On January 6th, 1998, I woke at 5am. As had become habit, I rubbed my full belly – just a layer of skin and muscle separated me from my baby. I felt him roll and kick, and my heart filled with joy.
Today was the day. I would meet my son for the first time.
I rose and showered, a long, luxurious tumble in the hot water. I didn’t know when I’d next be able to be so calm and take my time, so I relished it. Inside me, my baby rolled and stretched, and I whispered, “Soon, little guy.”
My partner rose. He had a cold, and was less than enthusiastic, but tried to be supportive. The two of us got ready, checked my bag to make sure I had everything, and went to the car.
It was dawning. The sun crept up the sky, already turning it bright winter blue. I gathered from the shivers of my partner that it was cold, but I was pregnancy-hot and barely noticed. I watched as he buckled the infant car-seat into the back of the car and tears formed in my eyes. Soon, my baby would ride home in that seat.
“Buckle it tightly,” I whispered. He nodded and pulled the straps tighter. He stood and turned to me.
I nodded. “I think so.”
We got in the car, and he drove us to the hospital.
My baby was two full weeks overdue. He was getting so big, the doctor was worried about my ability to get him out safely. We were on our way to the hospital on this bright Tuesday morning to be induced – to start the process and encourage my little guy to get a move on. I was so scared, but so ready to meet him and hold him and love him from the outside. On the journey to the hospital, I kept my hand on my belly; it reassured me and the baby within.
Once there, the nurses didn’t want to admit me. I looked so young, they thought I was a minor (I wasn’t) and needed my mother (I didn’t). I fished out my ID and they apologized, getting me checked in and settled into my birthing room. They told me the doctor would be in soon to start the process.
I cried. I was so scared. My partner sleepily tried to reassure me, but this wasn’t how I’d wanted to have my baby. I wasn’t easy to console. But I felt powerless, pushed by the forces of nature and medicine, unable to prevent things from unraveling in this way.
Eventually, the doctor arrived. He checked me out, reassured me, and started the drip. He said he’d be back in a little while, wished me luck, and went off. Shortly thereafter, contractions started. They were weak at first, little cramps at random intervals. My mother arrived, and not long after, my father and step-mother. My brother came along at some point.
I lost track of time. I lost track of the comings and goings of nurses and the doctor and my various family members.
The contractions increased, but I didn’t dilate. The doctor frowned and said he would break my water to move things along. I remember seeing the hook – the biggest crochet hook I’ve ever seen – and feeling panic. My partner and my mother held my hands as tears ran down my face. Again, the feeling of powerlessness washed over me. I felt a little pressure, then a flood as my waters rushed from me. I put my hand on my belly and whispered, “I’d like to meet you, baby. Please come out to me.”
The doctor assured us that the breaking of my waters would encourage the baby to move on down, would encourage my body to open up for him.
Hours passed, and I was still only dilated a little. No where near enough to get a baby through. Every time I saw the doctor, I would tense up – I knew what was coming. He’d check me and shake his head. I wasn’t progressing fast enough for him.
Tears filled my eyes again. “My body isn’t ready for this,” I protested.
The doctor shook his head. “Nonsense. The baby is ready, it’s time. Your body knows what to do, we just have to keep encouraging it.”
The contractions built. They grew regular and intense. I was given some drug I didn’t want to ease the pain I wanted to feel – I’m still not sure how that happened. I think I was so young (and looked even younger) that no one there was taking me seriously. I’d asked for an epidural, but nothing else, and they didn’t obey my wishes.
The unwanted drug made me stop caring about the pain. I could still feel it, but it didn’t matter any more. I sat in a rocking chair for a while, softly singing to my baby, encouraging him to come.
More time passed, and still I didn’t open.
The doctor started threatening me with a cesarean. If I didn’t open, he would force me open and take my baby out that way. I was terrified. I wanted to push the baby out, I wanted to work for his birth, but again my wishes didn’t seem to register.
An hour ticked by. The doctor returned, checked me, and gave me a beaming smile. I’d opened a full number. Being threatened with a knife apparently worked.
And so we repeated this pattern. The doctor would check me, give me a number and a time limit, threaten me with a cesarean, and leave. He’d return at the time limit and check me, and I would be at exactly what number he gave me.
In this way, I slowly opened enough for my son to join the world.
My epidural arrived just in time. The nurse put me on the edge of the bed and told me to relax, and I nearly laughed myself onto the floor. Relax, she said, as I’m sitting on the edge of a too-high bed, ten months pregnant – so full and fat I couldn’t see my feet – as a giant needle that could paralyze me was shoved into my spine. No problem.
But the drug took away the blinding pain, and I eased.
And then the pushing time was upon me. I started screaming that I would push him out whether they wanted me to or not, so they’d best get the doctor. He appeared in a very timely fashion, and I started pushing.
I remember the blood pressure cuff distracting me mid-push. It went off, and it hurt because of how my arm was angled, and I just stopped pushing. The doctor yelled at a nurse to get it off me, and she complied. Relieved, I resumed pushing. Then the clock ticking made me cry; I’d been pushing for what felt like years and I was so exhausted, and I just couldn’t keep going. The ticking clock discouraged me. It was removed from the wall and from the room, and I resumed pushing.
And after a time, I heard him breathe. In the maelstrom of the birthing room, with a dozen doctors and nurses surrounding me talking and working and helping to bring him into the world, I heard my baby take his first breath. It remains the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard – musick and magick, sacredness, life. He gasped, inhaled, and the doctor said “It’s a boy!”
It was 12:12am, January 7th, 1998.
My world spun. My universe changed. He was laid on my chest, this tiny squirming messy bloody infant, and he looked up at me and his eyes were so blue I gasped and there was nothing in the world but my son and me. Around us, the world kept moving – doctors and nurses and people did stuff and said stuff – but there was just my baby boy and me.
I touched him for the first time and my heart nearly burst. We blinked at each other. He didn’t cry and I cried enough for both of us. I traced his perfect face. I pulled him close to my face and inhaled his scent, his new-to-the-world smell. I counted fingers and toes. I made sure he had all his bits. I touched every inch of his tiny body, entranced by his perfection, dazzled by him. I lost myself in his bright blue eyes; I started that day as a maiden, but I ended it a mother.
My tiny baby boy somehow has transformed into a young man. It’s been thirteen years since that day, since I first looked into his calm blue eyes that seemed to say What’s with all the fuss? And those same eyes still look at me with that same calm look.
My son has brought me more joy, more light, more laughter, more love than I ever thought possible. He’s frustrated me to the point of hair-pulling. He’s dazzled me so much I nearly went blind. We’ve shared happy times and sad, we’ve supported each other, we’ve suffered great loss together, and we’ve rebuilt together.
He is my greatest teacher and my best friend.
And today, he becomes a man.
I am so proud and honored to have you in my life, Dru Anson. Happy birthday, my son.