Several moments this past weekend brought about heavy waves of happy nostalgia. Our 25-year-old niece and her husband had their first baby last Friday. A little girl named McKenna.
Visiting them reminded me so much of our time in the hospital. As I held the swaddled baby girl, I felt comfortable, experienced. And as I watched our young niece and her husband begin to navigate the world of parenting, I felt old and wise, yet a little sad that mine are already turning five and eight this week.
This time of year in general always brings memories of labor, childbirth, and my first days as a mom. Chilly weather outside, Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, football playoffs on TV, inauguration chatter, and more. In fact, the Steelers were playing on a Sunday night when I went into labor with our oldest, and the Steelers were playing this past Sunday night as well.
Further, President Obama’s inauguration happened while we were in the hospital on Jan. 20, 2009. I remember holding my baby boy swaddled in the pink and blue striped blanket while my husband, mom, and I watched the historic inauguration in the hospital room.
Both of my labor stories are quite interesting. I remember sitting on the bar stool in our tiny house in Candler eating whole wheat pasta with butter. My midwife told me not to eat anything with color because if I vomited during labor, it could be confused as blood. That comment was a bit overwhelming for a first-time mom, but I did what she said.
The Steelers had the lead when the contractions began to get stronger. I was always told to labor as long as possible at home where one is comfortable and relaxed. The body tends to prepare better that way. So we stayed at home until the contractions became intense.
When we got to the hospital, I was already five centimeters. They thought labor would be quick, but there were some complications so things weren’t progressing as quickly as we’d hoped. Only my midwife, mom and husband were there, which was exactly what I wanted.
Finally, around 3:30 a.m., I could breathe easy as my warm newborn baby was put on my chest. I looked at that little face and immediately fell in love. Big eyes looked at me and full little lips puckered. At almost eight years old, he still has those huge brown eyes and beautifully-shaped lips.
We went home a couple days later. It was really hard in those first weeks. I didn’t know what I was doing and I was in a lot of pain from the difficult labor. Everyone else was smiling and giddy, but I just felt emotional. I kept hiding out in the nursery with my baby to get away from the stimulation.
Luckily, a lot of that calmed at the two-week mark once his umbilical cord fell off, his circumcision wounds healed, my body pain eased, and nursing became less cumbersome.
I remember thinking, “I can do this.”
My second labor story is rather comical. As a public educator, I had a finite number of days I could stay out with the baby, and I was determined not to waste any of those before I actually went into labor. So even though I was huge and waddling and could only get Crocs on my feet, I was still teaching.
And not only did I want to save my days, but I didn’t want to have baby number two on the same day as my first child. I would have been fine with it, right before Jan. 20, my 3-year-old looked at me like he’d had an epiphany and said,
“Mommy, you won’t be in the hospital on my birthday, will you?”
I said, “Umm, I will try my best not to be.”
I somehow kept the baby in for an additional 12 hours so he wouldn’t come on big brother’s birthday.
I was sitting at my desk checking attendance when another teacher called to ask how I was feeling. I told her I was having some pressure but no pain. She encouraged me to go on home, but I didn’t.
Then at lunch, I had a pretty significant contraction and my teammates looked at me and said, “LEAVE, you do not want to have the baby in Waynesville Middle’s cafeteria in front of 300 seventh-graders.”
That was true.
I hopped in the car, phoned my mom and husband and told them to meet me at our house. My school was only a quarter-mile from our three-year old’s preschool so I picked him up. I had to stop in the front hallway for a contraction. I probably should not have been driving.
By the time I got to our house in Candler, my mom and husband were standing in the driveway panic-stricken. We passed off our older child and headed to the hospital. I barely made it to the room before my water broke all over the floor like in a movie.
I was already seven centimeters and there was no time for medication. Man, natural labor is something else. I felt like a super hero after that and developed a newfound respect for all the women who’ve labored and birthed naturally throughout the centuries.
I had the baby around 1:30 p.m. I thought I could never love anything like I love my first child but as I looked into the cute, round face of my youngest, I felt that same wave of love and adoration.
My husband called the principal at Waynesville Middle to let him know baby and mom were healthy. My principal’s response was, “What? I just saw her in the cafeteria.”
“Yep, and now we have a baby.”
Granted, I almost gave a bunch of middle-schoolers the best biology lesson ever, but as I’d hoped, I didn’t waste any of my days without the baby in the world.
Like everything this year, it’s going to be hard celebrating their birthdays for the first time without my mom, especially because she was such an integral part of their births and their lives. She’d attended every single birthday party and every other event or function they participated in. She was the absolute best grandma.
Now as I prepare for this weekend’s birthday parties, it’s truly hard to believe they will be turning five and eight. But I’m also excited. As they get older, we’re able to go and do bigger and grander things and that brings an entirely new level of joy and adventure.
So, this very proud mommy wants to say happy birthday to her sweet boys and to parents everywhere, don’t we have the best job in the world? I certainly think so.