Monday, March 21, 2011

my recollection of a year gone by...

We have a lot of happenings and changes on the horizon and I don’t know the next time that I will have a few minutes to spare.  As James nears the 6-month mark, I can’t help but want to get some thoughts out before the anxiety of a first birthday consumes my thoughts and clouds my memory.  I can’t believe he has been with us for six months already!  While it seems like we just had the pleasure of meeting him yesterday, I can’t remember what life was like before he came into the world.  From the moment I found out that we were pregnant, our whole lives changed.  I am so thankful for having such encouraging parents, a supportive family, and, most importantly, a loving man that has always sat close and held my hand during this wild ride.

I thought it was just Joe’s driving – afterall, he was generous with the gas pedal and fearless when it came to switching lanes.  (Don’t worry, that has changed since he found out he was transporting such precious cargo!)  Looking back, I guess I knew something was going on in that tummy of mine.  On this particular weekend, which happened to be the weekend after we got engaged, we followed routine and headed up to Joe’s apartment in Portsmouth for a weekend of fun and food.  I had to crack the window for some fresh air.  That nauseous feeling eventually passed…but would soon return – and stick around for longer than anyone would ever want.  During the following week, I got that car-sick feeling several more times.  Except I wasn’t in a swaying car and, instead, I was sitting at my desk at work, or walking across town to meet Joe after work, or laying in bed.  That Friday, February 5th, I spent a few bucks at Rite Aid that would forever change the way I would look at the world.

I got home and told Joe that I had bought a pregnancy test.  Until then, I had kept my suspicions to myself.  It was so casual.  Even when I was about to pee on the stick, I giggled at myself for being so silly to think that I could have a human forming in my stomach.  The instructions said it could take a few minutes for the indicator to show up.  I must have super-pee because two pink lines popped up on that little stick within seconds.  My reaction?  “Oh, fuck.”  (Sorry, James…I used to swear more than I should.)  Joe appeared in the bathroom door way.  I showed him what I did.  We just stared at each other.  It was still so casual.  I set the stick on the sink, somehow thinking it needed to marinate for a bit longer and one of those lines would disappear.  We sat down on the couch and turned on the tv as if nothing happened.  I will never remember what was on.  It could have been on mute for all I know.  Hell, I could have been staring at a blank screen.  Our eyes continued to toggle back and forth between the tv and each other.  I took one of Joe’s cigarettes and lit it (Sorry, James…I used to think smoking made you look cool.  It does NOT.)  Immediately after doing so, I stamped it out.  I think that’s when it all sank in.  What if I really WAS pregnant?  Holy shit.  I might have a thing inside of me that I have to nourish and protect!  I can’t even keep a cactus alive!  I went back to check on the stick.  It still had two solid pink lines.  Whoever invented the at-home pregnancy test was a genius to put two in each box.  I took the second test.  Same result. Despite my heart racing a mile a minute, my mind worrying about everything from what kind of parents we’d be to the beers I had last weekend, and my brain calculating how much I need to start putting away each month to pay for college tuition in 2028, the mood in our apartment was still so casual.  Up until that point in my life, I wasn’t much of a worrier.  I always had faith that things would always work themselves out.  Unless these two sticks were lying to me, I was now responsible for something other than myself and I couldn’t let the stars just work THAT out.
We didn’t start picking out names and color schemes for a nursery.  With Joe’s support, we went to bed and decided to put off further worries and thoughts until tomorrow when I could get confirmation from my doctor.  I don’t think I slept.  I got up with the sun and made an appointment to see my doctor later that morning.  We went to the doctor, I gave her a cup of pee, and within about 2 minutes, she told me to expect a kid to jump out of my body around October 9th.  (OK, she didn’t use those exact words but that’s how my brain translated whatever it was that she said to me.)  Joe was in the waiting area and I sent him a text confirming what we already knew.  I don’t remember his reply.  All I remember is sitting on the exam table, on top of the crinkly paper, and staring at the big yearly calendar on the back of the door, right next to the poster of a woman breast feeding twins.  I took a picture of that poster and texted it to Joe.

