Friday, January 16, 2009

firsts (the second part)

With the third trimester came the count down, the impatient toe-tapping, the ready-to-be-done feeling that kept you up at night, too uncomfortable to sleep in any position. Even though you were exhausted. Even though you knew you would be even more exhausted after it was all over.

You remember your first contraction, the slight ping of discomfort, and the nerve-wracking watching of the clock, waiting to feel something — anything — that might resemble another one. You didn't know. You had no idea that when the birthing process started in earnest, there would be no second guessing, no wondering if what you were feeling was curry-induced heartburn, or It.

You remember the day your husband purchased a beeper so that you could be in touch immediately. And you remember how, over time, as the baby growing inside of you made a big show of dropping into position, and then... nothing, not for another two weeks, you developed your own beeper shorthand — shorthand you use to this day, fifteen years on — exchanging numeric pages only the two of you could interpret.

You remember your first trip to the hospital when you were sure the contractions were for real this time, and the crushing disappointment you felt when they sent you back home with a checklist of signs and symptoms, and telephone numbers to call when things got serious. You remember your last visit to the OB, where you told him you were too tired to carry this child anymore, and begged to be induced.

And so you were, and so she came into the world in the middle of November on a crisp, cool day, a day much like the one some forty weeks earlier when you first began to grasp how complex the simple equation "two plus one is three" can be.

You'd think you'd remember more of the birth itself — the Pitocin, the hours of labor, the fact that you squeezed your husband's hands so tight with every contraction that he had to remove his wedding band. And while there are moments like these that stand out, what you most remember is the first time you held her, the first time you saw that swath of jet-black hair and her perfect, beautiful face. You remember wondering at how tiny she was, and how, just minutes after being born, she grabbed hold of your index finger with one hand, and held on tight.

And you remember the look on your husband's face as the nurse handed the baby to him, and how he cradled her in his arms, and rocked gently, back and forth, whispering her name, "Johannah."

Johannah would bring a world of firsts. Fifteen years on, and she still surprises. Now more than ever, as her next round of firsts looms (first car, first boyfriend, first prom, first job), reminding you of your own similar firsts (and how can it be time for her to experience these events, when it seems that you only just left them behind?), you feel a little out of control. You're not yet confident you can pull it off, this next phase of firsts, and you want time to feel your way.

Just like you did on that first day.
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