You were “supposed” to be born exactly a year ago today, but you weren’t ready. Your father and I weren’t yet freaking out—lots of first-time moms see their due dates come and go without a blip on the radar—and in fact, I didn’t really freak out at all throughout my pregnancy with you. Which I believe is probably one of the reasons you’re so chill. That and the fact that, well, you’re part Jankowski. Jankowskis define chill.
Also you eat spinach and squash and other regulating foods every day for every meal, so you probably usually feel pretty great. As any pregnant woman can tell you, regulating foods are basically the key to happiness. That is, combined with yoga. This is what you learn in your thirties, but you have to get there on your own so I don’t know why I’m even bothering telling you now—especially since you’re a boy and it probably won’t apply to you since boys—yes, even boys of mine—don’t reach the girls’ level of maturity until at least their forties. Your father can let you know how that’s going for him.
You are taking a nap right now—in your crib, under one of the several beautiful blankets loved ones knitted in anticipation of your arrival. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to sufficiently convey to you how warm a welcome you received into this world, how excited everyone in our lives was for you to make an appearance. Every day, several times a day, I would be hounded for news, for signs. Any labor pangs yet? Has your water broken?
Your due date was the sixth—though I was not-so-secretly hoping you’d be a Cinco de Mayo baby, and actually one of the names we entertained for you was “Julio” . . . no joke—but it wasn’t until almost two weeks later that you started to squirm and jostle around in there to be let out. And even then, you took your sweet old time, and I mean, who could blame you? I had nine months to do pretty much nothing but create a perfect uterine environment for you. I drank beet juice every morning for christ’s sake.
Except not for Christ’s sake—yeah, we’ll discuss religion later on in your life if you want to—but for Noah’s sake. For your sake. So that you would become a big strong happy resilient baby. A baby who—before you came out—was feared to be much, much bigger than your eventual 8.2 lbs. To the point that the hospital staff had a pool going.
Oh yeah, and that’s the other thing: you were “supposed” to be born at home. Mommy was going to have a nice natural semi-unassisted labor on her bed and in the bath tub, and you were going to slide right out of there smoothly and the midwife would help us get cleaned up and cook us dinner and then go home and we’d suddenly just have the ability to take care of you perfectly and would all live happily ever after the end!
Except that after a few days of labor with no “progress”—hey, I KNOW it was comfortable as hell in there; you don’t have to tell me—we had some decisions to make.
Actually, let me rephrase that:
After a few days straight of my walking around and having to stop every few minutes to grasp [the side of a building, a tree, your father's arm] to experience excruciating pain that rocked my entire body . . . with no “progress” . . . as in, no major dilation of my cervix beyond, like, a couple centimeters . . . we had some decisions to make.
Lucky for you, you’re a boy and will never have to experience what it’s like to BE IN LABOR while everyone around you is just cavalierly going about their business, walking and talking and checking email and shit. The labor part alone is beyond worth it, and for you I would have continued for as long as it took, but your midwife asking for your wi-fi password? I’m actually surprised that right there didn’t cause labor to “progress.”
So finally it was a day before the official “two weeks late” mark, which, just to give you a recap, is when everyone starts to panic about the sustainability of the uterus. As in, sure, you weren’t ready to leave yet . . . but for how much longer would the placenta keep delivering the nutrients you needed?
Our midwife told your father and I to go for a walk while she continued—I don’t know—playing Words with Friends or something? We walked a total of three and a half feet away to the Skyline Diner next door and had to stop no fewer than fifty-seven times for me to clutch the nearest object and labor. I ordered an Athenian omelet, and if you’re old enough to be reading this, you KNOW I always finish my Athenian omelets. This time I only took a couple bites. The pains were getting stronger!
We dashed back to the apartment so Linda could check my cervix. I was really excited—convinced things were finally starting to move—but that wasn’t the case. Nothing had changed since she’d last checked me hours before.
People usually get the impression that midwives are these new-age, western-medicine-shunning witches or whatever, and ours definitely gave off a convincingly spacey vibe, but to be fair, that’s what people look for in a midwife. That’s why you DON’T go the scheduled c-section in a modern hospital setting route. The spacey herbal-remedy witch thing is what sells.
