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3:52 p.m. - 2011-01-16
8 Years is a long time, but 26 years is a mere blip.

I wrote this eight years ago. I dug it out and re-read it thinking it'd be too hokey and schmaltzy to put up here again. And it is hokey and schmaltzy, but sentimental and sappy things are just as valid as cynical and ugly things so why not go for it? Besides, I'm not embarrassed when I cry at the movies and when they play the National Anthem at ballgames, why be embarrassed about this? Well, I kinda am, not from its sentimentality but because I can see how much my writing has evolved over the years and the clunkiness of this piece makes me cringe a little. Yet it's a true thing. True then, true now.

Alex is 18

18 years ago today I woke up a little past 2:00am with an urgent need to move my bowels. I lumbered to the can and did so. My back hurt a bit so instead of going back to bed I sat down on the couch with a cup of tea and a book. It took about 45 minutes for me to realize that my “backache” waxed and waned in fairly regular intervals. Duh! I timed the next “backache” spasm and sure enough it was about 6 minutes since the last one. Labor? It was about time.

We’d been waiting for this kid for over a month. My official due date had been Christmas Eve, but when the doctor measured me in November he’d said my baby was already over 7 pounds and might show up at any time from then on. So we got ready and waited. And waited. And waited. Turkey Day. Christmas Day. On New Year’s Eve we went to a party and everyone made me dance, hoping that it would jump start my labor and I’d have a New Year’s baby. No soap. Almost 3 weeks more. I’d be pregnant forever. But finally on January 16, 1985 my “little” one decided to come out and say hello.

I’d gone through most of my pregnancy with very little prenatal care. Too broke. I’d gone to the free clinic early on when I’d started spotting. The doctor told me if I wanted to keep my baby I had to quit my job and rest. I’d done so, but that meant we were hard against it for money. No Lamaze classes. No sprees at BabyWorld to buy Jenny Lind cribs and matching rocking chairs. It took 3 months just to scrape together the $40 for a car seat. At 7 months I’d found a GP who still did OB work and he agreed to take me on. $10 per check-up and he’d base his delivery fee on what the hospital charged us for the birth. The hospital had a sliding fee scale based on income. We were so poor the hospital ended up charging us nothing. So did the doc. Alex was a freebie.

Back to the birth story.

I woke Mike up around 3:30. He grunted, said I was full of shit (he was certain I’d NEVER go into labor and would need a C-section), and rolled over and went back to sleep. Too fidgety to sleep myself, I made a doll for my baby from an old pillowcase. A lopsided gingerbread boy with an embroidered face. I stitched and watched the clock. By 7:00 the pains still weren’t very strong, but were coming 3 minutes apart. I woke Mike again and demanded he take me to the hospital. On the way we stopped at Deb’s house. Mike adjusted her Camaro’s carburetor. Mike was calm. I was calm. But when Deb found out I was in LABOR and not just visiting, she went berserk and did that Ricky Ricardo “The baby is coming!!!” spaz attack. She ran around in demented circles and screamed at Mike for futzing with her car while his wife was about to pop. She raced inside, put an enormous pot of water to boil, came back out and ran in more circles. More to ease her mind than because the need felt urgent, Mike wiped his greasy hands and got behind the wheel of our Bug. Off to the hospital.

The doc came by before office hours. I was in labor sure enough, but making very little progress. He broke my water and said he’d be back later to check on me. By 11:00 it was starting to HURT. The nurses seemed indifferent, and one was downright nasty and told me to shut up. She was about 8 months along herself and likely exorcizing her own labor fears, but I was embarrassed and did my best not to cry any more. They plugged in an IV of Pitocin. Wham! One HUGE contraction that didn’t let up until 6 hours later when Alex finally came out. No puffing. No transition breathing. No urge to push. Just that awful full body contraction. Even my ears were clenched.

5:00pm. The delivery room. The doc, now gowned and masked, took a look and said that my baby was stuck! He gave me a shot of Novocain, but instead of numbing my zorch, my left leg went numb. When he did the episiotomy I felt every snip. The doc then jammed his arm up there and gave the baby a half turn. I shrieked. The nasty nurse told me to shut up again and the doc chided her and said I had every reason to yell. I could have kissed him. Then I felt this weird SLITHER and plump! One long, long, long pale purple baby came out. A boy. I had a son.

Up until then Mike had been okay, but when Alex came out with a big dark clot of placenta stuck to his head Mike thought the doc had punched a HOLE in the baby’s head with his finger and he went wobbly and dead white. The mean nurse told him to sit down before he fainted. Mike sat.

Meanwhile they suctioned Alex, but he didn’t start to breathe spontaneously. The doc did a bit of mouth-to-mouth to get him going. It worked and my baby howled. He pinked up nicely. They put him in a warming tray with an oxygen spray, wheeled him up by my head for a second so I could see him and then whisked Alex away. It was 4 hours before I saw my baby again.

Mike left too. He had a roll of quarters and went out to call everyone to tell them the baby was here. The doc left too. So did the nurses. I was left by myself in the delivery room wondering what the hell just happened. It was very anti-climactic.

Eventually a different nurse came in. She helped me deliver the afterbirth. She held up what looked like a liver with a purple and yellow bungee cord attached to it. She weighed it and said, “Wow! 2 pounds! That must have been one big baby! Congratulations!” The doc came back, stitched me up, patted my shoulder, and said the baby was fine. I cried a little and thanked him.

Got fixed up in a room. My roommate had had a preemie and when they brought us our babies I was proud and a little embarrassed by the contrast between them. My baby was literally twice the size of hers. I held my son for the first time and looked at his squinched up face. His eyes were swollen shut. His head was nearly bald and was crowned with an off center lump. His nose was squished almost flat. His skin wasn’t wrinkly, but it was flaky and so thin I could see his veins.

He was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

Today, by law, my son is officially a man. A legal adult with all the rights and privileges therein. But this morning when I kissed him good-bye, beneath the beard and the glasses all I could see was that same squinched up baby face I looked down at 18 years ago... and he was still the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

The End.

It's eight years later and Alex truly is a man grown. 26. There's no fudging about that, when you're 26 you're a real and truly adult person. Yet I know if I could look at his 26 year old face my mother's eyes would still see that squinched up baby face. But I won't see him today or anytime soon or maybe even ever again. Life goes strange and sad and hard sometimes, you know?

Anyway, Happy Birthday, Alex.

Love, ~Mom

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