We left the doctor’s office new people.  I think we were officially adults?  Now what?  I had to tell my parents.  My mum was in full wedding-planning mode.  I think she had done more research on my potential wedding venues than I had at that point.  I felt like a 16 year old that just got caught sneaking back into the house after drinking in the woods with boys as I dialed their number.  I was hoping to get the answering machine.  I told my mum that I made a decision about the wedding planning and that it was to put it on hold for a year or two.  She asked why, probably thinking that Joe and I realized that we didn’t really like each other as much as we thought.  I told her that we just left the doctor and that I had a bun in the oven.  She thought I was joking and insisted that I come to their house immediately.  Then she hung up.  I thought for sure that this was the first time in my life that I was going to be grounded.  When we arrived, I think she could see the look for shear fear and worry on my face and knew that I wasn’t joking about this.  I’m pretty sure she immediately forgot about wedding planning.  She assured our fears, promised that everything would be ok, and expressed her love and excitement.  Just then, we heard my Dad pull in the driveway.  Oh crap.  For some reason, I thought it would be harder to tell my Dad even though he is as cool as a cucumber about anything and everything and sees the good side of even the worst situation.  He came in the house and I realized that my cousin’s son was with him.  I gotta say, it was somewhat of a relief.  I couldn’t exactly break the news to him while he sat at the kitchen table rifling through baseball cards with a 12 year old.  My mum subtly suggested Joe and I go to lunch and come back later.  When we did, it was just my parents at home.  I don’t know how my mum was able to maintain a level of calmness and not spill the beans while we were gone.  She cries at the National Anthem during Red Sox games.  I fought through the enormous lump in my throat and told my Dad the news.  As expected, he was as cool as a cucumber.  (By the way, that phrase grosses me out for some reason and yet I just used it twice.)  He even cracked a joke about Joe being a rascal.  I think he also saw the fear on my face and assured us that nobody is ever truly “ready” to have a baby but this kind of miracle always works itself out.

After the initial shock and worry wore off, we were beyond excited to meet our creation.  (The initial shock and worry wore off but I think there is a lifetime of shock and worry still lingering.)  The next 9 months were amazing in every sense of the word.  Despite 12 solid weeks of morning/afternoon/night sickness and the physically and emotionally exhausting 9th month, I look forward to doing it all again.  I am eternally grateful to have had such a supportive and empowering midwife who encouraged my wishes to have a natural pregnancy and birth.  I learned so much about myself and my body during the whole baby-growing process.  I am also beyond appreciative of having Joe beside me every step of the way.  I always thought of myself as strong and independent but I depended on him every second since I first peed on that stick.  Through unfavorable blood test results, countless appointments, expanding waist- and bust-lines, and a nerve wracking delivery, he was by my side and offering more support than any girl could ever dream for.  There are so many things about the past year that have been a blur but I will never forget the love from Joe, the sound of our little fetus’ heartbeat, the sight of our little seahorse dancing around in my womb, and the feel of a foot sticking into my ribs.

Most people were horrified that we didn’t want to find out the sex of the baby.  Well, I didn’t want to find out and eventually convinced Joe that he didn’t want to find out either.  It’s an old cliché but I just wanted a happy and healthy baby.  I didn’t care if we had a boy or a girl.  Buying blue or pink paint and stocking up on dresses or pants was the furthest thing from our mind.  To us, that was all so frivolous.  We had a freakin’ person growing in my stomach!  It was going to come out and we were gonna kiss-n-love it and it wasn’t going to care what color it’s nursery was.  Joe knew we were growing a boy.  I was pretty sure too - except for the days when I had my head in the toilet – I was sure there was a devious little girl in there paying me back for all of my wrong-doings.

