It's an odd thing, the number 1. It can carry such vastly different meanings. You can feel on top of the world when you're number 1 at something. Yet it can also overcome you with sadness when you're doing something you love and you only have 1 more minute.
And then, there's the feeling you get when your first born turns one. I've battled my emotions on this milestone for the past 6 months, or at least that's how it feels. Would I be happy or sad? And the answer is: I still don't know. Maybe it's a little of both. As we watched our toe-headed, blue-eyed munchkin press his chubby little hands into his cupcake, I thought to myself "it went by so fast". And it's just as everyone said it would...in the blink of an eye.
It feels like yesterday that I was walking around my office with a feeling that was just slightly off. While I couldn't explain it, and call it a woman's intuition, I felt the urge to call my doctor. After almost 9 months of being pregnant and worrying about every little movement or lack-there-of, I had no qualms about making yet another call to my OB. When I called and explained that I had an odd sense of "heaviness" the nurse said "How far along are you?' In my semi-worried, mostly anxious state I replied, "37 weeks". Then, the sweet voice on the other end of the line said "Sweetie, you might be in labor". I gathered myself, walked out of the conference room and picked up the phone to call my husband. The voice of my best friend and love of my life became that of a child who had just walked into a candy store; excited and hyper. In the half an hour it took him to get here I sat at my desk looking at all of my work and wondered silently to myself "oh boy, will I be back to finish this tomorrow?" And odd thought for someone quite possibly gearing up to give birth, I know.
We got into my car and drove the short drive to our hospital. With a little pep in our step we waltzed into the labor and delivery wing and told the group of smiling nurses why we were there. "I think I'm in labor". The woman who sat just on the other side of the desk was probably thinking to herself "If I had a dollar for every time a pregnant woman said that to me, I wouldn't be sitting behind this desk!". They strapped on our I.D. bracelets and ushered us into a dark room. At this point, I felt as if I were in denial. Not necessarily because I was so afraid that I had just decided Ethan could reside in my baby bump forever, but more because I just couldn't wrap my brain around the fact that I was actually going to give birth. The bubbly doctor came in to check me and when she said I was dilated to 4 I shot Gabe this look of confusion. Granted, 4 is a long way off from 10. But "You're dilated to 4" was followed by "and I think it's safe to say that we're going to admit you". Gabe dialed the numbers and with warp speed I had an entire waiting room filled with family members. I walked the halls in my bright slippers, ice chips in hand. I visited with my family in the lobby and jealously watched them all eating real food. When hours had passed and I still hadn't progressed any further, our doctor came in to discuss our options. Gabe and I had decided half way through my pregnancy that we wanted "things" to happen on their own. So when mention was made about her breaking my water I felt a wave of fear come over me. I looked at Gabe and without speaking a single word, we both confirmed that decision. My nurse, Jerilyn, who I will never forget, was wonderful. She was patient, and caring and ever-so sympathetic. She sat down next to me and said "Do not let them talk you into anything that you don't want to do. This is your baby and the decision is ultimately up to the 2 of you". Our decision was cemeted by her pep talk. We knew that we were making the right decision for us and after 6 hours of being in the hospital, we decided to go pack up and head home. As I walked out into the lobby wearing clothes I had put on for work that day, I could see the confusion on the faces of my family. "Well, there won't be a baby tonight!", I said. To which they are replied "Are you kidding?" I could tell that they were disappointed, but not in me. More so because they were all equally as excited to see the new addition. As we drove home in the dark I, too, became disappointed, yet relieved all the same. We concluded that Ethan just wasn't done baking and he would come when he was good and ready to. After several hours of ice chips my stomach was growling for sustenance. We pulled into Arby's, I got a sandwich that could have fed an army and we drove to my office for a late night dinner.
When I crawled into bed that night I had a peacefulness that I had been without all day. I was relaxed and comforted as I held Gabe's hand and fell asleep wondering what the next couple of days would bring. And then, the morning arrived.
We awoke, real rested from a wonderful night's sleep and ready to brush off the chaos of the day prior. I kissed Gabe goodbye and we went our separate ways. I was only 2 minutes from the house when I felt something that made me utter an internal "Hmmm, that was strange". I had suspected that my water broke, but I wasn't sure. One thing that I learned through my 9 months of pregnancy was that I would encounter all sorts of strange and new things, almost on a daily basis. I continued my trek to my office with shifty eyes and a furrowed brow in my wonder.
It was early, so no one was in our office yet. I parked my car, put my key in the door and walked to the bathroom. I was sure, as sure as I could be having never experienced the sensation before, that my water had broke. I walked out of the office, dialed my husband just as I had done a million times. But this time, it was with news with an magnificent impact.
"Are you already at work?"
"Not yet. What's up honey?"
"I think my water broke."
"Ok, I'm turning around now."
We met at home and Gabe made me breakfast. We sat at our table and over orange juice and eggs, I will never forget my husband saying "Honey, we're having a baby today". The emotion I felt at that very moment in my life was unreal. It was almost as if I were experiencing every human emotion simultaneously. I was happy, nervous, frightened, anxious, overwhelmed and everything in between.
Surprisingly, I remained calm for the rest of that morning even with knowing that by the end of the day, our lives would completely change forever. We calmly packed the car and headed to the doctor for an already scheduled weekly visit. When we walked in, Gabe and I were silent. We were silenced by the feeling of the next several hours and the inevitable outcome. We went through the normal routine of "weighing in", as I called it, and then we shuffled into the brightly lit room where we were greeted by my favorite nurse. She smiled a sweet, sympathetic smile when I told her I was pretty sure that my water had broke. I felt that familiar coldness on my baby bump and then, the most comforting sound to a pregnant woman...Ethan's heartbeat. In that instant I was soothed and almost oblivious to the fact that soon this little life that I had been lovingly harboring for the past 9 months would finally be in our arms.
