(Warning! This is a LONG post. There is a slideshow at the end.)
Today you are one. One! You are a single year old today. That’s old! Or not…I mean…one?! I have a can of soup in my pantry that is older than you. I have shoes that are five times your age. You were born seven years after the turn of the century! The 1900’s will sound foreign to you, the way that the 1800’s do to me. You’re growing out of infancy and becoming a toddler. But you are still my baby, and I think you always will be.
Three hundred and sixty five days ago, I knew I was going to meet you soon. When I went in for my last weekly Doctor’s appointment on August 21, already 3 days past my due date, I was told that I would go into labor “any minute now!” The Doctor was sure you wouldn’t be waiting much longer, but we scheduled an induction for August 28 just in case.
August 22, 23, 24, 25…26…and then the 27th passed. Still no signs. I was huge!
But I was loving it. I never had a single problem throughout my pregnancy. I felt beautiful, I loved by body, I loved feeling you kick me, I loved knowing that inside of me a little person was growing. You were becoming more and more “real” every day. With every hiccup and stretch I grew more convinced that you were a person. A real person. And I knew that having to pee every hour, 24 hours a day, was going to be well worth it.
The night before my scheduled induction, Daddy and I got into bed around 9. We had to wake up at 5, so it made sense for us to get as much sleep as possible. Unfortunately, I couldn’t sleep. I was unable to get comfortable, and my mind was filling with thoughts about the next day. Finally, I accepted that I wasn’t going to fall asleep yet, so I went out to read (again!) about labor on my computer.
As I was reading about the pros and cons of epidurals, I was unable to get comfortable. My back was aching. I kept shifting my weight in the chair, crossing and uncrossing my legs, leaning forward and then backward, but nothing was working. On top of all of that, I kept going to the bathroom. I assumed that my dinner must not have been settling well.
Over the next hour, I kept laying back down only to get back up. I either had to stand because I was so uncomfortable, or I had to go to the bathroom. When I focused on how uncomfortable I was, I realized that I was in pain. My whole stomach hurt. “Is this labor?” I couldn’t figure it out. I thought labor was contractions. As in, my uterus contracts and then stops. There was no stopping. Where was the stopping?
I was in constant pain and it just kept getting worse. Finally, I woke your Daddy up. He has never been good about being woken up, but the second I said, “I think I’m in labor,” he popped up and was ready to go!
I called the Doctor, and headed to the hospital. It was almost impossible to walk, as I wasn’t getting any breaks between what I could only assume were contractions. By the time I finally made it up to the maternity ward, I was almost in tears. The pain had been going on for about three hours at this point, and it was midnight.
When given the option for an epidural, I couldn’t say no. I had wanted to try to keep drugs out of the picture, but at only 5cm dilated and in nonstop pain I couldn’t turn down the option to feel better. And, oh, was the epidural wonderful. I even managed to fall asleep for a few minutes at a time.
All night long we sat and we waited. Daddy, Grandma, and Nana were all waiting in the room with me. I was making progress, but very slowly. Six cm…7…8…9…and then nothing. It was 11am, I had been in labor for 14 hours and I was stuck. Instead of waiting around longer, the Doctor offered to break my bag of waters, which I agreed to. Apparently, it was already broken. Who knew!? (I now realize that it probably broke during one of my many bathroom trips before I realized I was in labor. It also explains why the pain was so intense so early on.)
The Doctor decided to stretch me the last inch. Just before noon, I began pushing. And pushing and pushing and pushing. The Doctor and nurses told me I was a great pusher, but that this baby was obviously big and not interested in coming out. One nurse estimated that you were probably close to nine pounds. About half an hour into pushing, my epidural was done. I wasn’t allowed to press the button anymore. I could feel everything. You were “sunny side up” so the pain was even more intense than it should have been. Your little head was pushing onto my spinal cord and my back was killing me. My entire stomach was hurting more than I knew anything could possibly hurt. My entire body ached. My contractions were extremely strong, yet nothing was happening. You weren’t moving.
One nurse told me, “If this baby could come out, he would have shot across the room.” But you weren’t coming out. Not even your head could make its way through.
