December 23, 2012

Happy Birthday to my Christmas Angel

Fifteen years ago this morning, I was resting after a long night of childbirth. I had just greeted my newborn daughter a few hours earlier and we had both gotten cleaned up and sent to our respective rooms for rest. I was too excited to sleep, instead I kept thinking about my answered prayer.

We already had a two year old daughter who was waiting at home. When she was born, I said a silent prayer that she would someday have a sister, but we didn't know the sex of the baby beforehand. My prayer was answered that morning. For the past several weeks she had taken to hollering at my stomach for the baby to come out. We never expected to have a baby born so close to Christmas, especially after the first baby was five weeks early. This baby had different ideas though. From the beginning my pregnancy was different. I had food aversions early on which was how I knew I was pregnant before I even took the test. I took a look at my bagel and cream cheese one morning for breakfast and couldn't even bring it to my lips. A pregnancy test a week later confirmed my suspicion.

I didn't have the distraction of working at a job as I had stayed home after she was born. Instead we were building a bigger house in the suburbs and caring for a toddler. It was an eventful summer and fall as we were settling into our new home and preparing for a baby who didn't seem to be in any particular hurry to join our family. I was sure I would have our second child early as well, based on my previous experience. If parenthood has taught me anything at all, I've learned never to expect anything to go the way you predict. So we waited from mid November forward, experiencing several moments of false labor only to find the due date come and go as we got closer to Christmas. The doctor promised that no matter what, he would induce me before the year was over if I didn't start labor on my own. He said not to worry that the baby was probably between 7 and 8 lbs.

I was eight days overdue and woke up that morning thinking, here we go again, false labor. I had a non-stress test at the hospital later that morning, so I figured we'd find out then. Sure enough, we got to the hospital and the tests confirmed what I had been waiting for, I was in labor, but very early stages. I wanted to go home and wrap up a few more loose ends and get ready to come back to the hospital to welcome our newborn.

We spent the day running errands. In fact, we stopped by the salon where my husband's grandmother got her hair done to get a gift certificate, and the beautician remarked that she had heard all about us and when was I due anyway, I looked like I would go any minute, she remarked. I said, well in fact, I'm in labor now, I'm going back later today when it progresses. We continued errands the rest of the day and I came home antsy, knowing the moment was finally here, but also knowing that this second baby was not particularly hurried.

One thing I knew for certain was that I was not going to be as hungry as I was the first time I was in labor. So despite warnings not to eat, lest I poop during delivery, I had dinner. We called our in-laws over to stay with our firstborn and said our goodbyes, we figured it was time to head to the hospital. Honestly, the labor was happening, and the contractions were more frequent, but with none of the pain or nervousness that we experienced the first time.

We arrived at the hospital where they were expecting us, and got settled in the room. Again, thinking I was such an authority after having given birth once, I was simply determined not to be strapped into a bed with wires and monitors. I was going to walk around and kill time. I wasn't allowed to leave the birthing floor, so I just did laps. I wasn't allowed to pause at the nurses station (for the privacy of the other patients information that was on the chalkboard), but I knew other women were giving birth as the evening was punctuated by  moans and then baby cries. I was bored and frustrated. My spouse took a nap, again because we considered ourselves such experts after our one baby.

Three hours ticked by. It was a little bit before the 11 PM shift change when I begged my nurse to let me go home and I would come back when things moved along faster. She refused. She reasoned with me that I was already halfway there, and that it was winter, I was in a safe place, and things could start to go fast.

I was irritated and my laps around the birthing wing became more pointed, stomping as much as I could in fuzzy hospital issued socks with grips on the bottom. I was getting jealous of all the moms in labor. I think I wore a ridge into the floor with my pacing. I had things to do and really wished I was at home if I wasn't going to be giving birth. About an hour later, I went to the bathroom and when I tried to stand up, I had a really difficult time moving. The labor pangs were stronger. I woke my husband and asked him to just go tell the nurses that when they got around to it, could they please come and see if I had progressed at all, but that it wasn't urgent (which is why I didn't use the buzzer). I laid down and started rolling channels on the TV.

About 20 minutes later, the nurse came in, examined me and said, "Call her doctor, NOW."

It was about 12:30 AM when that call was made. My doctor was there and ready to deliver within 20 minutes. I don't know why I was so surprised how quickly he got there, he knew I was in labor and that I had gone to the hospital. But for some reason, I didn't expect him to be there before 1 AM. But he was and I was glad to see him, especially when at 1:16, I became the proud mother of another baby girl. The baby girl who weighed 9 lbs, 12 oz., a lot more than 7 or 8 lbs. I looked at my angel who wasn't so little. She had a close cropped head of light brown hair and looked more like she was 3 months old, not 3 minutes. She was sturdy and healthy and actually chubby.

Today, that little baby who was in no hurry is the most punctual person I know. She also is tall and slender, wearing a size zero jeans with long inseams. She is funny and smart and hard working. She makes me smile with some smart aleck remark nearly every day. She is also generous and kind.

One of my favorite stories from her life was from her first grade year. We had gotten our school supplies the first week of school and about a week into classes, one morning she was rummaging in the basement gathering every thing on the list again. (We had several duplicate supplies due to having an older sister and an ever changing supply list each year). She had found an extra pencil box, scissors, markers, crayons, etc. I asked her why she was doing that. She said, I want to surprise one of the kids in my class. They don't have their supplies yet and today is the last day, so I'm going to put this on his desk before he gets to school so he won't get in trouble. My heart swelled. That little girl's compassion for others and strong sense of empathy has continued to grow. She is a good person and the world is better for having her in it.

Happy birthday, to my little Christmas angel.

We love you!




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