It was not what I had hoped for, but it was an answer. I would conceive a child, but I needed to stop obsessing about it. I didn’t know if that meant that I would conceive if I relaxed, or if it meant that it would be some time before it happened, so I should not get so uptight. I was just able to trust it and throw myself into a big project that I had looming.

Sometime around 1 April, we took my brother to the airport to go back to college. I slept all of the way home, feeling a little nauseated. And I still felt a little icky that evening. My husband laughed and told me that I must be pregnant. I laughed, too.

Imagine my mother’s surprise when I took the test and found that I had gotten pregnant in February, and would deliver in November!

I worried while I was pregnant. The Gulf War was building up steam, and I wasn’t sure that I even wanted my baby to leave the safety of my womb. I worried about my baby’s health. I worried about whether or not I would be able to keep my baby healthy and safe. I worried that my baby would get hungry and I would not be in the mood to feed it. I worried that my baby would be ugly and I wouldn’t want it. (My mom assured me that I would think that it was beautiful. I was dubious.)

I was due November 23. I intended to give birth on the 19th. I had taken leave from work beginning on the 17th, so I wouldn’t have a lot of down time to sit around and wait. I would have a brand new baby for Thanksgiving. It worked into my plans perfectly. My mother reminded me that you cannot plan these things.

On the 19th, I awoke hopeful. I went to my doctor and he told me that the baby was in no hurry, and that we would probably have to induce on the 6 of December. What frustration!

That night, my water broke at 11:45. I called Mom to gloat, telling her that I would be a day off! After 19 hours of labor, my first son was delivered by Cesarean Section. It seems that I have what they call Cephalo-Pelvic Disproportion; the baby’s head is larger than the room in my pelvis to deliver it. I would never have delivered him without medical intervention. (something that would have been helpful to know some 19 hours earlier, let me assure you!)

I wanted boys more than anything. I guess that came naturally, since I had a younger brother. I was terrified of girls. I held my breath as they delivered my baby. The first relief was that it was a boy. The second relief came when they showed him to me…and he was ADORABLE! I wanted to keep him!

That first night was the most amazing night. I could hardly believe that I had a child! I had seen him only briefly, it seemed, as I came out of the anesthesia that they gave me to rest after he had been delivered. I awoke in recovery and was able to hold him for about an hour before he was whisked away for the night. Everyone had gone home, including my husband, who had been mostly awake since the previous morning and needed sleep desperately.

So at midnight, I called my Mom and talked to her, telling her everything that she already knew about the birth and my son. True to her nature, she listened and laughed and rejoiced with me, even though she was exhausted, too. (I had morphine in my meds, so I was ready and raring to go)

Somehow, I made it through that night, counting the minutes until they brought him to me at 6 AM. I opened his blanket and counted fingers and toes, and stared into his face…which seemed a small mirror of my own. When he opened his eyes, it was a face of great wisdom, as if he already knew more than I would ever know. It was overwhelming and wonderful.

In the words of the song “The Day that I met You”:

One painful morning

I stared straight into the sun

It overwhelmed me

I came undone

This was the feeling…of looking into eternity and not knowing if you are strong enough to grasp it.

My second son took exactly one conversation to conceive. We discussed it, decided to start trying, and it was done. Seriously.

This time, we opted for a planned cesarean, skipping the he-woman labor thing. I arrived at the hospital fresh and clean, and well rested. A couple of hours later, they handed me my sweet baby.

He was not a happy baby when they took him from me. Perhaps he hadn’t had time to prepare like #1, who had 19 hours of labor to warn him. For #2, it was a couple of slices and then harsh daylight. He cried from the moment they suctioned his mouth until he was placed back in my arms in recovery. Actually, he stopped crying the moment that I talked to him. He knew my voice, and that he would be fine now that I was there.

He looked like his brother, and yet, when he opened his eyes…he looked nothing like his brother. He had a different demeanor, as well. While #1 had been an active, kicking baby, #2 was more laid back.

#2 was determined to keep mama nearby. When I decided to shower, I fed him, then gave him to my nurse to watch. They brought him back within a few minutes, before I even got out the door to shower. “He’s hungry,” they said. “He’s sucking his hands and crying.”

I got settled and took him into my arms and put him to breast. He took a couple of sips, to be polite, then settled in to snuggle. It wasn’t the food that he needed, he simply knew that this was the best way to get them to take him back to his mother. I had no idea that newborns were so manipulative!

While I had an easier recovery, not having had to go through labor, it was also a painful recovery. By this time in history, babies were rooming in with Mom, and this baby had to be attached to me at all times. I wasn’t sleeping well, and one night, I had the most painful cramps ever. When he would nurse, it was excruciating.

Still, it was the most amazing experience of my life, seeing those soft, new eyes. Knowing that he knew that I was his mother, that I would take care of him. What an awesome responsibility, to be the one that was charged with his welfare, both temporal and spiritual.

My third son was born many years later, which is a story in itself. He was delivered far from home, in the University Hospital. It was an emergency after 12 days of bedrest, so even my husband was unable to be there. I was scared and lonely and so worried about my baby, who was still almost 7 weeks from term.

When he was delivered, they brought him to me briefly to say goodbye before he was whisked off to NICU. He was angry, like his second brother. I kissed his head and felt his soft skin…so fuzzy, unlike term babies…and I couldn’t stop kissing him. I knew that when I did, he would be gone.

They finally took him away, and I was sent to recovery. That was the longest time of my life, knowing that my baby was being checked for his health, and that I couldn’t see him until I was able to go to NICU myself. Little did I know, but my husband had arrived, but had to wait for me upstairs. Talk about seconds ticking by.

They took me to NICU to see my pookie. I expected a scrawny bird-boy, like most preemies appear. He was fat and healthy looking, and so handsome. He looked nothing like either of his brothers. Funny how genetics works, isn’t it? I was in love at first sight.

This time around was painful, as my baby could not room with me. My baby could not even come to my room. At midnight, I heard other babies crying as they were stripped to be weighed by the night staff. My baby was a floor away from me, but it could have been a million miles. I was thrilled when they finally removed my catheter so that I could visit him whenever I wanted, even in the middle of the night.

Birth is not an easy process. There is the physical pain, to be sure, no matter what the circumstances. There is the mental anguish. There is worry. There is frustration, sometimes anger or guilt (as is the case with preemies), there is exhaustion.

And while we have had some incredible moments in the years that have passed since, there is something very magical (and hormonal) about that first day, that first look.

If I had to do it all over again – I would, in a heartbeat. I would take the 19 hours of labor, three cesareans (one in which the spinal failed and I could feel them sewing me up), the post-partum, the nasty aftereffects of having given birth. I would do it all five times over, just for that moment. Just to look into my baby’s eyes that first time. To see eternity stretch before me and know that I would have this remarkable, strong spirit to take the journey with me. That I had been trusted with this precious child of God on this earth. That I could love with all of my heart and more.

But if I could set aside one day

That I could hold forever

I would save

The day that I met you

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