I felt weak. I was exhausted. I had barely slept in 32 hours, was in labor for 18 hours, 3 of which were spent pushing. I threw up twice (my least favorite thing in the entire world). At one point, I started shaking. The pain was too intense. I couldn’t scream, I couldn’t talk. I could barely breathe. I was mostly silent.
Finally, the Doctor suggested a C-section. A C-section. Something I had never thought about. I hadn’t planned for one, I hadn’t read about having one, I had no idea that I would ever be in the situation where I could need one. “Okay.” I said. I was done. The pain was too much. “Okay.” I said again. I didn’t want her to keep talking, I just wanted to move to where the pain would be taken away again.
(I learned later that they had been discussing a C-section an hour after I started pushing. They wait for a woman to say, “I can’t take this” or “I’m done!” or show some verbal clues that they don’t want to do it anymore. Because I stayed silent and just kept trying, they didn’t offer me a C-section until three hours into pushing. I still don’t know if I am grateful that they wanted me to have a natural birth or upset that they put me through that when you weren’t making any progress coming out.)
Daddy had to put on scrubs while I went in to the surgery room to be prepped. I was given some amazing drugs through my epidural, and the pain was gone again. I could breathe again. I was disoriented, though, and apparently I had a fever.
The C-section was a strange experience. In some ways, I wish I had been more coherent throughout it because I have trouble remembering what it was like. I remember bright lights. I remember the anesthesiologist standing behind me, her face covered with a mask, asking me how I felt every few minutes and making sure I could only feel pressure, not pain, and that I wasn’t getting dizzy or feeling like I was going to pass out. I remember the pressure. Intense pressure. Indescribable pressure.
Then suddenly, I felt a big pull and a release of the pressure. “It’s a boy!” they shouted. You didn’t scream. It felt like an eternity before you finally cried.
I was laying there on my back while the surgeons finished. There was a large blue paper screen in front of my face. I couldn’t see anything but what was behind me and even that was difficult. Daddy went over to see you, and in the process had to see me cut open. As squeamish as Daddy is about blood, he didn’t think anything but “gross,” and he didn’t throw up!
“Nine pounds, 12 ounces” they said. I started crying. I couldn’t believe it. You were here. You were in the world.
But I couldn’t see you. I could hear you sobbing, and I could hear the surgeons talking. The lights were so bright and I was just sobbing.
Then Daddy walked over and sat beside me while holding you. “What do you want to name him?” he asked. “Alexander. Alexander the Great,” I said. (We had been thinking about Alexander and Nathaniel.) I continued sobbing. I couldn’t believe that you were here in the world. You were huge. You had a head full of hair and chubby little cheeks. You weren’t crying, but you looked like you were in pain. I didn’t blame you. I have no idea what it feels like to be in a bright room after only knowing dark, and to breathe air for the first time after only “breathing” liquid. I’m sure it hurts like hell. I kept crying. I couldn’t hold you and my heart ached.
Finally, they finished stitching me up. And, finally, you were placed in my arms.
I couldn’t stop crying. I finally had you in my arms. I was so happy, and so scared.
You were beautiful. You were fat. You looked so much like your Father, and so much like your Grandmother. Your eyes were squinty, your nose was a little button, and your lips curled in like they were trying to make an “O.”
The first two days in the hospital were stressful for me. I was in almost constant pain. I was taking percocets at the highest allowed dose as often as possible. My mind was foggy, I had trouble focusing, and I was exhausted all of the time. I had nurses coming in the room every 2-4 hours to check on me and give me antibiotics. I wasn’t sleeping, I was just dazed. But you were here, and I didn’t want to let you go.
Every time you woke up during the night or needed to be moved into or out of your bassinet (it was too hard for me to hold you for very long), I had to have Daddy help. I couldn’t get out of my bed for the first two days without help. By the end of the second day, I was able to scoot my way to the edge of the bed and pull myself to standing very slowly.
I showered for the first time in three days while Daddy held you.
On day three, a nurse came in to check on us. She took your vitals, and asked me if your breathing always sounded “like that?” I said yes, having discussed with your Nana that it sounded weird to me when you nursed. She left, and then came back a few minutes later. She said that you seemed rather Jaundiced, and that she was worried about your lungs.
