Saturday, December 13, 2008
Oh my, my Boy is Five! Happy Birthday, my Sweet Jabber!
Jabber is five. FIVE. It's funny because since he started talking, since he started asking us questions, like, "Can I drink coffee?" or "When will I be able to..." do whatever, David and I have always said, "Maybe when you're five." It seemed like an eternity from where we were. And now it's, well, now. Ever since the moment he first looked up at me, newborn eyes blurry and watery, he has struck me as an old soul, and at five, he seems sometimes just like a little old man--a philosopher old man at that--trapped in the uncoordinated and constantly-changing body of a preschooler. He can be strong and mature; he can be calm and wise; he can melt down like a toddler into a shrieking mass of tears. He can be as sassy as they come. And the next moment he is so sincere and sweet I just about squeeze him to death. He's my boy, my Jabberwock, and I wish him a happy, happy birthday!
The day I went into labor was so...absurd. I had been struggling with this horridly itchy rash for two weeks (PUPPP), and I had been unable to sleep for more than about ten minutes at a time. I had tried everything, and still the itch. I also had carpal tunnel in both hands so that they were almost completely numb, my feet were so swollen I could only fit them into slippers, and my blood pressure was high enough to make my doctor put me on bed rest for the last week. That Friday night was the worst for the itching, and I had spent the entire night in the tepid oatmeal-filled bath, literally screaming at the top of my lungs, wailing, and begging for it to stop. My neighbors probably thought I was having the baby in my bathroom.
Saturday morning, David said, "We're going to the hospital to get this taken care of. Now." So we went into the birth center at about 8:00 that morning. I explained the issue like fifty times to as many doctors, residents, nurses, janitors, whatever. I lay in bed in one of the rooms watching cable, which at least was an improvement over the television at my house, where I had been stuck lying on the couch all week.
All day we sat there, in that hospital room, while they were tracking down a dermatologist because nobody knew what I had. (But I had figured it out on the internet and knew I had PUPPP, though they didn't really believe me or hadn't heard of it or whatever.)
So at 6:00 that evening (!!) a dermatologist finally came to see me...he was really nice, checked me over, said I had PUPPP, made me cry by empathizing with me about how bad it was to itch like that (waaaay worse than pain!), and gave me a prescription for a tube of cream and some prescription-strength antihistamines. We filled the scrips, I took the meds, smeared on the cream, and AT LAST I felt normal. It was like heaven. We went out to eat, and I could concentrate on something besides itching for once. We got home, and I was lying on the couch at 10 pm. I said, "David, I am going to sleep SO GOOD tonight, FINALLY." I got up off the couch, and my water broke. And we went back to the hospital.
Labor was amazing and all-consuming. I admit, I have never felt so close to giving up, so full of doubt and despair, as when I was struggling to push--over and over and over pushing with every atom of my self, and still he did not advance, did not progress. I felt damned to do eternal sit-ups in hell, without even the dignity of wearing pants. People's fingers and probably their whole hands groped around inside me and affirmed that I was a failure, even as they shouted encouragement to me.
Laboring, I was silent, withdrawn, and weary. I had not slept for three weeks. My energy was a dark, murky pool within me, and I was terrified to reach the bottom. I had no idea when it would leave me, leave us, stranded, wheeled off to the mercy of drugs and scalpels. Fear crowded me.
My stomach muscles were so tired and sore from all the pushing, and still the clock ticked on--one hour, then two.
A thought fluttered through me to sit out for a couple of rounds, catch my breath, but each time the contraction would build, and then it was just a blur of breath and prayer. Breathe. Breathe. Breathing and counting and pushing, with him stuck there, moving forward with each push but getting stuck and slipping back each time.
The doctor came in, checked, looked nonplussed, took her lunch break.
"I can't do it," I said, hating the whine in my voice. There were whispered conversations at the foot of my bed, which I couldn't hear, but which I was sure were criticisms.
David was praising me, crying at my side and cheering me on. "You're doing such a good job, my love. You're doing everything right." He ran excitedly back and forth from the foot of my bed to my head, lying on the pillow sucking at the oxygen mask. I knew he was lying. I was doing an awful job for sure; otherwise I would be done right now, holding a beautiful baby instead of lying her stupidly struggling to get my breath.
"Slow...slow...breathe..." intoned the nurse, my tough-love Coach Nurse, who was the one calling the shots in here, pushing me harder than I thought I could be pushed.
"Keep it up, Elissa! You're doing so great!" said my Cheerleader Nurse, holding my hand. Her eyes were the kindest, steadiest blue beacons in the world, and I gazed into them as I forced myself to slow my ragged breathing, to stop swallowing the air in large gulps.
Then there was a moment, something curled right in my back maybe; a burst of energy spurring me into pushing my limits--I felt the baby move beyond that awful spot, that hang-up he'd been banging his head against for hours. I pushed without thinking of that murky pool, without thinking of the next round, and the next, and the next. He moved.
David was hyperventilating at the sight of Jabber's head. "It has hair! Lots of it!" he cried, and Cheerleader Nurse handed him a box of tissues.
"Yes!" shouted Coach Nurse; finally, I was pleasing her. "You're doing it! NOW I'm impressed!" It meant more to me than all the attagirls so far, gave me the strength to keep going.
In the end the room seemed to explode with the sound of cheering and my heart beating blood in my ears and everyone moving around so fast, and then the most tremendously wonderful feeling of him moving, slipping, swimming out like a happy little trout, and David cried, "My love! We have a Jabberwock!" and the realization of his reality, my son, and I looked down over my now-deflated belly and saw him, reached down and touched his head as they suctioned him and moved him and his mouth was working and his little limbs waving erratically and finally sound came out, but I don't remember the sound he made as much as the sound of David crying in wonder.
And then he was born--with blissful breath he was born, and into my world a little boy emerged. A little boy with a perfect smile, ancient eyes, and this joyful grip on life. This love emerged, and it captured me.
They raced him over to the infant warmer, muttering about distress, this and that. They worked on him intently, listening, wrapping, and Coach Nurse looking worried, which worried me; I wanted him back, but the doctor reassured me that he was fine. "Elissa, she's looking concerned because she's doing her job, but I assure you, if he wasn't okay, I'd be over there instead of here with you. He's a fine, fine, healthy boy."
They brought him to me, and the rest is a blur...hours and now years spent gazing into his little face, learning to nurse, feeling the tiny weight of him tugging so heavily at my heart.
Happy Birthday, my little Elliot McCarthy!