Once I saw the doctor's smile, I knew that, in fact, this was it. As if she had done it a million and one times, she explained to my husband and I what would come next. As we were walking out of the office, I passed by the glass and glanced at all of the smiling nurses behind it and grinned as one of them said "Good luck". Our hospital was just around the corner from our doctor, so the drive was short. Part of me, the nervous part, wished I had more time to process what lied ahead. We parked, unloaded our well-packed hospital bag, and walked hand-in-hand into the hospital. It was all I could do to keep Gabe from skipping to the door. The doctor had called ahead so we were expected. As if we had made a reservation for the a wild journey. As they put our bracelets on us it became more real. We then walked into the delivery room. I took an inventory of my surroundings. The last time we stood in this room it was with lots of other mommy and daddy's to-be, and it was informational and theoretical. This time it was practical.
My hospital gown was on. My special slippers donned. My family all called. And then, we waited. Earlier in the morning my doctor had told me that my water had only broken roughly half way. When we were admitted and began being seen by a myriad of doctors and student doctors, each one discussed further breaking my water. Gabe could sense my nervousness and my heightened defenses from the night before. We listened to the doctors intently explain all the pros and the cons. After much deliberation, we decided that we would go through with it, being assured that it would pose no harm to our little one.
Up until that point I felt as though I had maintained well. Did it hurt? Yes. Was it unbearable? No. I still walked around the halls just as I had before, but this time I was a little slower and each contraction stopped me in my tracks. I was bound and determined to go as long as I possibly could without an epidural. But here's the funny thing about being pregnant for the first time (at least for me), you have no idea what to expect. No one can explain to you the feeling in order for you to have a solid basis for making that decision. Which is why we had decided that I would try my hardest to do without. Once my water fully broke I progressed quickly, which was wonderful from a let's-get-this-baby-out point of view. But it also meant that the pain would be stronger and much less easier to subdue. My sanity lied in the handles of my bed. Each contraction I gripped the bed hoping that it would somehow take me to a place where I was removed from what I was feeling. With no reprieve, I finally looked at Gabe and through my tear-filled eyes said "I can't do this anymore". I cried because I was in pain, but I more cried because I felt as though I had let Gabe, and myself, down. My husband, who is my rock and my voice of reason, looked at me and lovingly told me that it was okay. That I had done amazing on my own and that there was nothing wrong with admitting that I needed help.
I cried when the doctor came in. I cried when I watched Gabe leave the room. I cried as my sweet nurse held my hand as I felt the needle and a rush of cold. In the moments that followed my head was clouded with a feeling of failure, yet a sense of relief. Once the epidural took effect, my contractions were off the chart, yet I couldn't feel a thing. It took me a while to come to accept this new found sense of freedom without first feeling surges of guilt, but once I did I was able to focus on the entire experience and not soley the pain.
When I started pushing, I had no idea what to expect. Everyone in the room looked so calm. The doctor explained the process, but I was half listening and wasn't performing as she wanted. She ordered me again to "take a deep breathe, hold it and push". Eventually, with the help of Gabe and instinct, I caught on. Still, I watched my doctor; so calm and relaxed, laughing and holding conversations with other doctors and nurses. I thought to myself "Who is going to deliver this baby?" Little did I know that it would take nearly 2 hours of exhausting work to bring this miracle into the world. I will never forget the moment between contractions that I looked around to see the once haphazard nurses and doctors with a little more urgency in their step. The bed was transitioned and I could tell that they felt it would be soon. I wasn't screaming in pain, I wasn't crying, I was just plain and utterly exhausted. I felt as though I had nothing left in me. It seemed to me that Gabe was telling me just one more push 25 pushes prior to that "last one". I thought to myself, this kid is going to be stubborn like me; he's giving me a fight!
My husband was amazing. I hardly remember the doctor's involvement in my son's birth at all. He counted for me, kept me focused and eased my panicked state. After delivery, our nurse came in to tell me that she wished all husbands were as involved as Gabe was. Even in my exhausted state, I mustered up grin. I knew I was lucky.
When I first held Ethan I just felt like a mom. After months of some nights losing sleep over wondering what kind of mother I would be, I stopped thinking and just was. I looked at my husband holding our son and thought about the first time we met and how I fell in love with him so very long ago. At that moment, I was reminded how lucky I am to be in love and to be loved by someone so amazing. Somewhere between the tears of joy and tears of pain from the aftermath; after everyone had gone home and my new family was settled into our home for the next several days, I looked around the dimly lit, quiet room and thought to myself "Oh my goodness. When am I ever going to sleep again" and then I laughed and fell asleep. For ONE hour.
This year has gone by fast. Much faster than I would have allowed had I been given the choice. All of the firsts that have come to pass; smiling, sitting up, rolling over, crawling, walking...all are banked memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I've said before that I truly believe the only constant in life is that of change. As our big boy continues to grow I will further fall into mold of the mom who both looks forward to and dreads her baby becoming anything but.
Happy Birthday, Ethan. Of all of the wonderful, life-changing things that have come from your mommy and daddy's love, you are ,by far, the greatest of all. You could say, in fact, that you are number one.
More pictures to come following the big boy's birthday party!!