She picked you up off of my chest and took you away from me.
I cried. I sobbed. I don’t think I have ever been so upset in my entire life. Daddy was out getting food, and Nana had been taken out of the room when they took you away. I couldn’t be comforted. Without you, there was no comfort. I didn’t know what was wrong, and I was scared to death.
You were highly jaundiced. Your levels of bilirubin were dangerously high, so you were placed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I was able to see you later that day.
In the NICU, you looked like the biggest baby in the world! All of the other babies in there were premature, most around 2 or 3 pounds. And then there was you. Almost 10 pounds, taking up the entirety of the incubator. They had been feeding you formula, and you were under the blue “Bili lights” that were going to help your bilirubin levels decrease. They had put an IV in your little hand. You had dried blood marks all over your hand and the needle looked too big to possibly fit a baby! I felt so bad for you, but you did look adorable with your first pair of sunglasses on.
I was released on Friday, but you weren’t released until Sunday. You were moved to the Pediatric Unit on Friday, so I came back to visit you most of the day on Friday and Saturday. I wasn’t allowed to just hold you. It broke my heart. Every time I took you out of the incubator, I had twenty minutes. Those twenty minutes were spent nursing, which was wonderful. I felt sad that I couldn’t just cuddle with you, and that there wasn’t much time for Daddy or anyone else to spend time with you.
The day you were released was wonderful. I was pushed in a wheel chair with you in my arms. (I’m not sure why I was pushed in a wheel chair. It was either a safety thing or just because they were being nice and knew I couldn’t walk well. Post C-section recovery was awful.) We put you safely and securely in your car seat, and we drove home.
Once we were home, you were home. You slept, you nursed, you enjoyed spending time in your bouncy chair. You would lie on your belly and lift your head up looking around at all of the lights. You would make the funniest face when you were about to cry (we called it Grandpa face).
You were so cute, so happy, so wonderful. You weren’t very interested in sleeping, though. You kept me up for hours at a time during the night until you were two months old. Then, you woke me up every hour and a half at most until you were six months old. Then, you woke me up every 2-3 hours until you were 8 months old. Finally, you decided it was okay to sleep through the night!
You almost never cried. We were certainly lucky in that aspect. To this day I think you are the happiest baby in the world, and Daddy agrees. The first time I noticed that you had a real smile was September 21. It was big and full and you did it whenever I made funny faces.
You laughed for the first time on November 14. Daddy and I were changing your diaper and you looked at the curtain and laughed. It was the most wonderful sound! You have such a sweet and contagious laugh, Alex.
You’ve been growing like a weed since you were born! I don’t know exactly how big you are at this moment, but I’m guessing you are about 25 pounds and over 31 inches tall. You are a tall boy, like your Daddy and Grandfather.
You’ve been teething almost nonstop since you were two months old! You have a wonderful smile with all of those teeth poking through, but the pain they have caused you certainly hasn’t been fun.
You are an active child. Never one for just sitting and cuddling, you are always on the move. Before you could crawl, you would reach for toys and bat at things constantly. Once you could move, I was in perpetual motion chasing you down! You love to get into anything and everything. Your curiosity is strong, a wonderful trait. You study toys and objects until you figure out how they work. You discovered how to open our cabinets in a few minutes. You figured out how to make one of your toys work after I showed you one time. You studied me as I walked up the stairs and promptly figured out how to crawl up them yourself. You are walking a little bit, now, and I know that soon you will be running.
You smile at everyone. When we are in the grocery store, you smile at every person we pass. You are a ham! You love attention and you want anyone and everyone to give it to you. When strangers touch you I get very angry… but I know, in reality, it’s your fault: you are just too sweet and smiley to ignore!
You get along with almost everyone. It takes you a while sometimes to warm up to certain people, and you have chosen a few that you don’t really like, but most of the time you are thrilled to be spending time with people. A people person at heart, I hope you remain that way. Daddy and I certainly aren’t, so it would be nice for you if you were!
Alexander, you are smart, funny, and adorable. You have beautiful eyes, a great sense of humor already, and are wonderful in every way. I love every minute I spend with you. It is because of you that my life is the way it is, and I thank you for that.
Happy Birthday, Baby Boy!