In that moment after labor most things were fog. Most memories were blurred. But I do remember the hair. The soft, long, perfectly golden blonde hair. When I close my eyes I can still see his tiny features, not smooched like they should've been, just perfectly defined and all mine to love with every fiber of my being.
I remember my husband fighting the same exhaustion that was threatening to steal us away from this moment. I can still hear him say just above a whisper, "Thank you for giving me a son."
He denies it. He doesn't remember saying it and insists it's not the type of thing he says. He probably wasn't meaning to say it to me. All of which only tells me how raw and genuine that emotion was for him. Our first son. A tiny version of himself in so many ways.
I wish I could remember what I expected the next few years with Jonah to bring in that very moment in time? I wonder what kind of little boy I thought he would be? I do remember expecting it all to be challenging, but I can now see how naive or maybe better said misplaced my worries were. I prepared myself in all the wrong ways. Even in his journey from my body to this very real world, Jonah taught me everything I never knew I never knew about motherhood and raising children. His devoted love for his mommy, his demanding nature, his passionate (in every way) little personality and even his stubbornness has made me a better mother, taught me compassion, and (admittedly) much needed humility in many ways.
On his forth birthday I want to give myself a little gift I've been meaning to write for four years. I'd like to tell the very first chapter of his story:
I was overjoyed to find out we were expecting a baby again. Our arms ached to be filled with another life and I remembered that every day of my pregnancy. The pregnancy went by quickly and fairly seamlessly. Around 32 weeks, as I seem to do with each pregnancy, my body started dilating early. Contractions had come and gone for a few weeks before our son was ready to be born. I hadn't been sleeping much those last few days and we were as busy as could be jumping around from party to carnival to trick or trunk soaking up the fun of Halloween with a toddler finally being old enough to participate. I woke up around 4:00 am on Saturday morning thinking the contractions were getting more regular throughout that night, but our close friends were gathering for a halloween party that afternoon and I had already put together a pregnant mini mouse costume the day before that I was going to wear come hell or broken water.
By the time we arrived to my friend's house I was hiding my secret of early labor with an excited smile. Not ready to cry wolf, I almost skipped over to my favorite spot on her couch and took in the party around me as I happily breathed through each contraction. Another friend suspected my early labor jitters from across the room and nonchalantly made her way to search my face for the confirmation she needed. She sat and talked away. I can't remember what she even talked about, but I remember being so thankful for her company and her melodic voice singing chatter and meaningless observations about the party to keep my mind off the labor. Just keep talking to me. Don't ask me questions. Don't expect me to talk. But don't leave me alone either.
I relaxed into the couch and let my body labor throughout the afternoon and into the evening with my girl friend by my side. Finally, around 7:45 pm I looked up at her and she simply said "5-6 minutes apart." The first acknowledgement that she knew exactly what her cherished role had been all along.
We left for home calling my mom on the way. Senselessly worried about "crying wolf for false labor" I asked my mom to just come over "in case" but "not to hurry or anything." By the time she "hadn't hurried" to get over it was almost 10 pm and I was sure I might have had this baby on the way to the hospital.
(Checking into the hospital (I look so young!))
In pain, slightly giddy and a bit terrified we arrived to the hospital and were quickly checked in. "You are progressing nicely, contractions about 4 minutes apart and already 5-6 cm dilated. Second baby. No problem! I'm placing my bets that you'll have this baby by 2 am easily!" we were assured by all the nurses.
By 1:30 am I was vomiting in pain with contractions 1 minute apart and lasting about the same amount of time. I was ready to be done. We called the nurses back in sure that we were 'in transition' and had to be so close. Still only 6-7 cm dilated...
I was exhausted, dehydrated and had such terrible back labor (contractions you feel in your back instead of your uterus) that I couldn't keep focus and was quickly losing control. My poor husband had worked the grave yard shift the night before and hadn't slept since 2pm on Friday. His body ached from applying counter pressing into my back with all his strength for the last 3 hours. "Would you be ok if I just took a quick break?" he gingerly whispered. He could hardly stand or see straight. Even in all my misery, I felt for him and knew he needed to lay down. I got in a hot shower to try to ease the back pain as he rested for a "minute."
