I became a mother on Mother's Day. Fitting isn't it? To join the ranks of so many, on a day meant just for them? We all thought so.
My pregnancy was just like any other. The excitement when we first found out. The nausea that followed. And then I had that extreme nausea reserved for a lucky few - hyperemesis. We soldiered through it with a picc line and zofran, and by midway through my pregnancy I was back to work and back to normal. I must have spent hours dreaming of my baby. What he would look like (we found out the sex) and how he would sound. His soft little head and tiny hands and feet. I looked forward to his birth every minute of every hour of every day for 9 long months. 38 weeks and 1 day to be exact. We all know pregnant women count down in weeks to that magical 40, the due date circled on the calendar, the day the dream comes true.
My water broke in the afternoon, the day before Mother's Day. It was time. I can still remember that drive to the hospital... joking with my husband about how the bad paving job on the road was not making contractions any easier. Arriving at the hospital (where I'd worked in Labor and Delivery until 4 weeks prior, when I got sent home to bedrest) to all my friends saying, "Are you here for real?! Yay!" Changing into the gown I'd handed to so many women before me. It was finally my turn. Finally my time to have a baby that I could take home and keep.
Little did I know that soon I would be joining another sisterhood. This one is much smaller. We are the ones whose moment of delivery is accompanied by a small gasp - nearly inaudable - that comes before words that make our hearts fall to the center of the earth. I will never forget Jodell's words as she delivered Rowan into the world. She said, "Milli, he's beautiful. But you need to know before I give him to you. He has a cleft lip."
There. Did you hear it? That gasp. It means the world as we knew it had come to an end.
The dream baby we had planned on and wished for - for 38 weeks and 1 day - didn't get here.
Instead, I had this little stranger. This baby I didn't bargain for or count on. This life that was going to have an extra hurdle. for all of us.
Those first few days are days that no one can understand unless they've been there. We of the sisterhood know all about it. The tests, the reassurances, the platitudes... some blame. A lot of guilt. It doesn't matter if the baby has something highly visible like mine did, or something that couldn't be seen at a glance, but was there waiting to be discovered. We've been there.
But slowly, this little person who I didn't ask for and didn't want began to do something to me. He wrapped his little hands around my heart and found a place there. He looked at me with a soul older than time, and a purpose greater than myself. And he became everything in the world to me.
I learned to pump so we could feed him. John and I both became masters at reading his cues and timing his swallow so we could squeeze milk into him at the right pace. Those newborn days are a blur to me now. Aren't they always? By the end of that first week, the joy had replaced most of the fear. We had relearned what beauty was. It wasn't a baby's face. It was the way he burrowed his little head into your neck as you picked him up. It was every little thing about a person, all put together into one little bundle that stole your heart.
That bundle has grown. My has he grown! We got through that first tough year. We spent some time doing therapies. But mostly... we've just had our boy. Our loving, bright, imaginative boy. Can you believe he's 4? Four years ago I couldn't imagine this day. Four years ago I was in a fog, and didn't know how much joy that little baby would bring to me. I'm glad I got to find out.
He's my beautiful, amazing, fantastic boy. And today he's 4. Ask him if he's special. He's got the pefect answer. "Ya. I'm just a pretty cool kid. I'm a regular kind of guy."