It changed my life in so many ways. So, so many ways.
After weeks of strict bed-rest, high blood pressure and pregnancy-induced hypertension, we were going to have a baby.
I was excited, nervous, overwhelmed, scared and ready. My pregnancy with Phoenix was anything but pleasant, with morning sickness all day throughout most of the pregnancy and two hospitalizations for dehydration from the morning sickness. I wanted my body back but more than anything, I was ready to meet my son.
Besides the PIH, the morning sickness and dehydration, my pregnancy was rough in other ways. Jay and I had our first date about 3 weeks before we got pregnant and I don't think I need to say, it was a surprise when we found out we were expecting. Things were crazy. Lots of fighting. Lots of anger and resentment. I wasn't sure "we" would make it and I'm being totally candid when I say that.
It was rough and I was scared. I didn't know what my future held; I didn't know where my choices would take me or the consequences they would have. I knew I was in love, though, with this tiny little being growing in my body. I knew that before I ever saw him & I knew that he would change my life.
I didn't know then how difficult his labor was, which is probably great. I didn't know to be even more scared than I already was. They had to test the amniotic fluid before letting me go into hard labor because they weren't sure if his lungs were fully developed. They got an oxygen cart ready and called NICU.
I was oblivious. Blissfully oblivious, wrapped in a cocoon of fuzziness brought on by the epidural I had proudly admitted I was considering weeks before in birthing classes. I'd been the only one.
I knew things weren't so great when my monitors started going off, beeping and chiming, bringing nurses running. I knew the fetal heart monitor they told me they were screwing into my baby's head meant that his heart rate was dropping and the doctors were worried about him. I still didn't know to be scared.
I never felt the incision when they sliced me to help get him out but I definitely felt the tearing when he literally busted out of my va-jay-jay, shoulders at an angle.
At 3:51 P.M. on Sunday, December 4th, 2005, I met my son. Phoenix Samuel.
He came out wailing and as soon as they set him on my chest, he shit all over me. They suctioned out his mouth and nose and murmured inquiries about whether or not my fluid had signs of meconium in it. The word tickled my drug-addled brain but I couldn't put the pieces together.
I handed him back to be cleaned up, barely noticing he was more blue than red. I saw all the equipment and the oxygen tanks. It can't be serious or they would tell me, I thought. I hadn't noticed the surgeon come in or the ever-increasing crowd that was growing around my nether regions. I was watching my baby and listening to Jay coo at me, soothing me in a way I had never expected him to be capable of. He'd been there, at my side, through all of it. Holding my hand, wiping my hair out of my face. Every word his said was the right one. Never once did he upset me or make me feel anything but loved, adored and utterly cared for.
That day showed me that we could love each other in spite of the stress we had been through in the nine months we'd been waiting for this little boy. I knew I would never be with another man again in my life. I knew with the clarity that bespeaks of a divine intervention, if you believe in that sort of thing.
My reverie was broken when the collection of medical personnel gathered between my legs called Jay over with the words, "How does this look?". I will never forget those words or the look on his face and the color completely draining away as he looked at what had to be the most disgusting thing he'd every seen: a vagina freshly mangled by child birth, oh-so-carefully stitched back together. Not a pretty sight, I imagine.
We'd done it. He was here. They wheeled him away with a mask over his little baby face.
I didn't get to see him weighed. I didn't get to see him measured or watch them ink his little feet.
He was off to NICU. His lungs weren't as good as they'd thought and his heart rate was erratic. He needed oxygen. I was too exhausted to be scared, now. I'd been in labor for 20 hours, counting the pre-hospital contractions the day I was admitted, spending most of the night on that medicine ball I mentioned early and all I wanted was sleep. I had no idea what had just happened.
We got to see him a few hours later. He had stabilized and was doing good. Jay gave him his first bath and we found out he was born at 7 lbs 14 oz and was a whopping 22 inches long. The first time I got to feed him, we watched The Simpsons and to this day, the kid knows and recognizes anything and everything Simpsons-related.
Two days later, we went home. As he's grown, the problem with his lungs has stayed and will always be there. His distress during labor had been caused by a birth defect, a congenital malformation, called pectus excavatum; an indented sternum. His little chest cavity isn't as big as it should be; his lungs don't have enough room and neither does his little heart. Fortunately, we've managed to avoid any sort of heart trouble, so far.
I didn't know when we took him home what his first year would hold. I was blissfully oblivious. I had this beautiful, marvelous little being to occupy my thoughts and time. I had my baby and I was a mom. Seven years later, I am a much better mom, with vastly greater appreciation for the gift I was given that day. I have learned that to be a mom, you must put the needs of your children far above your own wants. You must love unconditionally, yourself included. You must be patience and kind, firm and strong. You must be willing to change and learn.
Phoenix has taught me all of this and volumes more. He has given me a gift I can never, ever repay; I owe it to him to be the best mom I can be. I am so grateful for him, so thankful to have him as my own. I would go through every challenge, all the years with no talking, all the tantrums and poopy diapers, the fights and stress, I would do it all again in a heartbeat, just to have him as my son.
So, to the little boy who stole my heart;
the little boy who gave me a light to see by;
the little boy who is no longer a little boy;
Happy Birthday. Mama loves you so much.