Six years ago today, I was sitting at my desk emailing with my writing students. It was Sunday night, around 11 pm, but they were all on line and a little freaked out that–despite plenty of warning (and the daily evidence of my growing belly)–I wasn’t going to finish out the quarter with them. The previous Friday, at my 38-week check-up, my ob had put an end to my two-hour daily commute. I went on maternity leave without ever returning to campus.
So there I was, typing away, when I realized my water had broken. I logged off with the students, emailed a quick note to my department chair, and called my ob’s answering service, where a weary nurse listened to my nervous answers to her questions about my symptoms (none, other than the water breaking), told me get some sleep and call back in the morning.
Tony emailed his new boss (he’s only been in the job about two weeks), and started packing a bag. He tossed in the Sunday paper and a crossword puzzle book — apparently we thought we’d run out of things to do in the hospital. We didn’t know anything yet about how all-consuming (and yet often quite boring) parenting can be. The cradle wasn’t set up, the car seat was in the car but we didn’t know how to use it. I went to sleep.
A couple hours later I woke up with a contraction, announced the news to Tony, and went back to sleep. A few hours after that I had a contraction that about kicked me out of bed. I spent the next hour or so moaning, counting down the time until we could reasonably go to the hospital. We were both so afraid of getting to the hospital too early; it had been drummed into us to wait until the contractions were a certain duration and coming at certain intervals. Mine were totally irregular and knocking me off my feet. I felt pathetic that I couldn’t handle them. Tony called the hospital and told them we were coming in.
We got to the hospital around 7:30 and the nurse who examined me said I was fully dilated. I could have kissed her. Suddenly full of energy, I managed to get through the admitting procedures and get into a room before pushing Ben out into the world just after 9.
Ben likes to hear the story of the day he was born when he is falling asleep or feeling sad, and this is the version I tell him:
“When you were in my belly I was a teacher. Every day I would drive to a school with long brick pathways and big green lawns. I carried a heavy backpack, bigger than yours, full of papers and books, from my office to my classroom. My students and I would talk about books together, and I would help them write essays about what they read.
“Until one day, my doctor said, ‘I think your baby’s going to be born soon. I think it’s time for you to stop working.’ So that day I went to the movies. And the next day, Daddy and I visited with a lot of our friends and told them how excited we were to meet you. That night, I felt you start to kick and wiggle in a new way, and I called my doctor, who told me to wait until morning to come to the hospital. So I went to sleep.
“But you kept kicking and wiggling until I couldn’t sleep anymore, so Daddy and I got up and he drove us to the hospital super fast. We parked the car and rode upstairs in the elevator, and when we got off the elevator, the nurse said, “You look great!” because nurses love to see a woman who’s about to have a baby.
“She took me to my hospital room, and helped me into my hospital nightgown, and I climbed into my hospital bed, and I pushed and I pushed and I pushed and out you came! And you had your arms spread wide, and I reached out to cuddle you up, and I said, “Benjamin! Benjamin is here! I am so happy that Benjamin is here.”
And I am still so happy that Benjamin is here.