Our oldest child (who is certainly no longer a child by anyone’s definition) turned twenty-four years old this past week, and I have no idea how that happened.
Wasn’t it just a handful of years ago that I was pregnant? There are times when it sure seems like it was yesterday.
The oldest child in any family may or may not be the favorite—and I can honestly say that each of our children is the favorite child at different times and for different reasons we’ll probably never share with them—but there’s no denying that the oldest child is the one who makes us parents. Simple biology: no children, not a parent; one child, instant parent. And nobody is ever prepared for what that means.
Tim and I didn’t think we wanted children. It had never been a driving force in our lives, and we knew enough crappy parents in our then-current friend circle to discourage most thoughts of children being a good thing. Sure, there was one nephew and he was a cutie and loads of fun, but that had to be a fluke, right? And even after the second nephew came along, my thoughts still ran along the lines of these guys are cute, but not for me.
Then I got pregnant. No one was more surprised than I was when that little stick showed a plus sign. We were shocked, yes, but got used to the idea and began to look forward to it, planning how long I would continue to work, what we would do to budget after I became a stay-at-home-mama, and the myriad of details that come with getting a home prepped for a baby.
At the twelve-week point, I miscarried, and all the things we’d looked forward to disappeared in an instant. A calendar full of plans, gone. Morning sickness, gone, as if it had never occurred. People we’d told about the pregnancy now had to be told about the miscarriage. After a time of grief and regrouping, we decided we were okay . . . the timing would have been better later anyway, and we weren’t really prepared for a child just yet.
Physically, I felt fine after a week or so. But in my heart, something had changed. Now, instead of relief each month that I wasn’t pregnant, I found myself being disappointed. God started working on my heart during that time. I didn’t crave having a child—it’s not like I suddenly had a personality transplant—but I was no longer opposed to the idea and actually thought it would be kind of cool.
Right around my due date for the baby we lost, I realized I was pregnant again. I took the pregnancy test quietly, told Tim, and we sat on the news. We were both wary of sharing this pregnancy with anyone until we were past the first trimester, and were a little cautious of even getting too excited about it ourselves.
This child was not going anywhere. I was so sick for the first four months that I had to be on an IV for hydration and nutrition for two weeks at one point. Pushing an IV pole around the house and only being unhooked from it long enough to shower each day was an absolute pain in the butt, but well worth it if it meant I could keep some food down and the baby would be okay. I’m still not sure how we hid the early stages of pregnancy from my family, because I look back at pictures from that Christmas and I look WIPED OUT beyond recognition.
The pregnancy itself was only eclipsed by the birth. My obstetrician had decided the baby was overdue, though I was sure I was not. The doctor won the debate and the next day, I was on my way to the hospital for a 5:30 a.m. appointment with an IV of pitocin. What they don’t tell you about pitocin is that it will stimulate labor, fast and hard, but doesn’t necessarily bring you to the finish line. Your body still has to cooperate.
Mine did not.
A long morning and then afternoon of labor pains had me opting for an epidural and subsequently confined to a bed. But of course my epidural was only effective on one side of my body, resulting in full labor pains on my right side and a completely numb left side. My numb leg kept falling off the bed, and it became almost a comedy routine of “can someone please put my leg back on the bed?” everytime it would slide off again.
Each shift of doctors and nurses came and went, and the day dragged. Finally, around 1:30 a.m., a doctor came to speak with me about the lack of progress—specifically the fact that I’d “stalled out” about three hours prior—and we decided on a C-section.
Let me tell you a word about C-sections: I have no issues with them. In fact, I ended up having four of them, one for each child, and the only real drawback is that I have a dead area on my abdomen. But it seems that a lot of women feel some sort of failure when a Caesarean is mentioned, because they didn’t have a child the “natural” way. Here’s my take on it: you get a baby. A baby. Did you hear that? You still get a baby at the end of it. Period. So if you’re ever offered the option due to other complications, please take it. You’ve done nothing wrong; you’re simply being offered an alternative way of getting that baby out, safe, and home.
With surgery quickly scheduled, my epidural was removed and a spinal was performed. Now that was an experience: lie on your side, let them know when the contraction crests, and they put the needle in your lower spine. The trick? Hold absolutely still, all while going through a contraction and knowing you can not flinch. Within seconds, as they rolled me onto my back, I was numb. I mean, like body-no-longer-attached-to-head numb. Limbs? What limbs? I not only couldn’t feel pain, but I couldn’t feel myself breathe, and that resulted in an interesting conversation with the anesthetist. (“I’m not going to panic here, but I can’t feel myself breathe.” “You’re fine. You have oxygen and you’re breathing.” “Yes, but I can’t feel it and it’s a horrible feeling. Can you please do something so I can feel myself breathe?”) The doctors chose (unwisely, I might add) to not get my husband from the hallway even though I repeatedly asked for him, knowing his presence would calm me. I think in the back of my mind I knew I could not allow myself to panic because that would be crossing a line, breaking a taboo of public decorum, even though everything in me screamed that panicking was a great ice breaker. By the time the initial (over)dose wore off enough for me to feel comfortable, it was after 2:30 a.m. (yes, twenty-one hours after my arrival), the doctor was pulling out our baby boy, Noah, and my hubby was finally called in—better late than never, though we were not pleased at their poor judgement call of leaving him in the hallway initially.
But you know what? In the end, after all the hubbub, we had a baby. And one look into his eyes convinced us he wouldn’t be the only one. Actually, Tim held him, looked at me, and said, “Aww, let’s have ten more.”
Happy birthday, Noah. Thanks for making us parents.