Seven years ago yesterday, I woke up, rolled my enormous body out of bed and got ready for my 4-day post-due date examination with my OB/GYN. I was feeling discouraged. I was, ironically, due on Labor Day, which had been 4 days earlier. Also the day that my in-laws flew in, to witness the joyous occasion of their 3rd grandchild’s birth. The most exciting thing that happened to me was my copious amounts of heartburn.
Every night, when Lance would come home, in the quiet darkness, we would walk forever, trying to coax this baby out of my swollen belly. I was hot, miserable, sick unto death of trying to determine if the tightenings on my belly were real contractions or those stupid practice ones. I was also feeling enormous amounts of performance pressure. My mother in law, who hardly ever speaks her mind, had asked, ever so shyly if she could be in the delivery room with me, since she had been present with her other two grandchildren. How could I deny that? But I was terrified I was going to act like the movies, complete with screaming and cussing, possibly a little like Linda Blair.
So Friday morning, when I rolled out of bed and drove with Lance the 20 minutes to the hospital, I was not feeling hopeful. I thought this child would never get out of me, although it felt like she was sticking a hand or leg out of my…well, let’s just say it wasn’t pleasant being pregnant anymore. We hadn’t even eaten anything yet, sure the doctor would just dig around, searching for uteran treasure and send me off with a “You’re getting there.”
At the doctor’s office, after successfully peeing in the miniscule cup and sitting in the nurse’s station, getting my arm sqeezed off with the blood pressure cuff, I looked at the nurse and I read worry. She was worried enough at the mysterious blood pressure numbers to hunt for the doctor who took one look and sent me to the labor and delivery ward. We hadn’t even brought my bag with us.
Once adorning the sexy gown and propped up on the hospital bed, the nurses began their search for uteran treasure as well. They decided to break my water and used a scary looking metal ruler looking thingy. Once my water was broken they found traces of meconium. That’s poo, for the uninformed. They didn’t seem too worried, but they made plans for a respiratory specialist to be present in the room upon delivery. We, of course, were terrified. Our main question was, what’s the big deal with poop? The answer, she can swallow it. We asked, what happens then? The answer, we go after it. Oh, ok. Terror reached new limits in my mind.
They encouraged me to walk around, displaying my sexy body complete with an IV hookup to coax the labor along. After 3 hours, all I succeeded in doing was ruining my house shoes with amniotic fluid. Then began the fun.
They gave me some pitocin, to help kick start the labor pains. (Read, a new form of torture) I had NO idea labor pains could be so intense. I think the poor folks next door and possibly down the hall could hear my pain. They wouldn’t consent to giving me an epidural until I was at least 4 centimeters dilated. I was stubbornly stuck at a 2. Pitocin does strange things to your body, it makes the contractions incredibly hard and fierce, with only 30 seconds or so between waves. It was, by far, the most pain I have ever experienced, both before and since. It felt like a metal pole was being driven through my belly.
My poor doctor kept coming in to check on me, and I guess my cries in pain were wearing her down, so she called for my epidural. I was only too aware of all the extra eyes on me during that whole painful process. My husband, who never left my side, my sister who had my mother on the cell phone so she could experience the torture too, my mother in law and my sister in law, all watching and waiting.
Once the blessed drugs hit my system, I was finally able to stop wailing in pain. After several hours of no real change, things began to pick up. Around midnight I was finally able to start pushing. Now, for those of you who don’t have a uterus or haven’t had the experience of live birth, it’s a bit like using the bathroom, only with different, inexperienced muscles. It’s very strange. If it weren’t for one of the nurses, Beth, I might still be stuck in that bed, trying to figure out this whole labor thing. Beth was amazing. I sent her a thank you note after it was all said and done.
Two and a half hours of pushing later, a slimy creature with a head shaped like a football finally made her appearance. They quickly cut the cord and whisked her to a table in the room, hunting for meconium. She gave lusty wails and even stuck out her lip. We have pictures of that pout. She had tons of hair, gobs of it. Perhaps that old wives tale about hair and heartburn is true.
When the goo and poo was cleared away, they wrapped her up and handed her to me. Lance, the dutiful father, held a video camera in our faces, catching her beauty.
There are no words to describe the moments you get to hold your first born, or any child you’ve birthed for that matter. It’s inexpressible. The sense of lifetime responsibility, it’s there, but it’s tied with this strange thing called love. That love comes from a whole new room in your heart that you never knew existed. And it’s strong. The kind of love where you would jump in front of a car to protect this little creature. It’s the kind of love that sustains you during those sleepless nights where she cries for no reason, other than just to drive you to drink. It’s the kind of love that makes you stare at her, trying to memorize each wrinkle, each delicate shade of skin. You stare at fingers and toes, you stare at them awake, asleep. You croon. You sing songs, some of them made up, just for their enjoyment.
Today Emma is seven. Seven is offically a big kid, in my mind. She got her ears pierced, that was her gift from us. As a family, we spent the weekend in Atlanta, visiting the aquarium and just hanging out as a family. We talked about how big she was, how proud we are of her, and how fast time has flown by. She beamed, while Lance and I stole glances at each other in pain that only parents can know, that time is going by much too fast.
The older Emma gets, the more she looks and acts like me. She’s got her own quirks and ticks, the things that make her distinct. But at her core, I understand her because she is a little me. Sometimes I laugh at that, and sometimes it makes me sad, because some of those things will cause problems later in life. It’s that strong love again, I want her to be the best she can be, and sometimes that’s not to be like me. I suppose that’s how all parents feel.
In another seven years, she’ll be a teenager. She’ll be in love with whoever new young hottie shows up on Hollywoods magic screens. She’ll wear dangly earrings and makeup. She’ll shy away from hugs and kisses from me and probably insist on calling me Mom or Mother, something to make her feel older. Another seven years and she’ll be in college, studious and opinionated. She’ll be talented and creative. Possibly in love for real.
Ah me, time is a thief.