I was almost a week past-due.  It was a Sunday.  I wasn’t feeling so hot so was laying in bed while Joe cooked pasta for dinner.  I got up and scurried to the bathroom.  I told Joe that I thought I just peed myself.  I don’t usually pee my pants but I’ve never had water break before so I didn’t know what to expect.  I called the hospital and spoke to the midwife on call and suggested that my water had just broke.  I was having a few cramps throughout the day but since I wasn’t in “real” labor, she calmly told me that I could stay at home and try to rest/relax until things progressed.  She also instructed me to call back if anything changed, I developed a fever, or anything else out of the ordinary happened.  Uhhh, I have amniotic fluid leaking out of my body.  To me, this was pretty “out of the ordinary”.  Still, I laid back in bed and tried to ignore the fact that we were officially going to be parents within the next 24 hours and ate a few bites of the pasta that Joe so lovingly prepared.  I was cold.  Like, shivering cold.  My brain then reminded me of how the midwife instructed to call if I developed a fever.  Do I have a fever?  We only had a baby ear thermometer in the house (thanks to whoever gave us that as a shower gift – I can’t recall who it was at the moment but I appreciate you).  I stuck it in my ear and it indicated I had a fever.  After Joe and I taking our temperatures about 19 more times, I called the midwife back.  (Yes, Joe took his temperature too because he’s supportive like that - and he likes gadgets.)  She asked us to come to the hospital so they could make sure everything was ok.  I think they wanted to take my temp with an adult thermometer? 

We were admitted into Brigham and Women’s Hospital at 10:10pm on October 10, 2010.  Crazy, huh?  I was set up in a little triage area where they confirmed that I did have a temperature and that my water did, in fact, break.  (I’ll leave the part out about them turning me into a human pin cushion in case Courtney ever reads this.)  Side note: once a pregnant chick’s water brakes, the baby should come out within 24 because of the risk of infection but this isn’t a biology lesson.  So, since my water had broke and because I had a fever that needed to be tended to, I couldn’t leave the hospital.  We wouldn’t be leaving this place as a couple.  We’d be leaving as three.  It’s still unclear how or why but I developed an infection which caused my fever.  A mommy’s fever affects the unborn baby’s heart rate.  I know I couldn’t have prevented any of this but, to this day, I still feel guilty about subjecting my baby to whatever it was that was happening in my body at the time and everything that went on over the next 12 hours. 

They gave me meds to keep my fever down but I had a champ of a fever that kept fighting through the doctors’ efforts.  Contractions started but I still wasn’t opening up enough for the baby to come out yet.  (Apologies…but I will try to leave out the icky stuff where possible.)  When women tell you that they forget about the pain of contractions once the baby is born, they are totally lying.  I still remember those contractions like it was yesterday.  During my pregnancy, my midwife pointed out that pregnancy is a natural process and not an illness.  Illnesses can cause pain that should be treated.  She taught us to look at labor as the body going through a miraculous process rather than something that we needed to suppress.  Her words echoed in my head and I endured each contraction.  My mum arrived at some point during the night – I don’t even remember what time it was.  I had no concept of time.  I had no interest in the clock or the tv or the nurses coming in and out of the room.  My only focus was on the little machine next to my bed that tracked my contractions and the baby’s heart rate.  Because of the infection, my fever, and the fact that I wasn’t dilating fast enough, they suggested a c-section.  I refused and said that I wanted to still try to deliver the way babies were meant to come out.  The baby was still safe but it was best for him to come out sooner rather than later.  Against our original “plan” they gave me pitocin and an epidural to help speed things along.  Bad move.  The combo had a worse affect on the baby than my fever did.  This is when everything became foggy.  Joe had just gone downstairs to call his mom to give her an update.  A doctor that I had never seen before accompanied the midwife into the room.  I didn’t notice them at first because I was still staring at the monitors next to my bed.  Finally, my midwife got my attention and told me that my baby was no longer safe inside of me and that the drugs they gave me were affecting his heart rate and that they would need to do a c-section.  I hesitantly accepted the news and asked when – thinking I would have some time to let this all sink in and prepare myself and hopefully convince my baby to come out the “regular way” before they could wheel me into the operating room.  “Now” said the doctor.  WTF.  Thank gawd my mother was in the room.  I felt like someone punched me in the face.  She called Joe and told him to get back to the room.  Just then, an army of people invaded my peaceful little room and started doing stuff.  I don’t know what they were doing but they all looked really busy and important.  It was scary.  

