In August, a slimy, wiggling baby was placed on my chest as my husband stood beside me, a look of wonder and pride in his eyes. I had labored for seven hours — not that long for a first-time mom — but then, all of a sudden, here he was, our baby, alive in the world. As my husband took the medical scissors to cut the umbilical cord and the midwives and nurses continued about the business of post-delivery care, I looked down at this tiny person in my arms, so relieved to see him.
I took July off work, so I could have time to prepare for our first baby. Turns out, I didn’t need quite that much time. As the due date came and went, I figured I was going the whole 42 weeks you’re allowed before being induced. But I wasn’t induced. At ten days past the estimated birth day, our son made his entrance, fast and furiously, into the world.
Labor had started that afternoon with contractions already pretty close together. I scarcely had a break to catch my breath over the next seven hours and once I started pushing, it was only thirty minutes until our baby was born. “It’s a boy,” Chad told me as the wriggly little form was lifted toward me.
“I know you.”
For 41 weeks and three days, I carried this little one around with me. I felt his stretches and kicks and hiccups. I patted his butt and rubbed his back through the tightly-drawn skin of my belly. I talked to him, asked him questions, told him my doubts and fears about being his mom. Some women describe their new baby as a stranger that is suddenly living in their house, taking over their life. Not me. I felt like I knew him from the moment he was there in my arms. I had spent so many months worrying about how his arrival would change our lives, would change who I was. Those worries didn’t go away at his birth, but they helped me during the pregnancy to get to know this little being, to bond with him in a way I didn’t realize. I spent a lot of time during those months talking to him, honestly and frankly. I prayed for him and about him. So in the end, I felt like I knew him and he knew me.
“I’m your mom.”
All those long conversations that had taken us through each trimester had given our son time to get to know me too. They say babies can learn to recognize your voice from within the womb, so I just needed to reassure him that it was me, that I was the one who had been carrying him around since the beginning. I held him close to me, right where he was used to being, as I whispered this little conversation to him.
“Your dad is the best person.”
From the moment the two pink lines appeared on the home test, Chad took care of me — of us. He cooked meals and picked up the slack when I was too nauseous from morning sickness to do anything. He encouraged me through my last semester of graduate school. He made sure I was drinking water and eating enough protein. He went with me to all my midwife appointments and childbirth classes. He read books and did research to learn about labor and delivery so that he could be the best support possible. He promised me whatever meal I wanted for the day I went into labor.
Contractions came too quickly and too close together for him to make me that meal, but he was the best support during labor. Chad literally held me up each time I had a contraction as I stood with my arms around his neck and his around my waist. He held my hand as I pushed and pushed until our baby was born. He looked at me with tears in his eyes as he said, “It’s a boy.”
And for the first three weeks of our son’s life, Chad changed ninety percent of the diapers, cooked most of our meals, and walked miles around our bedroom with Samuel in his arms to get him to sleep. He woke up with me in the middle of the night to help burp our son after I nursed him. He let me cry for a variety of reasons and consoled me when breastfeeding was hard.
He’s fallen asleep with our son on his chest, and I’ve fallen more in love. Our son is so lucky to have Chad as his dad.
“I’m going to do my best to take care of you.”
With this brand new little person in my arms, all I could promise was to do my best to care for him and feed him and teach him and love him. I knew I would be far from the perfect mom, but I also knew I could try my hardest to make each day as best as it could be for our family.
That’s all any of us can ever really promise.