The New One

There were bets placed on you, you know.

Most people thought you were going to be a boy, because of how I “carried” you. Long and lean, finally my extra-long torso was good for something besides making regular shirts look like crop tops. It was sort of a secret, we didn’t tell anyone about you on Facebook. “Let them figure it out,” we said. Ethan and I thought it would be fun if we just showed up at church with a baby one day.

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You were due on April 4th. Of course, there was a lot of debate about whether that was your real due date, because of a very late ultrasound, and your mother spent several sleepless nights worrying about whether they would “let” April 4th be your due date.

You were meant to be born in Montana. I was. Most of your aunts were. Montana is a good place to be born. We had it all picked out: It was a tiny gray house on 39th st, surrounded by big gray apartment buildings. It was called the Birth Center, and it was staffed by lovely liberal nurses and midwives.

I made them afraid. The first time we went in there, they asked, “Are you thinking about becoming pregnant?” I was already 22 weeks along. Apparently most people don’t wait that long to start prenatal visits.

But I’d felt fine. Well, not fine. I’d been working outside a lot, and between the bouts of morning sickness and buckets of ginger, I’d felt fine. Besides, we were busy. When I first thought of it, I was up on the range, leading my little blond mare down a steep hillside, choking on the dust of over a hundred head of yearlings, and I thought, “You know, I feel a lot more tired than normal. I feel a little sick. Those campfire sausages we ate last night didn’t taste that good. I wonder–.”

So we went to the Birth Center. We met Jeanne and Audrey and Cathy and Liz. I drank a horrible drink that was sugar and water, so I could see if I had gestational diabetes (if I didn’t, I do now!). I got myself pricked for you, which is saying a lot. Then Ethan and I, naive as we were, got slammed with it: the questions.

What did we want to do about this shot, or this antibiotic? Did we want to give it to you when you came, or did we want me to get the vaccine before you were born? Which hospital should we register at in case things went wrong? How would we get to Missoula in time? How long would we stay? There were papers to sign and social security numbers to remember. We were very grateful we were married, because that made things simpler.

I went with a friend shopping for maternity clothes. I said goodbye to the size of wranglers I had worn since I was fifteen. I got out the empire waist shirts I’d bought back when they were cool.

Three and a half months!

Three and a half months!

There were some hard times. On a car ride home from Boise I threw up four times. And I thought, as I was throwing up for the fourth time along highway 93, in the dark in the sagebrush, “This is as low as a woman can go.” After that we swore off Thai and all other ethnic food.

It started to be more worth it when I felt you move. At first it was just a flutter, like a moth in a jar, mostly while I was sitting. I’d go completely still and smile. After a while it became more like a shudder, as you bounced off the walls. There were kicks, and hiccups. Finally we began to feel limbs, as a heel or hand of yours would wrinkle the surface. You liked to move at night, when I was trying to sleep.

The more real you became, the more determined I was to keep you safe. I did fall down the stairs once, on one of my nightly visits to the bathroom (there were many). I went down hard and the thud jarred Ethan awake. He came down quickly, scared, and I was scared enough that there were tears in my eyes. But I was all right, I had just landed on my back. We hugged each other shakily and he told me to be more careful.

I had to stop carrying things for you. I’d always prided myself on being strong, on being able to heave a fifty pound bag of dog food over my shoulder and stagger along as gamely as a sherpa. Now I had to stop, I had to wait for someone else to do it for me. At first I was chagrined, I hated asking for help. If a box of beef I’d packed was over thirty pounds after I put it on the scale, I felt like I had gotten away with something. Then one day, asking for help stopped bothering me. Maybe that was the day that the bulge of you made it hard to carry things.

Then there were the things. Mom said that “babies don’t cost much,” and “babies don’t need much.” We forgot to ask her to define “much”. Ethan built a crib, I created an amazon registry and Mom sat at my shoulder telling me what I needed. Blankets, burp cloths, onesies, sleepers, shoes and socks, carseat and bouncy seat and mattresses and sheets. The mattresses and sheets needed to be chemical free because of SIDS and the onesies needed mittens because of fingernails.

Five and a half months.

Five and a half months.

As you got bigger, I started to have a growing concern about how I was going to get you out. We went to a birth class, which described the impossible in a series of concise cartoons. In case that didn’t work, they told us simply, there was always c-section. This birth class did result in a few sleepless nights, some of which Ina May (a midwife whose book I read) helped to dispel.

If you would have let us know a few hours earlier, you could have been born in Montana. As we drove home from what would be our last prenatal visit, I didn’t feel that well. I thought it was just because I was dehydrated. But everything else seemed normal, so we went to bed. I woke up at four in the morning feeling worse, and with some sort of cramps. It was April Fools’. I woke up Ethan. He was very calm.

I didn’t want to call the midwife, it was the middle of the night and I didn’t want to bother her. I didn’t think that I was in labor yet. The midwife had told me that some women could have cramps that went on over several days. Couldn’t I be one of them?

