After I pour the half and half into my reheated cup of coffee, I pass by the pack n play to make sure he’s breathing before I sit back down at the computer.
The dog, my beloved fluffy companion, is curled on the couch by the window, awaiting some attention which has been seriously lacking the past few months.
It is still very cold outside and snowed a bit yesterday. I’m wearing a heavy open fronted sweater over one of the two borrowed maternity shirts I wear almost every day. They gained favour by opening down the front enough to make feeding easy.
The baby wakes and reaches for the stars hanging over him in the play crib. He’s grown quite adept at aiming for them.
I think about the first time I saw him. I’d been looking at my husband as he held my hand. With a sense of confusion at the voices telling me to turn my head the other way, I did so, and there was this messy muddy baby covered in goo. I’d forgotten what the purpose of this stage of the crucible was. We’d been at the hospital so long that I’d forgotten why we’d gone there. I didn’t expect anything out of the experience except another step in the journey that had taken up nearly all of the three days following Christmas. After forty-three and half hours of contractions, the later of which were at an intensity that was literally off the chart, three hours of unsuccessful pushing, and the final decision that if he wasn’t able to come out on his own we’d have to go in and get him, it was hard for me to remember there was a bright side to it all. When the surgery was done, I’d go to the recovery room, then Nic and I would go home, just the two of us. Business as usual. I had completely forgotten that we had a very good chance of going home with somebody else. I’d forgotten we were there to get our baby. But there he was. Messy but alive.
A minute later they brought him, cleaned up and wrapped in a blanket, to my husband while they stitched me up. At one point they laid him down next to my head. I couldn’t hold him yet. But I remember his eyes. The deepest, darkest blue I’d ever seen. With lashes thick and dark. And so, so beautiful.
Then they took him to the nursery and, after they were done closing the rift in my abdomen, wheeled me back upstairs to my room in the maternity ward.
At around 8:00pm they brought him to me. I’ll never forget that vision: Tiny angel in a Christmas Tree hat, swaddled tightly over a little kimono shirt and a Huggies diaper bearing Winnie the Pooh. His face glowed when he heard me speak to him. And then he was in my arms.
I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t even stand. I was full of medications and anesthetics and completely worn out. My dream of keeping him in the room with me every night was dashed. He could have stayed, but I knew that as exhausted and delirious as I was it wouldn’t have been safe. So after he nursed for the first time and I held him for a while, he went away and I tried to sleep. I kept waking up. It was horrid being alone, in the darkness. Falling asleep after all those hours of pointless labor should have been easy. I kept waking. Occasionally a nurse would come in to check my vitals. Finally at around 1:30 or 2:00 in the morning he came back. It was like in His Dark Materials when Pan had been too far away – that pang in my heart, almost painful, finally eased.
At some point, during one of his midnight visits to me, he was placed in my arms, the nurse left, and instead of feeding, he laid his head on top of my bosom and went so happily to sleep. One time I heard him crying all the way up the hall. Once he was in the room I called to him, and his face split into radiance and he stopped crying immediately. He knew me. He knew me!
A shower and a few diaper changes later, I sit eating two left over slices of pepperoni pizza and thinking about my postpartum body. The baby cries and I give him his lunch as well.
I gained about 55 lbs during our pregnancy, 20 more than the outer limit of what I was *supposed to* gain. I think of my friends who had at this point already lost more than they’d gained. I still have 19 lbs to go. I try to remember that some of those women were horribly sick their entire pregnancies and I was fortunate enough to have a relatively easy one. I try to remember that every body is different just as every pregnancy is different. I think of my cousins and friends who had easy, short labors, those who have two or three kids, and I wonder why I didn’t get to experience that. Two pregnancies, only one baby to show for it. A three week bleed with a ten hour laborious miscarriage at 11 weeks. A 43.5 hour labor, three hours of pushing, and still I needed a c-section to get my baby out. I think about this and remember: afterwards we were both safe; we were both healthy and, most importantly, Alive.
I look at this little milk-sotted face, sleeping against my breast, (he smiles in his sleep, his eyes slightly open), and I know that while I could never do it again, it was in some way All Worth It. I get jealous of friends who got healthy pregnancies on the first try. I think of those ten months of trying before we had a successful healthy low-risk pregnancy. The tests and exams and poking and prodding and fruitless perfect lab results leading to more questions and fewer answers. I remember the tears, the frustration, the agony, the guilt, the wondering – why couldn’t I succeed in this? And then I look again at this little face. He wrinkles it in his sleep and I wonder if in his dreams he remembers his harrowing journey to reach us. I kiss the wrinkles away and tell him it’s okay and that I’m right here.
Will I ever forget our trials? Probably not. I know with all my heart I could not be looking at This face if it had worked out any other way. I start to lower him into the pack n play to nap and he grasps at me. We sit back down together, his little head resting on Mommy’s Magical Dinner Pillows ™, these ridiculous breasts that finally have a purpose.
He turned two months on Sunday. My little sugar pea. Our sweet and perfect son. My whole magnificent world.
Our little miracle. photo by Jenny Rader, brilliant and devoted nurse