Before I knew it, Joe appeared and was told that a c-section was on the agenda.  I don’t know if he freaked out but, if he did, he didn’t show it.  As always, he calmly stood by me and assured me that everything was going to be ok.  Next thing I know, I am lying on an operating table in the brightest room ever.  I’ve seen tons of surgeries on General Hospital and the room is always dim, calm, music filled, with hot young doctors all around.  This was the opposite.  My eyes darted around the room and I tried to take everything in.  If these people were going to slice me open and pull my baby out of me, I wanted to note each of their faces and all of the tools that surrounded me.  One of the show’s attendees noted, “it’s like you’re in the pit at a Nascar race, huh?”  It was a perfect analogy but I didn’t find it amusing at the time.  Once I was ready, they let Joe in and he got a front row seat beside my head.  After some tugging, they announced that the baby was out.  I didn’t hear anything.  I’m sure there were machines beeping, doctors talking, and nurses scurrying, but to me, it was silent.  It seemed like hours had passed but then I heard a cry.  It was my baby.  I could hear my baby and it was the most amazing thing to date.  The midwife poked her head around the sheet that was protecting my sight line from seeing my insides and she said, “He is so pink!”  He? I asked, “it’s a BOY?!?”  She said, “Oh, I don’t know, hold on!”  She yelled across the room and asked, “Is it a boy or a girl?”  There was a lot of commotion in the room and we didn’t get an answer right away.  Finally, I heard a guy yell, “It’s a boy!”  I think it was the same guy that made the Nascar comment.  I obviously couldn’t get up to see my boy with my uterus and intestines all hanging out but they told Joe he could go see him and take pictures.  Joe initially said that he wanted to stay with me (awwww) but I told him to go see our little guy.  He came back with a smile bigger than anything I’d ever seen before.  He showed me the pictures of our son and I pointed out how he is the cutest thing ever and how he had a cone head.  A nurse brought James over to us, all bundled up like a burrito.  Pretty much everything from my chin down was numb so I couldn’t hold him but I reached out and touched his face as Joe held him next to me. 

James' stats:  born Monday, October 11, 2010 at 11:39am.  9lbs, 4oz, and 21.5 inches long

They took James away so they could have him thoroughly checked out to make sure he himself didn't have any sort of infection that needed attention.  I was in the OR for a bit longer, laying there on the table while they stitched me up.  I felt like the Scarecrow after the Flying Monkey's tore him apart and the Tin Man and Lion had to stuff his straw back inside of him.  I finally got to hold James once they put me back together and I was back in my labor & delivery room.  My head was still pretty foggy but my first real encounter with James was as clear as, well, as clear as the clearest thing in the world.  He had the most beautiful skin.  He was so soft.  He was already looking around.  I think he likes me!  I was eventually brought up to the post-partum room where we would spend the next four days.  Still woozy, my dad, Jim, Steve, and Sam all showed up to meet the little bugger.  I greeted them by filling up the little puke bucket that was mindfully provided to me right next to my bed.  Sorry.

We spent the next four days getting to know our new friend.  The people at Brigham and Women’s were painfully attentive, kind and helpful but by Friday, we couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there.  We packed up our things, swiped as much as I could from our room and snack area, and headed out.  The valet pulled my car around as we waited with James in his carseat, on my lap.  It was a mild day and windy as hell.  Joe put James in the car, I got in the front seat, Joe in the driver’s seat, and we headed home.  Before we even pulled out of the parking lot, I lost it.  I looked around at the world with a new set of eyes.  I guess I expected everything to be brighter now that we had this new-found love in our life.  Instead, it seemed like everything was so dirty, so dangerous.  I was overwhelmed by my new position and by the idea that I had to protect our little miracle from the world.  I wanted to be back in our private hospital room where we were safe.

I’ve eased up on the idea that every stranger is a kidnapper or that every air molecule is going to sicken my boy.  He’s a tough kid.  He’s awesome.  Everyday I say aloud that we are so lucky.  We are so lucky to have such a smart, handsome, strong, funny, vivacious, healthy, accommodating, energetic, good sleeper.  He’s the coolest thing I’ve ever done.  He teaches me more in a day than 30 years of teachers, travels, and lessons ever have. He’s rolling over, sporting two little teeth, and makes us fall in love with him and with each other more and more everyday.  I know that he’ll be crawling, running around, breaking stuff, and sneaking out of the house to drink in the woods before I know it.  We recently bought James a new house and plan to move in May – just in time for him to start doing all of those things, hopefully slowly and in that order.