Every March 15th, for the past 2 years, we do this ritual. We lay in bed and tell each other stories of this night, on that year. I’m sure we will do this the rest of our lives. My parents had driven down a few days before from Maryland. I had taken them to hear Jon Byrd play a lunchtime show. My father ate Fried Bologna for the first time, then bought one of Jon’s CDs (Jon had played our wedding and my Dad was a fan). I had to stop eating by 3pm. Jamey and his parents and my parents went out to dinner while I stayed on the couch, big as a house, and tried to distract myself watching TV. Jamey and my parents (who were staying in our home) came back and we watched the first episode of “This Is Us,” which we had watched before. It’s a tearjerker, if you haven’t seen it and Jamey and I both cried (he’d hate me telling you that). Again. My parents went to sleep. We stayed up as we had a date at St. Thomas Hospital at 11:45pm, so that I could be induced into labor. I’d been in back labor for 24 hours so I was really uncomfortable. And I was big. I had been a reasonable size until about 2 weeks prior, and then Huck started forcing his way through my skin, his foot somewhere near my upper rib cage, moving across from the inside, kicking, pushing. I had my bag packed with comfy socks and slippers, chapstick and cocoa butter, my towel, my pillow, a blanket, a journal, a book (what was I thinking?). I had read all the blogs and articles on what to bring to the hospital. We didn’t know if we’d be there 2 or 3 days, depending on how this went, so I packed all the comfy things and Jamey packed his basketball shirt (it was March Madness and Kentucky would be playing. A lot).
I don’t remember leaving the house. I don’t remember how I felt. I’d seen those movies where the woman’s water breaks and the husband freaks out. I think I was calm. We were excited. I wasn’t even afraid. I learned later that Jamey had gone through some serious mental gymnastics over the fear of losing the baby, or of losing me. It never occurred to me. Not then. I remember how friendly Jamey was to the receptionist. He’s friendly to strangers, always making everyone comfortable. It’s one of the things that made me fall in love with him. He high fived her, said, “We’ve come to get our son.” He made the whole floor join in our celebration with his joy. He treats bank tellers, grocery baggers like this. Always just joyful and generous and it’s one of those rare gifts in people. He made me feel comfortable and safe. It’s why I chose him.
Once we were in our room, a doctor or a nurse came to check my cervix. Not that dilated. But they put me on an IV drip and gave me a pill that would get things moving and then left us alone for a few hours. I think Jamey slept. The IV drip had penicillin in it, as I had a strep infection, and it burned. And my back ached and my body was swollen. Who could sleep? I had brought my iPad and was watching some show on Netflix. I don’t remember. I couldn’t read. I couldn’t sleep. Maybe I drifted for an hour. But I was anticipating labor. Like BIG TIME labor. I was actually looking forward to it. The picture of Jamey at my head, holding me, saying “push push” while I sweated and grunted and bared down to push a human out of my body. A friend of mine, who I once ran the NYC marathon with, told me labor was a lot like the end of the marathon, the last few miles, where you think you’re going to die but you keep going. I wanted that experience so badly. That togetherness too, between the parents, going through hell to have their child. And so who could sleep, anticipating that kind of pain.
At some point, we both were awake and we played Bananagrams. It’s funny what you remember about life altering moments. Bananagrams. I don’t think we’ve played that game since. Since I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink, I just sucked on lemon ice and made up words on tiles. At about 5am, the nurse came in and gave me the 2nd pill. Then, nothing. More nothing. More waiting. More no food no drink.
At about 8am my mom and mother-in-law showed up, saying the men were coming a bit later. Jamey went to the cafe to get coffee. That was cruel. At 9am, Dr. Storck, our Gyn (seriously, that’s her name), came in to say my cervix hadn’t moved, so they’d be giving me the Petocin, hoping to take this thing from 0-60. After that, it was just a waiting game. The fathers showed up. We waited. Tried to have conversations. I wasn’t in real labor, I wanted to be, but I wasn’t. It felt like terrible period cramping and like a rubber band was pulling at my lower back. I couldn’t find a comfortable position to sit or lie. I was impatient. I wanted the labor, the real deal, to begin. There are photos of us in that room that Jamey took. My father talking to Steve and my mother talking to Carolyn. I’m in the bed, looking at the camera, smiling. My father had brought Huck a teddy bear, his first. I had it in the bed with me. My father…now gone.
At 3pm Dr. Storck came back to check in on me. I’d been hooked up to a fetal heart monitor and my cervix hadn’t moved and the baby’s heart rate was going down. I remember Dr. Storck saying “well, we could do this for another 36 hours, because that’s what it looks like we’re dealing with, and then have an emergency C section….or…you could schedule the C section and see your baby in 20 minutes.” That was an easy ask. I had no birth plan. I just wanted the baby alive. So, somewhere near 5, we said goodbye to our parents as they wheeled me toward the surgical room.
Jamey took this photo of us, holding hands. I remember how nervous I was. But also calm. I was shivering out of all of the emotions and anticipation. My teeth were chattering. I’d never had surgery before so I didn’t know what to expect. I was cold. But there we were, both of us scared, trying to be strong for each other. This is my favorite photo of March 16, 2018, before 5:11pm, when Huckleberry James came into our world like lightening. Us holding hands, going into the unknown together. This kind of faith in love.
Our son is a miracle. In so many ways. May his birthday be filled with love and faith. May he know the love of holding on through the unknown as we did that night together.