Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Perfect Timing: A Memory

"What? Why didn't you wake me?!" He shouted in a calm panic.
"I didn't want to bother you if I wasn't sure."
"Doctor Fernandez said if it lasts more than an hour, it's probably time. How long have you been having them?"
"About two hours."

The contractions had started at 4:27 exactly. I know because I typed it down on our iPod (because it was my first pregnancy so I was anal like that). But I had no idea what contractions would feel like so I waited and noted: 


At visits, my doctor would ask me if I had been having any contractions and I would shrug my shoulders, "Maybe?"
I'm sure I drove her nuts, "What do you mean you don't know?"
"I don't know. Whaddo they feel like?"
"You would know," she'd assure.
"Thennn... no?" I'd say completely unsure.

For a couple of weeks I had woken up a few times in the middle of the night with a crampy, getting-my-period feeling, but it felt more like having to go to the bathroom than what movies made contractions look like so I had no idea if those were contractions or just a really lousy time to have to poop. Very anti-climactic.

And today was no different. I looked over at Husband. 


Hmmm... I think he wakes up at 5:30? I'll just wait for him to get up so that if this is a false alarm he won't go to work tired. After all, there will be plenty of tiring nights for him to look forward to; I might as well give him this pass. I opened the Paulo Coelho book on my nightstand and read.


What time was it? Had it been an hour yet? 

I rolled over - as fast as someone with a ginorm belly could - and looked at the clock. It had been, but barely, so I'd wait a little longer to wake him. I stared at Husband again as if my stare would awaken the beast: flat on his back, mouth wiiiiiide open, half a snore. I was so envious of him. What I would have given to sleep that well? It had been soooooo long since I slept a whole night (and would be a long time after still) since waking up at 3:00 for the last few months had become religious. I came to intimately know Husband's deep sleep image: flat on his back, mouth wiiiiiide open, half a snore.


I'll wait for him to wake up. He has to wake up soon. But that was just a guess. The truth is that I didn't know his morning routine as intimitely since I had been waking up in the middle of the night for the last few months. Every night I'd wake up and read for about two hours before falling back asleep around 5:00 and sleeping until 9:00 - or until the aguacate guy came through the neighborhood, pushing his cart and hollering about his avocados for sale. He was my alarm clock in those days. 


Maybe I should wake him? Or maybe I should tell my mom who was in the room down the hall, who had been with us for the last two weeks anticipating the birth of her first granddaughter, that I think this is it; this is the day we add a girl to the duo of grandsons. But if I wake her up, she'd get all worked up and then get me all worked up. I'll wait. I opened my book and read a little more.


Husband began to move. Was he just turning or waking up? How would I tell him? If he opened his eyes, he would see me staring at him, my face close to his like a fat face in a fishbowl. I knew he would spring into action. I had been feeling that I-have-to-go-to-the-bathroom-feeling for over an hour so it had to be labor and whereas I had done a surprisingly good job at being calm and collected about this whole pregnany, he had been on emotional overload. 

There must be something about looking at your wife with a growing, massive belly and knowing that you made that wiggling life in there that gets men all crazy and excited and protective. 

His eyes opened. 

"So... I think I'm having a baby today."

I was right; boinged right into action!

"What? Why didn't you wake me?!" He shouted in a calm panic.
"I didn't want to bother you if I wasn't sure."
"Doctor Fernandez said if it lasts more than an hour, it's probably time. How long have you been having them?"
"About two hours."


Although I was calm and collected, I knew that I could lose my cool at any moment so I had Husband call our doctor who told us to get dressed, eat something, and make our way to her office. 


My mother, now aware of what was happening was in full swing. She yanked my grandmother out of
bed - who was also there and also excitedly awaiting the birth of her third great grandchild - and helped her get ready before she made breakfast. She knew we were in for the long haul today so we had to eat. Meanwhile, my grandmother sat on our couch - like she always did - very quiet, very deep in thought. I knew she was praying. For me. For this baby. For the journey we were about to take. She was a pray-er. In moments of anxiety, when everyone else was jumping out of their mind, she would crawl in and be still. 


Mike ran around getting it all together. Bags check. Camera check. Speakers. iPod. Snacks. Nook. Toothbrush. Pillows. Pictures of Olive and Jersey. Check. 

Like my grandmother, I stayed still. Dressed and ready to go, I was still reading my book with Jersey at the foot of the bed when Husband came in with the video camera. 

"Here she is. Operation Jen Extraction. We are waiting for in between contractions to get Jen to the car."
I corrected him, "Jen is waiting for everyone else to be 'ready' and then we could go." 
From the kitchen my mother cheered, "READY!"


It was drizzling that morning when all four of us buckled ourselves for the doctor's office and though I was calm when we arrived, I was relieved to have arrived. I wasn't anxious but something about finally being in the hands of a professional put me at ease. 


Dr. Fernandez hooked me up to the machine; the machine that listened to our baby's heartbeat and told me that everything was ok. I loved that sound. It was loud, and yet, I would have made it louder. I would have walked around with that machine like an 80's boombox if I'd had one. It was serene, consoling like a hug from your mom. You can't imagine how reassuring that sound was; the sound of your baby inside you. Healthy. Thumping. Beating. Waiting.


The contractions didn't stop and wouldn't stop for the next 12 hours until she was born at 9:28 pm but I stopped writing down the times after 9:05 a.m. I didn't need to keep track of what I was now certain was happening. We were having a baby and she was coming... today: October 7, 2011. 

When I watch the video of that day, I always try to swallow the tears that inevitably form in my throat and inevitably the tears swallow me instead. I watch that video to rebuild that day because I remember it so vividly and yet not at all. Specific moments get away from me. 

And I write this today, to remember the significance of every detail of that morning when I was trying to grasp how different my life was going to be in world where I was a mom, when I was trying to fathom how I'd take care of such little hands and little feet, when I joked about the next one being a c-section (note to self: the universe is always listening because the next one was indeed a Caesarian), when Husband and I had only been married a couple of months before becoming parents, when my mother left her life behind for a month to be with me when I really needed her, when my grandmother was still alive; smiling and excited and anxious and praying on a day that would expand a family that started with her. 
Life is about remembering. It's why holidays and anniversaries and birthdays are so important - because they give us a day to reflect and celebrate and slow down in an otherwise fast-moving hamster wheel. Today, I get to take it slow; to wake up in the morning with my birthday girl and sit with her while she paints, while she plays with her brother in the wake of mami's unmade bed and reminds me of that day three years ago when I became a mom. 

Happy 3rd Birthday, little girl.

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