But for it to REALLY work you have to have actual medical knowledge, and ours was smart—smart enough to know when intervention is needed. I want to set the record straight, lest anyone thinks our midwife was sitting there administering infusions of mugwort and wolf’s bane and chanting Wiccan spells. SHE’s the one who convinced US to go to the hospital.
Now, here’s where your father started to freak the eff out because months before that I’d made him swear that no matter what happened he wouldn’t let me “give in” and go to the hospital. He freaked out again AT the hospital when labor STILL hadn’t really progressed and we were faced with even more decisions. And by freak out I mean “probably thought I was going to leave him for going against something he swore, like, seven years ago that I’ve since forgotten about.”
Anyway, Linda pretty much advised us to go to the hospital using a tone of voice and looking me in the eye in a way that quite frankly scared the hell out of me and convinced me to throw together a “go” bag and thumb a ride uptown. The cab ride was the classic woman-in-labor ride you’d expect, with me freaking out in the back seat about the driver not going faster, literally not comprehending why he wasn’t ALLOWED to run red lights. You know, since I was the only person to be in labor ever. Luckily we were only going thirty blocks due north.
You know the quintessential triage waiting room full of slurring, cussing homeless people being ignored by the receptionists behind the bullet-proof window? That’s what we were greeted with when we arrived at St. Luke’s Roosevelt. We waited for long enough—with me in labor on a chair—that the homeless people who themselves had been waiting all day started to get pissed off that I was being ignored. Problem was, Linda had faxed all my paperwork to the wrong number or something. Maybe in high school history class you’ll learn what “fax” means.
Eventually we got admitted—not without my being made to feel like a knocked-up crack addict off the street once or thrice—and by the time we were settled into a more civilized, more high-rent wing of the hospital, the nurses attending me were positively fantastic. I really cannot sing their praises enough. Julie something and Marie-Josie were their names, and they treated me like I’d been their patient for years.
I keep meaning to write to Marie-Josie because she was the one who—even after it was already decided that I’d be having a c-section within the hour since despite being shot up with an epidural and pitocin and allowed to rest overnight, I still wasn’t dilated much more than I’d been at home—encouraged me to get into whatever laboring position felt most comfortable because I was going to push out my baby now and that’s all there was to it. She really believed in me up until the last moment, the rest of the hospital’s agenda be damned.
I tried and tried but it still wasn’t happening, and pretty soon the doctor and her swat team of attendants took position in the room, broke it down, and wheeled me out into the hall and onto an elevator and out onto a different floor into a different room. The room in which you would be born!
It all happened so quickly, and it was infuriating that a giant sheet was separating me from being the first one to see you come out. Your father got to watch the whole thing and when they lifted you up out of me, he burst into tears. It was only the second time I’ve seen him cry. The first was one time when someone used the wrong number of ellipses in a sentence.
You cried out when they held you up and it was the most beautiful, melodic sound I’ve ever heard. I heard you before I saw you. When I finally got to see you, it was established: you were magnificent. I made your father tell everyone your name right away. Noah Joseph Beard.
A little while later they brought you to me to nurse, but there were so many wires attached to me it was difficult to get you into the right position, so I started yanking them all out. It was kind of like that scene from E.T., as your Auntie Marie pointed out when I was describing it to her. Eventually we got comfortable, though, and that was just the beginning of our now-going-on-a-year nursing relationship. A relationship that I will miss terribly when it ends.
Looking back, I don’t think we had a clue how we’d get through this first year, let alone that first day or first week or first month home from the hospital. Things have not always been easy, but only because we’re inept. We lucked out with you—we’re reminded of it every time we look at you, every time we feel the urge to squeeeeeezee you. You are oh so amazing and I’ll still be telling you this when you’re old enough to develop a complex from it because I don’t care. You are.
So happy one-year anniversary from your due date, little boy. Maybe we’ll celebrate later with some beets or kale juice. Daddy and I will spike ours, pretending to be frazzled parents, even though really we have no excuse since you’re perfect.