It was a dark and stormy night.
No that’s not right.
Once upon a time?
It was a cold morning in February… Yes that was it exactly.
It was a cold morning in February and I was lying in bed, awake, waiting for it to be 6 a.m. That’s an acceptable time to get out of bed, right? I got out of bed to log my required hour as cleaning fairy extraordinaire before your crazy sister woke up to turn the quiet morning into happy chaos.
After the house was (somewhat) clean, I twiddled my thumbs until the clock struck exactly 7 a.m. That’s an acceptable time to wake up your husband, right? You’re husband who is desperately trying to sleep in and relax…on his day off too… shame on me. But my philosophy is and will always be, if I’m up, you’re up too! (It’s genetic.)
Anyway, I was on a mission. My super pregnant behind was determined to go on a maternity clothes shopping extravaganza and take advantage of certain President’s Day sales I had been scoping out. I needed just a few more wardrobe staples (as I insisted to your Daddy) to get me through the last 7 (maybe more if you were going by my calendar) weeks of your pregnancy. So I showered, got dressed in my makes-me-feel-cute-and-not-frumpy outfit; brown Uggs, white skirt, and blue long sleeve t-shirt, and piled myself, your Dad and your sister into the car. I was steering us North of the city a little ways, maybe 30 minutes or so away from our house.
Armed with coupons and gummies for Lilly, we pulled into the Old Navy parking lot to begin shopping day stop number one. And not a moment too soon as I was literally peeing my pants trying to hold it long enough to make it to the bathroom. Unfortunately for me you seemed to be permanently camped out on my bladder for your entire 7 months existence. Only weeks before said shopping trip, you had me doubled over the sink at home, hurling up the little bit of breakfast I was trying to keep down which subsequently caused me to spring a leak and completely pee my pants in the kitchen. Lilly was appauled as she watched my stretchy maternity leggings funnel the liquid directly into the openings of my perfect, gray, Christmas-present-from-Daddy-Uggs. Ugh! Pregnancy is super glamorous just in case you haven’t heard.
So back to Old Navy, I did not, in fact, make it to the bathroom fast enough. I totally and completely peed my white skirt. Damn. Tail between my legs, I scuttled out of the bathroom to tell Daddy. Hysterically laughing, I told him what I had done and informed him that he had to go find and then buy some lady undergarments into which I could do a quick change to rectify this sticky situation- har har. We both were tears-in-our-eyes laughing as I ran back to the bathroom feeling like I had to pee yet again.
And then I couldn’t leave the bathroom. The (what I then thought was) pee was trickling down my legs and I couldn’t make it stop. I thought it was because I was so out of control, laughing like a crazy girl that my bladder was just exploding, but Daddy quickly decided it was time to go to the hospital. Had my water just broken? Was that even possible?
I was induced with Lilly- so I never experienced the water brake sensation- and we were in February which, last time I checked, wasn’t even neighbors with April on the calendar. This couldn’t be my water breaking! I fought tooth and nail to just stay at Old Navy long enough to check out the sale, to just peek through a few racks, that we drove all this way and I would be damned if we were going to waste all that gas with nothing to show for it. But in the end Daddy won. Eyes rolling (on the inside) I humored your Dad and got us all back in the car and got on the phone with my doctor and then your Mom Mom. If my own Mother thought this was my water breaking- I would raise the white flag.
And guess what? I had to surrender.
You were on your way, apparently ignorant to the calendar month we were currently in. Double ugh! I was sitting in the car, cold, soaked in amniotic fluid, cracking up laughing.
We got to Magee Hospital in Pittsburgh a half hour later where I waddled in and up to triage. This was no small feat, mind you, as I had to hold your sisters hand- who insisted on walking turtle pace (slower actually) instead of having Dad carry her, and hear the sound of amniotic fluid squishing around in my soaked Uggs… in a white skirt. It was pretty ridiculous. Thank goodness it was funny though because it distracted us all from the simple fact that you were not ready to be born- I mean that medically speaking because obviously you had your own agenda and were good and ready right then.
Once we were at the hospital, the cavalry was called and put on high alert. Grammy came to get Lilly and take her home for lunch and a nap, and the doctors informed us that, Today- on this cold February bank holiday Monday, we were having a baby! Because I was six weeks and four days away from my official due date and not seven weeks and any days away from that day, the doctors decided we would let you come on out and join us since your lungs were most likely mature.
Your Dad and I sat in triage waiting for a labor and delivery room for hours. I literally think about five hours passed as we waited for a room to clear out. Of course all of Pittsburgh decided to go into labor on a bank holiday. It wasn’t bad though. A few hours of undivided Mommy Daddy time is always nice no matter where we are or what we are doing. Dad and I joke that our best dates are spent at the hospital. Sigh.
