(This Column Originally Posted December 13, 2010)
This is the week my daughter turns 9 years old. And, as with every birthday that comes around, I find myself looking at baby pictures, reading old journal entries, taking down the baby clothes that I stored away, staring at my daughter all the time making her crazy, and, of course, remembering the day she was born.
Even in labor my ex and I were fighting. Let me back-track and first tell you my pregnancy was brutal. I had hoped to be one of those hot, sexy pregnant moms who went to yoga in cute outfits, bopped around town with my pregnant glow for all the world to see, and work diligently up until the day I delivered.
NONE of that went down.
I was, for the most part, bed-bound through much of my pregnancy. The cause: severe sickness. I could not hold so much as a piece of watermelon down — throwing up day and night and all the seconds in between.
Crawling to the bathroom to puke and usually puking and peeing on the floor on the way. Staring out into space wondering what the vomit free people of the world were doing. Listening to Marianne Williamson and music from Africa to try and calm me. And puking some more. Vomit, pee, vomit, pee, tears, vomit, pee.
Yep, that was about the sum of my pregnancy all nine months.
I was far from the vision I had fantasized about. Ah, hell, I was no vision at all. My incredible doctor, who let’s just say right now women get crushes on and truly get knocked up just so they can continue to have the experience of this beautiful man delivering their babies, would have me come in every week so he could check on how the baby was doing.
Bucket between my legs to and from the drive, paper bag in my hand to and from the parking lot, I was like a walking acidic explosion.
My doctor said he only saw cases like mine once a year. Lucky me!
Needles to say, I never took a yoga class, never wore a cute outfit and never worked a single day during my pregnancy.
And yet, as sick as I was, I still remember the first time I felt her move. I remember the first time I found myself singing to her. And, I remember hoping beyond hope that she was indeed a girl.
We decided not to find out the sex. Life has very few true surprises anymore due to our need to manage and control and anticipate the future. We wanted to experience that ancient surprise, that moment when the baby is born and the doctor announces, “It’s a….!”
Hannah was supposed to arrive on Christmas day, but I secretly hoped she would arrive early just so she wouldn’t have to share her birthday every year with Jesus.
It’s funny, when you finally go into labor usually it’s the last thing you think is happening. Why is that? I mean, your body is ready to bust, you walk like a penguin, your ribs hurt and you know the baby is due any day. Yet, when contractions hit you think, “Hmmm… is that gas? Did I eat something bad? Maybe I just have to poop.” For go0dnesssake, woman, why aren’t you thinking, “It’s time?!”
That’s how it was on the day my contractions began. My ex (who was my husband at the time) was busy in his office shipping out comic book orders and I was on the bed in pain. And the pain got worse and worse and then the small bit of brain cells I seemed to have left said, “Um, I think you’re in labor, honey.”
OWWWWW, IT’S TIME!!! And this REALLY HURTS!!!!
There I am in bed on all fours desperately trying to breathe while my husband is still in his office frantically trying to close out eBay auctions and package comic books.
I remember thinking, “Screw the darn eBay customers! I’m in labor! I mean, aren’t you supposed to be in here massaging my anus or something?! What the hell did we take all those birthing classes for if you’re in there and I’m doing this alone?!”
And then I realized, I didn’t just think that, I said it out loud.
And then we started fighting about what was more important, the business or the baby. And then we started fighting more because he realized he never packed the overnight bag (the one job he had). And then we started fighting because the baby car-seat was never put together and placed in the car. And then we get the call from my doctor that we could check into the hospital.
Yes, we were like a really crappy episode of Mad About You.
On the drive I remember puking in-between contractions. And it was about that time I also remember that I planned to do this naturally.
Yep, no drugs. Thus the need for anal massaging and birthing classes.
We got to the hospital and soon my mom and my sister got there too. After about 10 hours of contractions and throwing up I finally looked at my husband and say, “I want an epidural.” He said, “Are you sure?” I grabbed him by the shirt and screamed, “I WANT DRUGS!”
He quickly got the nurse and got me the shot and for the first time in months I slept.
When I woke up the epidural had completely worn off and the pain was massive. I looked around the room and saw my sleeping husband, my sleeping mom, my sleeping sister. I screamed in pain. That’s better, everyone was awake.
It was clear whatever bit of drugs they had shot me with were gone and I was feeling every bit of everything.
It is truly impossible to describe what contractions feel like other than to say it’s like someone tearing you apart inside, crushing your guts, pulling and yanking and stomping on your intestines and there’s not a damn thing you can do to fight it off other than, “breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out.” Seriously? You try breathing when you’re being shredded on the inside.
When my doctor came in he was shocked to find I was fully dilated and he could already see my baby’s head. No time for any more drugs. Hell, he barely had time to get his gloves on.
Time to push.
I kicked my mom and sister out because I always said I only wanted my husband in the room.
Pushing was AWESOME and I’m so happy there wasn’t a drug in my system when it came to that part of the delivery. I wanted to feel that experience.
Pushing, finally being able to do something to help get my baby into this world was the most incredible, empowering, indescribable experience of my life.
And in those pushes, I may not have known it then, but I certainly know it today, I changed. I actually transitioned in that moment from girl to woman, from wife to mother, from child to grown up.
I knew I would be a person who could face any challenge, obstacle, fear and unknown with courage from that day forward.
Our baby was born and we got to hear those once in a lifetime surprising words, “It’s a GIRL!”
My husband kissed me, and we were both in true tears of joy (I really know now what those tears feel like).
After that it was about cutting and cleaning and swaddling and stitching and mom and sis rejoining and a lot of a lot going on.
But it all seemed like blurry background noise because as I held my girl, and looked into her blue, blue eyes, all I could hear and see was the two of us. Her breath and little sounds and my breath and little sounds.
“I love you, my sweet girl, I’ve been dying to meet you,” I whispered.
We had always said if we were having a boy we would name him Gabriel and if it was a girl… Hannah.
Now, almost nine years later, I still, for the most part, only hear and see the two of us. Her breath, her little sounds. My breath, my little sounds.
It’s strange, life before Hannah is all somewhat muted-colored memories. Some fuzzy, some completely clear and in focus, others only in black and white.
But life after Hannah is a vibrant, popping, high definition, surround-sound Technicolor masterpiece of live theater. And I am fortunate enough to have front row seats.
Did I know that day in the delivery room that I would be divorced in a little over a year? No. Did I know that day in the delivery room that I would be doing the Mommy deal alone? No. Did I know that day in the delivery room that our picture on the wall would change forever? No.
But what I did know that day in the delivery room was that my life would never be the same again. That everything, absolutely everything, would be about… her.
And to this day my only goal is to gently push my daughter safely and lovingly into the world.
And so I whisper in her ear, “Happy birthday, my sweet girl. I am so very glad to know you.”