My baby is now six. Last night I was recalling with my sister how I felt the day that I gave birth to my fourth baby. My belly, mere moments after birth, for the first time in four deliveries, seemed to know just how to behave and went back to its prior size (not that this was very small in the first place). My sweet baby, after spending about three seconds in my arms, had to be whisked away to the NICU and intubated, sedated, medicated and a lot of other ateds that I can’t remember now. God was watching over him. I knew he would be well in a matter of days. After going down to visit him about an hour after giving birth, I took a shower, ate some bland hospital Thanksgiving food, got a report from his doctor on how he was doing, agreed to let them transport him to the bigger hospital (which was providentially closer to our home), took a short nap, put on makeup and promptly packed up and left that hospital without my baby in my arms. Naturally we did not head straight home. Instead we headed straight to the other hospital where they had taken him.
As I walked into the hospital alone (my husband had to find parking) and took the elevator up to the 7th floor (I think), I could not help feeling a distinct urge to shout to everyone that I made eye contact with, “I JUST HAD A BABY FOUR HOURS AGO! DID YOU?!” It wasn’t an angry feeling. It was an… “appreciate me!!” feeling. Perhaps an “applaud me!!” feeling. As people rode up in the elevator to visit sick loved ones I imagined them asking me why I was there (though in reality it’s pretty rare for people in the hospital elevator to ask why you are there… they know the answer might make them sad or want to barf). Still, I imagined them asking me why I was there and as I imagined my answer, tears welled up in my soul, if not in my eyes, as I imagined answering, “I’m here to visit the small child that I pushed out of my body FOUR HOURS AGO! Four hours ago he was inside of me. Four hours ago we shared the same exact longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates on a map of the earth. Four hours ago he was living off of every breath that I took! And now I’m riding in an elevator to go and visit him. Do you have any concept for how strange that is? Or for how strange it is that I just had a baby at all and am standing here riding in an elevator with the rest of the human horde when I just so recently participated in the miracle of birth?!” But I of course just stepped off of the elevator without issuing forth a real tear or saying any of these rambling thoughts that made me inwardly cry and laugh at the same time (only laughing hurt since I’d had a baby FOUR HOURS AGO so I really tried to keep that to a minimum). I just stepped off of the elevator, hoping that those few moments in cramped quarters had not exposed me to some sort of communicable disease that I was then about to carry into my baby’s hospital room.
He was the newest arrival in his little wing so he was getting most of the attention when I arrived. There were probably 5 or 6 hospital personnel surrounding him. I looked at his tiny neighbors. At 5lbs 11oz at 5 weeks premature, he was the big boy. He had two micro-preemie neighbors both hovering somewhere in the one and a half to two pound range. I came in and peered between the shoulders and the arms and the wires that surrounded him. He had an IV line in his head. It’s always disconcerting to see your baby hooked up to tubes and machines but the IV in the head was probably the part that made me the saddest to look at.
As I was staring at him like no one else was there, a nurse broke into my reverie and asked me who I was. The elevator emotions were welling up in me and I briefly thought of mentioning having just so recently pushed this human being out of my body. I just told her that I was his Mom. His Mom. This was my fourth baby. I was used to being called Mom and calling myself someone’s Mom but I think most mothers will agree that each time you give birth to a new child it takes a few days or weeks to accustom yourself to the fact that there is another little person who will forever call you Mom. He’s mine, I let her know. Having given birth to all of my children before the age of thirty and having always been mistaken for someone at least ten years younger than myself, I was prepared for the response. She was so sorry. She had no idea. I looked too young. What I was not prepared for was the compliment that made me feel great and then immediately bereft of my rights of garnering attention for the amazing feat I had just accomplished in bringing this child into the world. She told me that I looked too good for having just given birth. It was the first time, I can honestly say, that I felt pretty just four hours post-delivery.
I touched his little hand. I kissed his little face between the tubes. I spent the next ten days with him in the hospital and the next 9 nights getting more sleep than the average mother of a newborn gets. Somehow I had made it all the way until day 9 before shedding a single tear. This was from God, I knew because normally I would cry a lot even when all went well. Just all of those feelings and hormones swirling in a post-partum cyclone of emotions. But I had not cried at all. I had just prayed and pumped and rocked and slept and kept moving. Until day 9 when I woke up and sat on the side of my bed and wept because I was tired of visiting MY baby. I was tired of asking permission of nurses to hold MY baby. I was thankful for them. They took such sweet care of him. But by the time he was ready to come home and I knew it and was just waiting for that discharge paper to be signed, I was becoming annoyed. I just wanted him home.
And he came home the next day.
And now he is six.