I briefly panicked over the thought of not having my family there for your birth as they had been for Lilly’s but since only your Dad and I were in the actiual delivery room anyway, it didn’t really matter. They were coming as soon as they could. Some assemblance of Mom Mom and Pop Pop and Sammy were on their way and that made me feel good. Luckily I had my cell phone to cling to as I nervously texted my parents back and forth.
The sweet nurses finally moved us into a “real” room, one that looked and felt exactly like the one I birthed your sister in. And it might sound strange, but the whole thing felt very familiar which was comforting. The lights were kind of dim and cozy and it was pretty quiet. We had done this before and we could certainly do it again. Bonus points to my body for being strep-B negative this time and not needing the IV full of searingly painful antibiotics. Dad put on my favorite channel- Food Network, was there really any question?- and we drooled over all the food they were making that I wished I could eat for a few hours while we waited for my cervix to dilate (which it was doing quickly all on its own!). I’m pretty sure I plotted my after-birth meal flip-flopping back and forth between sushi and eighteen tuna fish sandwiches washed down with a mojito and a margarita.
I was comfortable after the epidural (which was less than stellar and characterized by the anesthesiologist casually exclaiming, “Oops” and “Woops” and my favorite, “Yes, Nurse? Please call and page Dr. So-and-so and tell her that I am not confident in the cath placement.” Um, what?! You just placed a needle in my spine which I am ready to stick up your you-know-where, my husband looks green, and I cannot even breathe and you are calling a doctor about your unconfident needle placement?). But as you can guess I survived, and I even slept for a few hours late in the evening waking up, practically screaming at your Dad “PUSH THAT RED BUTTON!” to get the nurse because you were literally falling out of me.
Of course you managed to slip your way into the world just before midnight on Monday, February 20th. All 4 pounds 15 ounces of you, arms flailing, lungs strong. You opened your eyes and you were moving. There were ten perfect little fingers curled around ours and ten long and delicate toes. You had a dash of dark hair covering your head and the tiniest little mouth I’ve ever seen. You intestines appeared to be all on the inside- thank God- and your entire little body took up the smallest amount of space in Daddy’s arms. We kissed you a hundred times before the NICU team gently whisked you away to be checked out.
I don’t remember too much after that except the clock on the wall. Watching the black hands turn round and round as we waited over two hours for the nurses to tell us it was time to go down to see you. We probably pestered them every five minutes but they were very, very sweet and kind and knew we just wanted to see our little baby. I would later learn that my iron was extremely low- that coupled with the blood loss from your birth meant I was probably just super, incredibly, understandably exhausted- hence the slight memory lapses. I know that the OB on call that delivered you stitched me up (somehow your tiny self tore me apart) and the nurses were there regularly massaging the crap out of my uterus encouraging it to contract and return to normal size.
Our little cloud of worry momentarily lifted as around two a.m. Daddy helped me into a wheel chair and maneuvered us down to the NICU. We got through the double doors into what I can only describe as a baby holding cell- a room full of more (mostly empty) incubators, wires, equipment and monitors than I’ve ever seen. And amidst it all, there you were. A tiny, breathing, pinkish orange little bundle- totally asleep and unaware. We picked you up and held you and took all kinds of pictures as you slept, instinctively nuzzling in as Mommy and Daddy held you close and kissed your cheeks. I wanted to nurse you again, snuggling you close to my bare skin. You sound asleep, completely limp, but you opened you tiny perfect mouth and latched on just as it was meant to be. Much better than your sister, even. You knew me and I loved you as i felt i always had and always would. I just remember thinking, What is Lilly going to think of this real baby? How amazing will it be to see your sister meet you and hold you and kiss you?
And it was amazing, pretty girl. We spent too long in the NICU worrying over you and crying and being scared. All of your family came to watch over you and hold you and give you all the love in the world. They held us up when everything was crumbling into sickening dread. But every single one of those moments is overshadowed by the happiness we felt at meeting you, at introducing you to your big sister. She instantly loved you. There was no jealousy, only tender curiosity. Daddy and I marveled at our two beautiful, amazingly perfect girls.
So I forgive you for ruining two pairs of Uggs. I forgive you for neglecting to check the calendar. And I forgive you for breaking our hearts with joy and happiness because I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I want you to know that no medical problem, big or small, will ever overshadow the love we feel for you now or the happiness we felt on your birth day. We were scared for you, worried for you, and anxious for you, but we were mostly just happy to meet you and get to hold you in our arms.
You are so loved, Grace Jane, by more people in this world than I care to count.
Love forever and ever,
Happy six month birthday baby girl.