The shower helped. I found my focus. I prayed. I breathed. I focused on relaxing my body so it could send my baby into the world. My contractions slowed a little. 2-3 minutes apart. 1 minute long.
3:45 am. My husband fitfully slept under the window seal as I desperately paged the nurse to see how much closer I was getting. I needed something, anything to encourage me that I was almost done. Still 7 cm....
She called my doctor at my request as I was getting a little worried, because my contractions remained very close together, but I wasn't dilating past 7 cm. My doctor came in by 4:30 am to check on me and recommended an epidural. I had come so far. I couldn't. I had to do this. She broke my water instead.
4:45 am. With a broken water my contractions roared in intensity. 1 minute apart. 1-1.5 minutes long. I shook in pain. Pleaded for mercy. Was it this intense last time?
7:00 am. Shift change. As a fresh face entered the room I lost my courage. I was done. I was so physically exhausted I could only lay with my head weakly hanging off the bed in between indescribable contractions. Something was not ok. This was not how it felt last time. She introduced herself and checked my cervix once again for her notes. Still only 7 cm...
"Had I felt a lot of back pain? Had I noticed the baby still kicking?" She asked. YES!! and No, I hadn't now that she mentioned it. She felt my belly as I hysterically fought through contractions. In just 10 minutes she could tell what none of the others had noticed in 8 hours. The baby was turned upside down. Each contraction propelled him into my back instead of down the birth canal. Unless we turned him around he wasn't going to be born any time soon.
This is actually fairly common. Most of the time you can get into a few positions during natural child birth to help the baby turn over, but after 17 hours of such intense back labor and very little sleep the night before I couldn't stand. Each time I lifted my head I vomited from pain. Each time I search for my legs to stand on I thought I would collapse to the floor. I was so tired. So very, very tired.
My husband was awake again and gently said "I think we need the epidural. He has to turn around, Jess." I remember looking at his face and sobbing in defeat. Ok. I'll do it.
7:45 am. The young, strapping (and likely handsome) anesthesiologist bounced into the room just like in the movies. I passed in and out through his chipper questioning. Please don't be so happy. Be somber. Be exhausted like we all were. I couldn't speak any more. I couldn't even nod. I used all of my strength to get back up, sit cross legged at the edge of the bed and lean forward as he felt my spine.
8:00 am. "I HAVE TO PUSH"
Without a shadow of doubt, I suddenly had to push. In a determined tone, I didn't just say, I informed everyone in the room that I had to push. He was coming out. THE BABY WAS COMING OUT! "No, no, Jessica. You have to hold still. You are only 7 cm dilated. We are about to put in the catheter. We will check you as soon as he is finished. Please, it is extremely important that you do not move at all."
8:05 am. The epidural needle was out. They laid me flat on my back and shoved pillows along my right side. "THE BABY IS COMING OUT. I NEED TO SIT UP. I'M GONNA PUSH." I was insisting! My doctor walked around and checked my cervix for the 5000th time. "There is the head! She's right! Ok, let's get ready guys! He's coming!" I wanted to cry that I told them so. I wanted to yell. I suddenly wanted to run around the room. I wanted throw the anesthesiologist out the window.
8:10 am. "DO NOT PUSH YET. Babies have to be born slowly. We aren't ready." They kept saying. I wanted to sit up. I wanted to get up. Get the catheter out of my back. Get ready to birth my baby. But I couldn't. Since the epidural had just been inserted I had to stay flat or it would go all to whatever point in my body I put the most weight on (they said). So instead, I pushed my first born son into this world laying flat on my back with my head barely raised inches off the pillow. The first few pushes did most of the work, but as the epidural medication slowly seeped through my legs the purposeful pain started to fade. Was that a big push? Am I doing this right? "Almost there! You can do this, Jess. One more great big push!" I can do this. One more puuuuuuuussssssh.
8:35 am. BORN! Daddy swooped our precious gift into his arms and showed me his golden hair. Exhausted tears fell as relief showered over me.
8:36 am. Holding him against my chest made it all worth it and I knew without any hesitation that I would do it all again in a heart beat.
(Moments after birth)
Thank you for giving me a son.
Jonah, I'll always fight for you until I've got nothing left to fight and one swing past.
Happy birthday, My Love.
(3 days old)