The Story of When You Were Born…

…begins one year ago today.

On October 2nd, 2011, I woke up feeling kind of blah.  Sort of tired, sort of sore, sort of out of sorts.  If I’d had it my way, I would have stayed in bed all day.  But I couldn’t.  I had to get up and get my new blue striped dress and Spanx maternity tights on, because it was a special day… my baby shower!

That morning, the most important girls in my life were throwing me a party: Emily, Jackie, Aunt Jennifer (who flew in from California), Meg, Mari, Ariel and both your grandmas.  We were having a fancy ladies’ brunch at a restaurant in Lincoln Square called Fork.  Dada told me to get it together and get going, so I did.  I’d gotten my nails done a pretty shade of orange the day before and had sweat like a pig through the whole appointment. It was weird.

The shower was so beautiful.  Everyone I loved– and that already loved you– was there.  We had some French toast that knocked my socks off and opened up a huge pile of gifts. I drank a ton of coffee.  Again, I sweat the whole time.  It was pretty gross.

Dada came at the end to say hello and to bring all the gifts home.  It was barely our home, because we’d just moved in a month before.  I organized the gifts a bit, but mostly I just shoved them in your crib (with no mattress yet), because I had plenty of time to organize them– you weren’t due for another 40 days.

I was so exhausted.  I felt kind of sick.  I thought perhaps I’d drank too much coffee, so maybe I was dehydrated.  I laid on the couch, started writing my thank you notes, and had some of the left over pulled pork from the dinner I’d made for Jennifer and Grandma and Grandpa K. the night before.  We watched a movie about an alien called Paul.  It was dumb.  Dada told me to go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep.

Dada always falls asleep in five seconds.  I don’t.  I laid next to him and felt a little splish-splash.  I had to pee.  I didn’t want to wake Dada up, so I went to the bathroom in the dark without turning the light on.  Back to bed. Another drip.  Had to pee again.  Had to pee a couple more times. And then… a funny feeling.  What was that?  I turned on the light in the bathroom, and I knew something wasn’t right.

I woke Dada up, and we decided to call the doctor.  I could tell she was asleep, but she told me to go the hospital. Dada sighed.  Since I’m so over-dramatic, we knew we’d have at least one false alarm, and it seemed this was it.  What should we bring?  I didn’t have a bag packed.  That didn’t seem to matter, since neither of us thought there was any chance This Was It.  I fed the cats in case we were gone a long time.  I was worried about coming back at 2 in the morning and looking for parking in our new neighborhood.   The doctor had told me to eat before we left the house, but I was so nervous that I couldn’t.

We got to the hospital at midnight.  We knew where to go, because we’d taken our birthing class at Northwestern Hospital just the week before.  They’d given us a tour.  All the other couples there seemed prepared.  They had duffel bags, suitcases, pillows.  I could hear them checking in.  “How far along are you?” “40 weeks.” “39 weeks.” “41 weeks.” I was only 34 1/2.  And I just knew you weren’t very big yet, even though the doctor had told me I was fine.

When the nurse came to check me, she said, “I think your water broke.”  I was sure it hadn’t.  There was no gush like on TV.  She took out a swab and said if it turned blue, that meant it was amniotic fluid.  It didn’t turn blue.  She said sometimes it doesn’t work, so she wanted to send a test to the lab.

We waited almost two hours.  A student doctor came in to scan you and see if you were upside down, the way you were supposed to be.  She asked me all these questions that I didn’t know the answers to, because it wasn’t time to know them yet.  We told her that we didn’t even know if I was in labor.  “Oh,” she said.  I think she knew before we did.

When the nurse returned a little after 2 a.m., she said: “You’re having this baby today.”

It didn’t sink in.  There was no way.  We weren’t ready.  YOU weren’t ready.  But I was glad my nails were done.

While we waited for them to move us to my room, I called Granma to tell her.  She was leaving for Outdoor Ed that morning, so I hadn’t called her to even tell her what was going on earlier, because I assumed nothing was going on.  She didn’t believe me when I told her.

The next 15 hours were kind of a blur.  They set us up in a room.  They gave me medicine to make my contractions start.  Water started gushing out.  A doctor came to explain to us that when you were born, they’d need to immediately take you to the NICU because you were premature.  No one seemed alarmed, but they were saying a lot of stuff we didn’t understand, and that was scary.

Something I DO remember is this:  At some point, Dada and I were standing in the bathroom, hugging.  We were scared.  I was hungry and not allowed to eat.  I was starting to hurt.  Everything was happening so fast, and everything just felt more.  We hugged some more, and I said, “Someday, this will all just be part of the story of the day she was born.”

