My son is one today.
Those are the strangest five words for me to type. The fact that I have a child is the first oddity of that statement since I sometimes feel as if I’m just a little girl playing house. Does that feeling ever go away? The second half of that declaration also boggles the mind because how is it possible that I have been “playing house” with a living, breathing little boy in my care for one full year?
I wish the only thing I felt today was sentimental as Howard and I think back on the day we welcomed our little one into our lives. Months of reading blog posts, watching YouTube videos, and chatting with friends who already had children prepared me for the fact that birth plans sometimes fly out the window. In actuality, I never made a birth plan. Is this something parents-to-be are supposed to write? I never did figure that out, haha. I might not have had a plan for the birth, but I know my expectations were flipped and a tiny bit trampled.
My understanding of labor and delivery as a child stemmed from whatever Hollywood put forth. I religiously watched Nine Months with Hugh Grant and Julianne Moore each time it was played on TBS. Though obviously exaggerated for comedic purposes, it provided the minimal knowledge of what birth would be like when I was to have my own baby. My expectations included my water suddenly breaking, a rushed car ride to the hospital (minus the extra passengers being thrown in the back seat), and a speedy labor ending with the prompt delivery of the baby after a few good, hard pushes.
I knew that the movies and television shows weren’t realistic. I mean, what baby enters the world completely smooth and clean? It would be a gift if it were possible to easily have babies in an elevator like Mrs. Belding did on Saved by the Bell … minus the earthquake, of course. A little bundle of joy wrapped up in a Bayside football jersey seems the perfect ending to 9 months of pregnancy. Oh, and let’s not forget these women do this with nary a hair out of place.
The arrival of my son was anything but unexpected. Due to my having mild placenta previa, I had no choice but to schedule a C-section for the day after I turned 38 weeks. I read what I could about the surgery since I’m not one for surprises. The anticipation and subsequent anxiety can affect me more than the actual experience. Case in point, I was nervous about the spinal block because the idea of a needle in the spine made me cringe, but when it came time to hop (or should I say, struggle to situate my pregnant self) on the table in the operating room with my back towards the anesthesiologist, I was strangely calm because of what I had read in advance.
However, I feel naive now thinking back about how my apprehension revolved around a needle prick that would only be a few minutes of the entire ordeal (by the way, the IV in the hand was more painful than the needle in the back!). And yes, I am labeling the delivery of my son an ordeal. There was a lengthy amount of time when I felt as if I were being suffocated by an elephant on my chest, which in turn became one of Howard’s terrifying moments as I struggled to whisper to him, “I can’t breathe.” When that difficulty was lifted, I was pummeled with the nausea that made me worry that my uncontrollable gagging while lying on the table would cause me to move too much while my doctor was standing there with a scalpel in her hand. That nausea decided to stick with me throughout the duration of my stay in recovery as I couldn’t even hold my own baby because I was feeling incredibly ill. I was only a few hours in my new role as a mother, and I was lying there with my eyes closed hoping that I would start feeling like a human again soon instead of relishing every moment with my son. He was crying because he was hungry, and I had to summon every ounce of willpower in me to feed him. I felt like a failure.
The memories of that day are still fresh. You know how women claim that they forget what childbirth was like and therefore are willing to have another baby? I haven’t forgotten. I haven’t forgotten that pain-filled day, the days that followed in the hospital, and the weeks at home as I struggled to fulfill my duties as a mom while also wanting nothing more than to just lie in bed to fully recover. It was so rough that Howard and I now have an understanding that because I had the first child, it’s his responsibility to have the second one!
But all joking aside, would I do it again? Would I put myself through each one of those experiences for my little Zachariah boy? Absolutely I would.
Amid the moments that still make me cringe, there are moments from that day that bring tears to my eyes if I just pause and let myself remember those details. That first look. That first kiss. Those two memories are just as fresh and vivid as the harrowing ones.
When the nurse pulled back the small curtain on the operating table partition between me and the part of me that I definitely didn’t want to see, Howard and I saw the tiniest little human being held by my doctor. The tears that filled my eyes were instantaneous and not expected. For months, we had been seeing his form and his baby movements in the ultrasounds. We had seen him kick, cover his face with his leg, and even yawn in utero. We knew from those pictures whose nose he would have! But even the most state-of-the-art technology couldn’t prepare us for the wondrous phenomenon of laying eyes on our child for the very first time.
And then just when I thought I couldn’t love our wrinkly baby more after just one look, the nurse brought him over to me. THERE HE WAS. I was meeting my son! Sure, I had been carrying him and seeing his feet kick, experiencing discomfort when he wedged his tiny foot behind my ribs, and feeling the staccato jumps as he dealt with hiccuping episodes at least once a day, but this was him right in front of my eyes.
I might have said something to him. I might have cried more. It’s a little hazy in my recollection. But what I so distinctly remember is that first kiss. My lips on his tiny, soft cheek was by far one of the best moments of my entire lifetime and thankfully, my husband captured it with his camera! In the past 365 days, I have kissed my son’s cheeks, his forehead, his hands, his feet, and his cute belly, but nothing compares to that first kiss.
I knew that my husband meeting our son for the first time was going to be incredible since he couldn’t feel every movement the way I did, but I was unprepared for just how extraordinary it would be for me. As I think about those movies and TV shows I watched, not one of them captured that profound moment in a way that could come close to the reality of having my own baby boy right there in front of me.