My oldest child, my son Max, is turning five. Five, you guys. FIVE. On one hand it makes perfect sense. He’s getting bigger. He’s been around a few years. He has big kid interests…but! But…he’s my baby! He can’t be five because he’s just a soft, chubby little pumpkin that I gave birth to a few weeks ago, right? No. Not right. He’s FIVE.
I know I sound a little dismayed, because I am, but I am also really proud. I’m proud of him for being so big and beautiful. (you should see his eyelashes!) I’m proud of him for being almost scarily smart. I’m proud of him for being so strong and brave and hungry to learn new things.
I’m proud of myself too. Somehow, someway I’ve raised him for five years and he seems to be mostly doing ok. He’s healthy, he knows how to think for himself (inconvenient though that may be at times…) and he seems to be a happy little fellow. We have our rough patches but at the end of the day he will still cuddle up next to me to tell me how he’s feeling and what he’s thinking. We talk and hug and I think, “Well, if I’ve done nothing else right today, at least he knows he is loved.”
And he is. So very very loved. More than he will ever be able to imagine.
My pregnancy with Max was textbook normal in the best possible way. I had intense nausea but it only lasted through the first trimester. The second trimester was glorious. I ate many carefully scrutinized foods (you never know where mercury or Listeria or caffeine might be hiding!) and grew all the right amounts and experienced the joy of feeling my tiny baby bumping around inside my belly. We had an ultrasound to find out his sex but had our doctor put the results in an envelope that we saved until Christmas morning. That was the most exciting Christmas EVER. We found out he was a boy and nearly lost our minds with happiness because we’d always dreamed of having a boy first. We battled over his name until I issued a decree a month before he was born saying that if the Hubs couldn’t compromise on something with me before I gave birth he would forfeit his right to have any input at all. Because I’ll be damned if I’m going to get bossed around after I push a baby out of my vagina. The Hubs is a pretty clever fellow so we sorted out the baby’s name shortly thereafter; Jon Maxwell but we would call him Max.
The third trimester was largely uneventful. I had a couple extra ultrasounds because my measurements were a little off and it turned out that the fluid surrounding the baby was a little low. Luckily it wasn’t serious and did seem to remedy itself. I was fairly stressed out at work and was lucky enough to be in a position to quit before the baby came. So I had six weeks all to myself before his arrival. It was magnificent. There are no words to describe the absolute decadence of being an adult with no kids and no job but also no worries about paying the bills because of The Hubs. I have never taken even one moment of that time for granted. I went to the gym every day and power-waddled on the treadmill. I took naps if I was tired. I cooked foods that I wanted to eat. I read books for hours with no interruptions. It was pure bliss.
Meanwhile, the pregnancy was still progressing nicely. Towards the end I was starting to dilate, the baby was dropping and all things seemed to be gearing up for birth. At my 40 week check up, my OB suggested that we do one last ultrasound to check the baby’s fluid. Assuming that was still looking good we were all set to just wait until he decided to show up on his own. I had zero interest in an induction. My goal was a natural a birth as possible. As it turned out, my fluid was pretty low. Not super-dangerous-freak-out-low but low enough that sitting around for the next week or two and waiting to see what happened wasn’t really a good idea. She recommended we go to the hospital and begin an induction. I cried. She sat by the table patting my leg and reassuring me that everything would be ok. I was already dilated to 4 cm and would likely not need much help at all to get going. I knew it would all work out fine in the end but I still felt scared and sad. The OB gave us a couple of hours to go home and get our stuff before checking in to the hospital. I took my sweet time because I’m passive aggressive like that but yes, I did gather up my things and go to the hospital in a timely manner. It was about 3:30 pm by the time I got there. My mom actually beat us there and met my nurse before I did! As it turned out, the nurse was the mother of a student at my mom’s school so they were somewhat familiar with each other, which was fun and kind of nice. It definitely helped to ease my nerves a bit.
Our nurse got us settled in our room and hooked me up with an iv of pitocin to get contractions started. The waiting began. I was on a pretty low dose of pitocin so the contractions weren’t too bad at first. I could definitely feel them, and they didn’t feel great, but they were ok. I was standing next to my bed, chatting with my parents and waiting for my poor doula to arrive through awful rush hour traffic. While all this was going on, the anesthesiologist came in to chat with me about an epidural. I told him that I planned to just wait and see how things went and that I preferred to go without the meds if possible. He smiled and told me that I’d probably be calling him back in once I was dilated closer to 4 cm. I told him I walked into the hospital at 4 cm and I was fine, thanks. This fellow proved to be not nearly so clever as the Hubs because he continued to talk. A lot. I was still standing next to my bed at this point and Dr Drugs had the moxie (or an utter lack of social cue reading skills) to smile again and tell me that he was “quite sure” he’d be seeing me later because he had seen many laboring women and knew that I would undoubtedly want the epidural at some point. My clever husband and my wise mother were sitting on the sofa with their eyebrows raised nearly off their foreheads. I smiled and told him that I was pretty sure I’d know what I wanted when I wanted it and if it had anything to do with him I’d let him know and now in the meantime I’d like to be done talking, thank you. He finally seemed to realize that I was not anxious to partake in his catheter of delights and left my room. The Hubs said he’d never seen someone fuck up a sale so thoroughly in his life. My mom said that was when she knew that unless something went horribly awry I would definitely not be getting an epidural. They were both right. Because seriously, fuck that guy. Who is he to tell me what I want?! I don’t care how many laboring women he’s seen, he is still a man and has no fucking clue about the complexity of what goes on inside a laboring woman’s mind and body. Also, if he hadn’t been such a pompous dickhead maybe I would have changed my mind but as it was, NOPE. Go make your money elsewhere, d-bag.
