Some moments in life are just so big, they take time to fully sink in. A year after the birth of her son, Mandy looks back on a day that would bring some of the best and some of the scariest moments of her life…
It was just a year ago.
Just a year ago that our due date dawned, so seemingly innocuous. Yet, I primped myself for the occasion, a deeper feeling lining my heart that this day was different. Uncharacteristically serene, I gathered our items together, packed with precision for months, and headed to the doctor to confirm my suspicions.
Just a year ago that the obstetrician performed a ferning test to humor me, though she assured us that this baby was nothing but comfortable. While we waited for results, my husband nervously ran his hands up and down the length of his thighs, while I sat immobilized and yet so blissfully self-assured.
Just a year ago that the doctor informed us that yes, Mother’s Intuition ruled – my water was breaking and I was in labor.
It was the last time that our child in any way predictable.
Just a year ago that I sat in horror as the end scenes of “Knocked Up” played out in our labor and delivery room, complete with God-complex on-call OB negating any birthing plan and pushing Pitocin like a drug lord. Having carelessly said idiotic things like, “I have a high pain tolerance” and loftily assuming that I would handle this birth like my ancient non-medicine utilizing cavewomen ancestors – I had never taken Lamaze class and was now in the fabulous position of hard labor without ability to handle it. Mercifully, as the drug-induced contractions came crashing in, my mother-in-law began coaching me through, keeping me from being swept away by the pain and fear. My husband, stared at me as if I had morphed into a bellowing monster. To his credit, I had.
Just a year ago I screamed at my husband to “stop.texting.now.” and begged the nurse for an epidural. I got it, but unless the epidural is supposed to numb the better side of your left leg and eschew the actual area being used as a birth canal, my brush with pain-relief was an utter fail.
Just a year ago that my beloved doctor arrived like a knight in shining armor to deliver our little one, turning on glaring lights and stretching my legs like I was a member of Cirque de Soleil. I squeezed my husband’s hand and locked on his eyes, pushing with all the power I had – overjoyed at the prospect of finally meeting the person who’d been leasing my womb for 9 months.
Just a year ago I felt release and heard the glorious words, “It’s a boy!”
Just a year that they placed this wrinkled purple, unmoving being on my stomach, and just as quickly whisked him away.
Just a year ago I noted not hearing the scream of my child, but instead heard the overly calm words of the staff as they tried to distract our attention.
Just a year ago, they pushed my husband and fell in around our 7 pound, 2 ounce miracle, trying to clear the fluid that was preventing him from taking his first breath.
Just a year ago that the staff hurriedly bagged our son to save his life.
There was no merriment or joyful exclamations. Our birthing room was otherworldly quiet as the neonatal unit was brought in. As the cart rolled away, my husband left with it awkwardly – having had to suddenly choose sides, wife or child.
I didn’t cry. I just felt for the first time, the helplessness of a mother. There was nothing I could do for my newborn son but pray and wait.
After three hours, I was wheeled into the NICU, following a hand cleansing routine that sterilized me for the next three years. Under a myriad of tubes, IVs and beeping equipment, my newborn son writhed and mewed.
He had two holes in his lungs. Pneumothoraxes. An unfortunate result of the bagging that saved his life.
I collapsed back into my wheelchair, feeling like all the breath had gone out of me. The sole buoy was the news that infants are incredibly resilient and the holes were likely to resolve themselves over a period of time without surgery – as long as he was under NICU care.
Visitation was frequent and the nurses helped us to know our little man – working around IVs in his head and hands, changing meconium diapers without setting off monitors. I marveled at the wonder of his being the first time I was able to hold him, looking at his little scrunched face as it nestled into my bosom. His fingers wrapped around my own and I felt peace; come what may, it would be alright.
It was just a year ago, but Joseph’s birth feels like yesterday – and I am so grateful for every moment we have shared. Every smile, every cry, every step is a blessing that I thank God for each night. Even during the hair-pulling, white-knuckling-it colic stage, I was just thrilled his lungs had healed enough to allow for screaming.
Over the months since his dramatic arrival, I have watched a helpless, newborn evolve into a cuddly and serious infant entertained by a fan, and more recently into a mischievous and thoughtful toddler learning to walk. He plays hard, he laughs hard, he cries hard and he loves harder.
I knew this day would come quickly, but I never imagined the torrent of emotions that would rip through my body on the eve of his first birthday. Rocking together before bedtime, I took a long pause to absorb the weight of his head as it nestled into my shoulder. The way his breath tickled my neck. How his arm circled around mine, pulling himself closer into a safe embrace. I ran my finger down the smooth curve of his sweet face as his long eyelashes fluttered shut, and choked back a sob – my baby is no more. In his place sits a curious, lively, wonder of a boy.
Where has it gone?
Cliché though it is, I am sitting here today, on the 365th day of my son’s wild ride on our planet, wondering how time has flit past with barely a whisper, but so thankful for that which lies on the horizon.