Dada slept on the pull-out bed in the room, but I couldn’t.  I just keep staring at the little incubator bed that was next to mine.  The one that was all ready for you.  The bed was ready, but I didn’t know if I was.  They gave me my epidural around 7 in the morning.  At some point, Emily came to visit.  Granma and Granpa got there.  Granpa and Dada went home to get me my things and to check the kitties.  I don’t remember the order of things.

I do remember that I told my parents what your name was going to be.  They didn’t quite get it at the time.

The day dragged on and on.  I texted and emailed a lot.  I wasn’t allowed out of bed.  I was starving.  But no matter how much time passed, I wasn’t dilating.  Finally, things started to move quickly, and by 5pm, you were ready.  We kicked Granma, Granpa and Unka Joey out of the room, and the doctor said it was time.  Dada was on the phone registering up with the cord blood bank.  He barely hung up in time.

Dr. Tam told me most first-time mothers have to push one to two hours.  I knew you’d be out faster than that.  We started, and I asked them to bring a mirror in so we could watch.  Dada was right next to me.  I pushed a couple more times, and we could see your head.  I was told to stop– the NICU doctors weren’t there yet!  Finally, about six more people came to the room.  All their pagers were beeping.  I told them they were rude.  The doctor explained the beepers were telling them to come here– the beeps were for me.  Oops.

In the movies, they show women having babies as an awful experience.  I loved it.  I loved pushing.  Maybe that was because at only 25 minutes in, out you came.  Dada was videotaping, but his finger was over the camera for a lot of it.

Monday, October 3rd, 2011 at 5:35 p.m.

You were so small.  And you were mine.

I wish I could remember more about this moment.  I more just picture the pictures, because that’s what I’ve seen.  I know I held you, because we have it on tape.  They whisked you away to the other side of the room to check you out.  Three pounds, thirteen ounces.  That scared us.  You were so small.  And you were ours.

I got to hold you again, and then they had to take you to the NICU.  They wheeled you out, and I know Granma, Granpa and Joey saw you in the hallway.  You stared at them with your big black eyes.  You took Granma’s breath away.

I didn’t get to see you again for almost three hours.  In that time, I ate a sandwich and some fruit the nurse brought.  I texted people that you were here and roughly the size of a Subway Sandwich.  Uncle Daryl came to visit.  He was technically your first visitor, just as he was for me when I was born 33 years earlier.

After they moved me to another room, it was time.  I was still weak and had been awake for about 36 hours straight, so I got pushed in a wheelchair.  We all went down together to see you.  You were all cleaned up and had on a little pink hat with a bow.  A nurse had drawn you a sign in crayon that said, “Josephine.”

You were so small.  You were so perfect.  And after waiting for you for my whole life, you were finally here… and all mine.

For the next three weeks, you lived in the NICU.  Dada and I went home after two days, and it made us so sad to leave you.  Every day, I would get there around 9 and spend the day with you.  We’d talk and cuddle and eat and sleep.  I loved changing your diaper.  They weighed every single one.  When you ate 17 milliliters, Dad (who would come after work) and I would jump for joy.  We burped you with two fingers.  We put you inside our shirts to stay warm.  One day, we showed up and you were wearing a shirt.  They dressed you in little donated outfits.  You moved rooms twice.  We had views of the lake.  We had lots of visitors.  Emily would come during work.  Uncle Greg would take the bus, and I would yell at him for not washing his hands before he touched you.  Grandma and Grandpa Kozak came often.  But the days dragged on, and I was sick of  microwaving my lunch in the sad train depot of a waiting room with another dad who never talked to me once and had a little girl named Delilah.

You gained weight and lost weight.  Sometimes, your heart rate would drop really low.  That’s why you had to stay.  You had to keep it regular for five days in a row.  We held our breath every time.  Once, they called at 10 at night to say it had dropped again.  I was so tired that I didn’t have the strength to drive myself there. Unka Joey picked me up and came to see you with me.

There were so many nice nurses there taking care of you.  Our favorite was named Kim.  They taught us how to feed you, how to burp you, how to swaddle you, how to give you a bath.  We even took a CPR class there.

On October 24th, it was time to take you home.  I dressed you in a lime green suit with a cupcake on it.  We put you in your orange car seat.  We had a Posey Parade Caravan followed by a Barnaby’s pizza party (at Dada’s request).

Off we drove.  I sat in the back seat with you.  In that car seat, you were so small. And you were all mine.

And now, it’s October 2nd again.  The leaves are turning, and when I go outside, the air smells just the way it did a year ago on those 20 mornings I would get in my car and drive to the hospital.  I think for the rest of my life, the smell of summer turning into fall will remind me of You Being Born.

Happy first birthday, Pie.  Thank you for the best year of my life… not only because you were a part of it, but because you give me the strength and inspiration every day to do things I’ve always dreamed of.

I love you.

Love, Mama

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