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Zeke is nine days old today. Four years of yearning have come to a fruitful and blessed conclusion with his birth. I can hardly express how much better it is in every possible way to be able to snuggle with him outside of my body instead of carrying him within. Our lives have changed so much in the past couple weeks that any words I can think of frankly seem inadequate to the task of describing what we’re feeling and have experienced, but–being a writer–I feel compelled to try to come up with those words anyway. So here are a few brief chapters.
I. The Birth Story (only for those who are truly interested)
We checked into the hospital on a Sunday night so I could be induced on the day before my due date because the doctors suspected Zeke was particularly big and might be too large to be delivered normally if we waited until he was late. The clinical term for this, we learned in the hospital, is macrosomia. It turned out that he was not gigantic, or even bigger than his sister was at birth, although he felt much bigger and heavier to me when I was pregnant. And throughout the day I labored, every person who gave me an exam said, “wow, he has a big head.”
But it was definitely the right time for him to be born. My OB showed me after Zeke was born a knot in his umbilical cord. She said it was a loose knot, but a knot all the same. Anyway, mid-morning on Monday they started me on Pitocin. I breathed through the contractions for a few hours. The doctor broke my water. An Austrian anesthesiologist gave me an epidural. Every single nurse I interacted with in the labor and delivery ward was fantastic. They were all professional, knowledgeable, helpful, and kind. In terms of the hospital staff, our experience this time was completely different than when Zoe was born. It was a pleasure giving birth at Virginia Hospital Center.
Sometime in the evening the contractions broke through the epidural, my cervix went from 5cm to 10cm dilated in less than an hour, Zeke’s heart rate dropped, they gave me oxygen, and suddenly it was time to push. I pushed for nine minutes and he was out. It was a great labor and delivery. Thankful and relieved.
II. Best Baby Daddy Ever
I am so thankful for my husband. He was extraordinarily wonderful throughout every moment of my labor and delivery and those first days in the hospital and at home. It has been powerful to watch him fall in love with our son and I have deeply appreciated everything he has done for me, for Zoe, and for Zeke. None of us is happy that he has to be back at work now. All of us are lucky that he is Zoe and Zeke’s dad.
She has also said, “I wish I were Zeke,” and “I wish I could nurse,” and “Zeke’s getting more attention than me,” and there have been more than a couple moments of sisterly anguish. We know this is normal. It is not unexpected. But it is not easy either. It’s hard when it’s my turn to put Zoe to bed and Zeke interrupts us by demanding dinner number two or three. Zoe loves it (as do I) that I can once again snuggle in bed with her without my belly getting in the way, that I can sit on the floor to play with her, and that I am not quite as delicate as I recently was.
But competing for attention is hard, especially with someone who is attached at the breast to your mom for a good chunk of every day and night. She has insisted that he sleep in the crib in their room even though he sometimes squeaks very loudly at night. She has stopped asking to carry him around. She is enjoying the extra attention from her grandparents who are here to help out, and she hungrily soaked up all the extra time with Daddy before he returned to work. It’s a transition and an adjustment for all of us, and we’ve been very honest about that with her.
When she was holding him on her lap, in her bed at bedtime the other night, I asked her how she felt when she held him. “Proud,” she said. We’ll go with that, for now.
My friend Kim says this post-arrival haze is called Planet Newborn in her family. Makes sense to me. Spending hours nursing or just holding this little person who recently lived inside of you is an otherworldly experience. It can be meditative. It can be exhausting. It feels miraculous and at some moments overwhelming. Sometimes you never want to leave, because you know you can’t go back (at least with this baby). Your regularly scheduled existence feels so far away, which may be a good thing, but which you also know is not sustainable. I don’t want to think about the future too much because it kind of breaks my heart, and because I need to be in this Zen place right now to attend to Zeke. But at the same time, I have a kindergartener to whom I want and need to give generous love and attention to right now as well. But I don’t want to think about returning to my work, or making a to-do list, or anything else besides loving my family and providing for some of our basic needs. That’s all I can handle right now, and all that I’m good for.