Ethan insisted. When I hung up the phone, she had said to come as soon as we could. Well, thanks to you, we weren’t quite ready: I had two clips for your umbilical cord and that thing that looks like a city water tower that is actually for sucking out nostrils. Ethan had been briefed with a plastic baby and a fake pelvis about how to deliver a baby. I had tried in vain to practice Kegels, but since I never quite understood what they were I never learned (did anyone else envision an elevator when they talked about “pelvic floors”?). Suddenly laboring in a car over a mountain pass for three and a half hours didn’t seem like a brilliant idea.

Ethan started throwing things into our Subaru, including blankets in case we had a highway birth. By the time we were ready to go I was definitely in labor. I laid out in the back and we took off. Well, that was a hellish ride. I remember it as a flash of turns and lights going by, some sort of bloody roller coaster. I remember looking out the window and seeing stars out. I remember thinking about all the time I was supposed to have to labor quietly with my husband rubbing my back comfortingly (according to Ina May) that I wouldn’t have. I remember crying because I should be tougher, after all I’d been bucked off a horse and it hadn’t been this bad.

In Salmon we had to stop for fuel. I went into the gas station bathroom and didn’t come out. The problem was, I’d have a contraction, and by the time I was up off the floor, hands washed and ready to come out, I’d have another one. It was impossible. And meanwhile there were two poor girls who needed to use the bathroom who kept pounding on the door until finally someone told them to use the mens’. I’m sure I couldn’t go to that same bathroom without having flashbacks.

I confess I wimped out. I felt so bad about it, I kept apologizing to Ethan because we weren’t going to have the birth we wanted. I was still apologizing when we pulled up under the Emergency entrance at Steele Memorial.

So you were born in a hospital. You were born less than an hour after we got there, with a crowd of people we didn’t know. I made them loosen the fetal moniter because it hurt with every contraction. And everyone yelled at me to push, including Ethan. I thought they were all rather mean because I was pushing, and had they ever tried to push a baby out? It’s bloody hard, and it does make you cuss a bit.

They passed you to me as soon as you were out. You were all wet and sticky yellow-white. And I looked down at you and cried. I cried because you were out and I was all done and somehow God had created you and you were ours.

Look at all that hair.

So much hair. 🙂

After that there was almost a fight between the OB/GYN and Ethan, because Ethan wanted to delay your cord clamping and the OB wanted to cut it right away.

“It’s our kid!” Ethan protested. And he won.

Finally all the people began to trickle out, and we were left with just one midwife, a godsend who had delivered babies down in Africa and therefore wasn’t afraid of the process. We made it from the delivery room with our family still in one piece. I was holding onto you and didn’t let you go.

Then there was the long day, where the sun came up and shone through the window, and I was looking out at the MOTEL sign that they hadn’t taken down even though the motel had been demolished to make room for the hospital. I was holding you in my arms, and thinking that it couldn’t be the same world I was in yesterday. It couldn’t be the same country, or the same town. The whole world felt fresh and clean because of you.

We couldn't believe she was real. We just kept staring at her.

We couldn’t believe she was real. We just kept staring at her.

Of course, there was a lot of mess to clean up, which wasn’t so magical. I was still wearing one of those stupid hospital gowns that have openings all over but are nevertheless impossible to breastfeed in. I felt light and strange without you inside me, and as skinny as if I had just survived a death camp. Dimly I watched people come and go. Ethan sorted out most of the paperwork. He’s wonderful like that. When I handed you to him so I could sign some things, I thought he’d never looked better. There’s something about a man with a baby in his arms.

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I wanted to be one of those people who pops out of the hospital and goes and runs a marathon, but the truth was I couldn’t walk. I had to take very small steps, and my body felt like it had been wrung out.

The midwife smuggled the papers to us, to get us out even though the hospital wanted us for another 24 hours. What a blessing to be outside in the sunlight, getting into our car to take you home. The newness of it! Of course I had to be wheeled out, but I was too tired to put up too much of a fight. I got to look at you while I was wheeled. You were in your carseat, absolutely tiny, even the little hat they gave us sagging into your eyes. You were asleep, your little rose-like lips just slightly parted. Ethan was very proud his little girl.

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It’s been a month and a half. You’re still little, but you wouldn’t fit out of me now. You make faces and cry and smile, and you smack me with your little hands in the middle of the night when you want to eat. When I put you on the floor on your stomach, you can lift up your head. You are quite frustrated that you can’t go anywhere yet. You’re a little more sturdy now, so we aren’t as worried that we’ll break you.

The time before you came seems so long ago, I can’t imagine what it was like to not have you. You have quite a distinct personality already. I can picture you in a few years, anxious to run instead of walk, anxious to be ahead, to catch up to everyone else. Patience.

Funny that we learn this just now, but God knew it all ahead of time. He knew everything long before we did. We love you. Welcome to this fleeting, crazy incredible world.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.”

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