(Ok, I might still be a little irritated about that. But seriously guys, if you could have seen the smug, condescending look on his face! UGH!)
Moving on! My lovely doula arrived shortly after that. We recounted the story to her and she basically just rolled her eyes, sighed and said, “Drug dealers. They’re all the same no matter where they’re selling.” Which made us laugh. Which was good.
(Side note: Just to be clear, my issue here isn’t with the use of pain medication during labor. My issue is with the douchery of the doctor I was dealing with. His job was to inform me of my options and let me make a decision. What he did was talk in circles and attempt to inform me of what my decision should/would be. And that is decidedly NOT his job.)
Seriously moving on now. I promise.
At this point I had been hooked up to the pitocin for a while and the contractions were starting to take a little more work now. So my parents cleared out and it was just the Hubs and my doula with the nurse popping in every so often to check on things. I did as much walking around as possible, which was basically back and forth to the bathroom because I couldn’t unhook my monitors for too long at any one time. I was getting tired and frustrated with all the machines: the iv, the baby monitor wrapped around my belly, the blood pressure cuff on my arm…it was overwhelming. At about 8pm my OB came in to check on me and suggested that we break my water to help move things along a little more. She felt that if we did that we might not need to up the dosage of the pitocin. I was on the fence about it but did decide to go that route in the end. So we broke my water and things went from mildly miserable to definitely miserable. Now not only was I tethered to machines but I was gross and leaky and in more pain. This continued with slow but steady progress from about 8:30pm until midnight. At midnight I asked for my nurse and told her that I was still 100% sure that I didn’t want an epidural but that I DID want a break. I told her that I just wanted a little break to rest and not feel quite so awful. She said she could absolutely help with that and offered a small dose of nubain. She explained that I would still be able to feel the contractions when they came but they wouldn’t seem quite so bad and that I’d be able to rest much better between them. I thought that sounded just right for me so I went for it. I got the medication sometime shortly after midnight. My nurse and my doula helped to arrange me on my side in bed with my top leg in a stirrup; which sounds awful and sort of was at first but actually ended up being really good. For the next hour, I dozed a bit between contractions while my husband held my hand and helped me breathe through the contractions when they came. It was exactly what I needed. As 1am approached I was feeling more and more pressure from the baby and my contractions were right on top of each other. My nurse checked my cervix and it was time to start pushing. I was relieved and excited and ready to do whatever it took to have this baby and be DONE with labor already!
My nurse and doula helped me get into position on the bed and then my nurse told me we should try a couple of practice pushes. But see, once I started pushing it was so very obviously the right thing to do and my body didn’t really get the whole concept of “practice pushing”. I pushed a couple of times and my nurse was all, “Oh great!! Let’s try to hold off a little longer so your doctor can get here, ok?” And being the classy lady that I am, I replied, “Are you FUCKING KIDDING ME?!” And she, being far classier and smarter than most people, replied to that with a quick nod and “Ok then, just do your thing. We’ll figure it out.”
So we did.
My doctor made it in plenty of time. The poor thing had literally just made it back to her sofa for a quick nap after an emergency c-section that night when they called her back for me. She rushed back up to the hospital and helped me learn how to push through the pain. I can still hear her in my mind telling me to use the pain, to take the power of it and use it to push through. My nurse was on one side, my doula on the other and my sweet husband was literally walking circles around us all, probably getting in everyone’s way, though they were all too nice to tell him to settle down. Finally, after about 45 minutes of pushing, our gorgeous boy arrived. The elation of that moment is indescribable. I’ve said it before and it might be the truest thing I’ve ever said, having a baby is the best high you can possibly imagine. The Hubs called our mom’s who were out in the waiting room. I was told later they hugged while crowded around the cell phone to hear Max’s cry. My doula cried. My nurse (who had volunteered to stay past the end of her shift so she could help me through the birth) had someone bring me food, proving again that she really was the classiest and smartest of us all. Meanwhile I sat in bed holding my baby, falling in love and feeling like the biggest badass on the planet; never mind the exhaustion.
Max was a chubby 8 pounds 3 ounces of pure, cuddly perfection. He had the most perfect head of tiny brown hair. It looked painted on, like a little doll. His cheeks were munchable. I almost expired of joy once I got a whiff of his delectable new baby smell. I think I sat around smelling his soft, round head for the next twelve hours straight.
I don’t know how to describe what a life-changing experience this was. It was unbelievably challenging. It was infinitely rewarding. I think my heart shattered and re-knit itself into a completely different form that day.
The past five years with this little man have been some of the most intense and wonderful years of my life. Five years really isn’t all that long but at the same time I feel like I barely even remember a life without him in it; my beautiful boy.
Happy Birthday, Jon Maxwell.