11 February 2014
Jack was the first
Every mother has a birth story. Some of us have several and all of them are memorable. I've never heard a birth story where my jaw didn't hit the floor in one way or the other. Just last week an acquaintance of mine shared her beautiful birth story with me, of her second child being born by the serene and comforting light of their Christmas tree. Every story carries with it the gift of creation, even the hard ones.
I've got three, and Jack's was the first.
Eleven years ago I was 24 and, really, still a child. I cringe to think about it, squeeze my eyes shut tight, What were we thinking? It doesn't matter all that much what we thought as his coming and being was so beyond our control. It was a stroke of luck, my OB said. We weren't sure it would ever happen, nevermind so soon. But marriage at 20 guarantees babies will soon come, and he did.
I could go on and on about the pregnancy, about how I went to England and Ireland and came back pregnant, ringing Matt from Temple Bar and telling him I was ready, unaware a little 5-week gift hovered within me. I could tell you about all that weight gain and second dinners and Matt working two jobs. I could talk about the stretch marks or the attorney at my work who always managed to brush up against my belly in the hallway (I was quite wide, you see, and the only way to let me pass was to shimmy up against the wall so I could waddle by... Mr. S didn't care to shimmy). I could tell you about going into pre-term labour at a Coldplay concert, how we had to leave, and how disappointed I was as Matt curled up against my back when the contractions subsided. I was still pregnant and had missed my favourite song. And I could talk about the postpartum depression and the months of fear and shame.
But this is a birth story, and all those other memories pale in comparison.
Some babies come hard and fast, but not Jack. I was induced the day before his due date because I was huge and he was huge and high blood pressure was a real worry. The few weeks prior were already spent on modified bed rest and when the needle refused to go down at my last appointment, I was told to pack my bags and check in. I stood in my dad's basement and cried as Matt hurried to finish the crib, all the worries of being, you know, A MOTHER.
We checked in and waited. Watched a KU game. Ate some Taco Bell. Contractions were on and off in the night and by 6am I was hooked up to Pitocin, bringing horrible, long-lasting contractions. The needles of the fetal monitor would rev up and never quit, one right after the other for hours. An epidural at noon brought sweet relief and some sleep and within an hour, we were ready to go.
Except, he wasn't ready.
Four hours of pushing and narcotics and back spasms and a second epidural later, Jackson Matthew was born. I'd spiked a fever at some point and he'd already passed meconium and, though responsive, was lethargic and suffering some wicked road rash on his head. I've been told there was an actual ledge (I had passed out by this time) and a squad of nurses and doctors rushed him to another room. My parents were in a fit, having heard nothing for hours, expecting the news at any minute. Matt emerged a new dad at 4:55pm. He was fine, but not quite fine. Something was off.
They brought him to me to nurse and he'd wake for just a few seconds and doze back to sleep, uninterested in eating, too exhausted to cry. This 9 pound, 6 ounce brute was just as wrecked as I was and within a few hours they decided to keep him in the NICU and dose him with antibiotics. The heel pin-pricks didn't stir him, not even the circumcision caused him to cry. There was an infection somewhere.
Two days later I checked out and we left him there. We slept at my dad's, a short 5-minute drive away. In a NICU full of preemies, our brute laid naked under a heat lamp, a tiny IV taped to his hand. I could feed him some pumped breastmilk through a tube attached to my pinkie, rock him for a few minutes. Valentine's Day was spent at a cafe near the hospital, without him. Finally, on the fifth day, he was alert and stable enough to come home.
We have no idea what went wrong, the only clue being the meconium and my fever. And really, that's the only thing to have ever gone wrong since. This child, his head is hard as stone. He's fallen and been dropped on it so many times, we must've knocked loose the reading comprehension part, kicking it into overdrive. He's fit as a fiddle, tall and lean. Not a bother on him, as they say here. Our sensitive lad, our hugger and writer. Giver of kisses, he asks me, "How was your day? What was your favourite part?"
Today? My favourite part of today is you.