january 21, 2011.
it had been a cold winter, filled with snow and grey skies and bowls of steamy soup in my hospital bed. i woke up early that morning to curl my hair and paint my nails-soft pink. my heart pulsed in my chest as i applied mascara and glossed my lips and tried to distract myself from feeling afraid.
but, i was.
i was afraid.
i had been told to prepare myself for any outcome. perhaps you'd go straight to the nicu. perhaps you'd require ventilation and breathing assistance. perhaps you'd be tiny and weak and sick when you came into this world. maybe it would hurt. maybe the pain of watching you struggle would crash down on my chest and leave me breathless.
i'd never done this before. the pregnancy, the bed-rest, the complications, the weekly ultrasounds, the hospitalization, the early delivery. all of it, brand-new. and me, your mother. the one who was supposed to protect you, to care for you, to take all of this heartache and mold it carefully into your very first story; beautiful and sad.
i rubbed my swollen belly and breathed in and out purposefully as i waited.
soon, they came to get me from room 201. i was taken to labor and delivery, a place i'd been a few times already on days when my doctors were concerned for you. i was grateful to know that this time my stay would end with a baby. this time, i knew what we would be doing here. no overnight stress-tests and endless vials of blood to be sucked from my bruised arms. this time i was here to have my baby.
they went over all of the instructions and i signed all the forms. it was early in the morning and the hospital was quiet and still. soon, your grandparents showed up; nana, papa and grandma olsen. they filed in one-by-one with smiles on their faces. your dad was dressed in scrubs with a shower cap over his head. he smiled nervously and fidgeted with the camera in his hands. while everyone else busied themselves around me, i layed in that hospital bed and watched you on the monitor. despite the lack of fluid and the dismal circumstances, you still seemed to be thriving in there. your heart pulsed and swayed and sang out like the fluttering wings of a butterfly. it skipped and jumped and raced powerfully to the top of your acceleration and then, as always, it slid back down, soft and gentle. a steady, humming, beat, beat, beat.
this was your song. the one you sang to me each morning.
i felt like i knew you so well already.
you were delivered that morning, via c-section. we went through all the standard motions. my old iv was taken out and a new one was put in in its place. the needles didn't hurt me at all anymore, but they would leave scars and reminders all over my hands and arms--reminders of what it took to bring you here. when it was finally time to meet you, i walked with the doctors to the operating room and leaned into dr. voss as i received my spinal block. almost instantly my body began to grow still and warm, numb from the neck down. i laid back down on the table and your dad was brought in to be with me.
a c-section is a lovely way to have a baby, really. i felt no pain and only glorious bursts of pressure, instead. the doctors made small-talk about the weather and their children's names and which stitch to use on which incision. your dad watched them over the curtain, fascinated and enthralled by the medical miracle he was witnessing. hardly anyone spoke to me at all--each of them swallowed up in the precision of their own task. and i was lost in my own world, in my own head. i seemed to be watching all of it happening around me, while not really feeling present in any of it, at all.
soon, the doctor's voice jilted me from my haze. we would meet you soon, he told me, get ready. and so i asked your dad to look at me, to stop watching the procedure and walk with me through that moment, instead. he turned away from the curtain and looked right at me. he held my hands and kissed my forehead and we smiled at one another. finally, i closed my eyes and felt one last surge of deep pressure and adrenaline.
and then, you were here.
when i think back on this year we've shared together i can still see you in all your versions.
you, as a one-year old. tiny and curious with wild blonde hair sticking straight up and a mouth full of teeth. scurrying around the living room and barking at the doggies and throwing cheerios from the shopping cart as we make our way through the store. smiling at strangers and leaving fat, warm tears on my shoulder and saying "mama" and "dadda" and "baba" and "hi".
you, as a six month old. with fluffy wisps of hair and a bow on your head. toppling over when i try to sit you up and falling asleep in my arms and nursing quietly in the living room, cuddled perfectly against my body. you with rice cereal in your hair and size-1 diapers on your tiny bum and a bit of separation-anxiety. like a little sack of flour on my hip at all times.
you, as a one month old. with the gummy grins and those preemie onesies and the tiniest fingers and toes. waking me in the night and following my gaze with your own and sleeping on my chest in afternoon sunlight. i remember the skin-to-skin and spending the entire day just nursing and the way your whole body fit underneath my neck, just so.
and then there's you, seconds old. crying and wailing with the angriest little look on your face. you with your fingers and toes curled tightly against your fleshy, pink body. you with the matted head of hair and the eyes shut tight as you protested your early delivery. you looking so familiar to me, as if i had known you all along. of course this was my baby. of course this is what you looked like.
you were so so beautiful.
and then there are the memories i'm most grateful for. you, surprising everyone. you, being wheeled straight to those doctors and then straight back to me, healthy and perfect and all mine. you breathing and eating and coming home with me, finally. where we belonged.
you, five pounds fifteen ounces, eighteen inches long.
with the kitten-soft cries and the clenching fists and that intoxicating scent of life, just starting.
you, changing everything.
you, making all of it worth it.
it had been you all along.
happy first year, my sweetest girl.