September 19, 2012

Happy Birthday, Firstborn Child!

Tomorrow marks 17 years since the day I first became a mother. As cliche as it sounds, it seems like just yesterday. I cannot believe that little peanut I nervously held in my arms moments after she was born is now dating, driving, and preparing to graduate from high school. I swear it was just yesterday my water broke.

I want to travel back in time and share her story. I remember all of the moments up to her birth so well, but if it's never written down, it will never be permanent. It's the story of a little girl who was early for her birth and hasn't been on time since. We jokingly call her "Last Minute Libby".

Last minute LibbyI spent my pre-motherhood days as one of the grocery store head cashiers. I was also the store union steward and I wore a number of hats. I loved my work at the store, even if I complained about the hours. I loved working an honest job with salt of the earth people. I loved helping them as their union rep. I loved everything about my job. This matters because a mere week before I gave birth to my daughter, I was walking a picket line at a non-union store, carrying a sign that said 26,000 +1 (a tribute to my enormous tummy) reasons to shop union. Our medical leave was structured such that for maternity time, you were given 4 weeks prior and 6 weeks after paid leave. We also had to be off work for a week in order to be eligible for leave.

I scheduled a vacation week five weeks before my due date to fulfill the requirements of my leave. My last day was a Friday. I didn't know it would wind up being my last day ever at the store, so I clocked out and spent the evening with a few friends. Over the weekend, I finished up the baby's room, knowing that work would get harder and harder as the weeks progressed. I painted, hung curtains, put up a darling Noah's Ark wallpaper border. The room was gender neutral, as we didn't find out what the sex of our baby was. My husband worked nights so we also had all day Monday to finish up the room. We washed the paint brushes, smiled at our work and went to buy a rocking chair.

We put the rocking chair in the room and he went to lay down to sleep before he had to work all night. We had a big weekend coming up with a family wedding on Saturday and the baby shower on Sunday so I went to shop for a maternity dress at a favorite resale shop. I bought a lovely maternity dress and was excited that I found something to wear for the weekend.

As I was walking back to the car, in the parking lot of the store, I had an accident. I didn't know what exactly was happening, but I knew I had to get home ASAP. Naturally, it seemed like every single light was red or the roads were under construction, but I did finally arrive home. My bottom was soaked and I wasn't sure if I had pee'd myself, was bleeding, or my water broke. I remember our Lamaze instructor explaining that amniotic fluid had no scent. When I saw that the wetness was clear, I began to sniff. Smelling nothing, I shook my husband awake from his sleep to confirm. I'm sure to this day he thanks me for that wake up call.

We went to the doctor's office right down the street, and he did a test on the fluid and confirmed, my water had broken. Our doctor was very holistic and laid back. Upon confirming that my water had broken, he told me to go home and relax and if I wasn't in labor by morning to call him, then head over to the hospital where they would induce me. Only now, years later do I realize how unusual (but I'm grateful) his instructions were. Most doctors admit you immediately.

We went home and started making phone calls. I nervously rocked in the new rocking chair trying to figure out why this new baby was coming so early, praying the baby would be okay. To be honest, I was neither relaxed nor resting. I was jittery and stressed. I was afraid to eat, because heaven forbid I poop during childbirth, so I was trying to ignore my hunger pangs. About 8 PM, I could no longer stand it, I was sure I was in labor (I was barely) and we went to the hospital.

They immediately strapped me into every machine conceivable and hooked up wires and monitors in places I didn't know could be monitored and told me to lay still since I was five weeks early. The night crept by miserably. I tried to sleep, but couldn't. My husband and I watched some Cleveland Indians baseball where he told me that if we had a boy, he wanted to name him Omar or Orel. These are not good names for our last name, so I just held out hope for estrogen.

I was hungry but wasn't allowed to eat. I was determined not to have drugs, so while I had some childbirth pain, I can honestly say, the biggest pain was hunger. I wanted food. I asked the nurses if they could but a hamburger in my IV. Around 6 AM, with little progress, my husband went to have breakfast and they gave me lime jello and chicken broth. I was getting crabby and quite frankly aggravated. I kept biding my time and around 9 AM things really began to hurt. I broke down and asked for an epidural. I was angry with myself because I was determined to birth my children naturally. Except I asked too late and they couldn't give me anything because the contractions were coming too quickly and I couldn't stay still long enough for the epidural to be put in place. That in itself was pain relief because I knew the moment was near when our baby would be born and I would be allowed to eat. In that order, but just barely.

Did I mention I was hungry? I also should mention that every single person who thinks they can predict the sex of a baby by the way the mother looks had emphatically said "you are having a boy/I'm never wrong" or something to that effect. They had told me repeatedly that I was having a boy. I'll admit my first instinct was that I was having a girl, but in the face of their expert testimony, I was sure I was having a boy. Finally I begin to give birth. It was in a teaching hospital, so I had an audience of interns. I wonder if they remember it as well as I did. Our baby emerged and when the doctor said, "She's a girl!", the first thing I said was "Really?"

The next thing I said was...

"I'm hungry."

And so it was, our firstborn joined the world. September 20, 1995 is a day I will never forget. I became a mother to the prettiest, smartest, cutest, and most wonderful child born that day. Her bright eyes and tiny little features still exist. She has grown into a graceful and talented young lady. Being her mother is one of the proudest achievements of my life.

Plus, her name isn't Orel or Omar.

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart. I love you more than life itself. You give me reasons to be proud on a daily basis. Always stay wonderful. You're a special girl.

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