Imperfect life; Perfect baby

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A son. That little boy who steals your heart. It’s hard to imagine him giving away his heart to another. It’s hard not to see him as your little boy even when he weighs 230 pounds and you have to look up to him. Even when out of the corner of your eye, you’re not sure if it’s your son or your husband.

My little boy is about to turn 17. We’ve survived almost a year of him driving behind the wheel. He reminds me all the time that he is a good driver. Better than his sister. Well, that’s because he is a rule follower. He keeps the peace. Where his older sister likes to stand on the tip of the line and lean over to test the boundaries, he will stay within sight of the line. She’s gotten a speeding ticket; he tows the line.

My older two children are as different as my husband and I, but are about as close as two siblings can be. And with that, one of my prayers was answered the way I asked.

I didn’t face any problems getting pregnant with either of them. It may have been my young age, but I like to think that it was God allowing one thing to go smoothly in my life.

Tensions were high when I left the nest. My career plans were unsettling. Money in our marriage early on was extremely tight. I had said I would never marry a preacher. This created all kinds of havoc. I had hated being a preacher’s kid and didn’t want to do that to my kids. I wasn’t one of the rebellious preacher’s kids, but even so, I felt the pressure. The pressure of the microscope. The pressure of living in a glass house.

But that story is for another day. Today I’m delving into my feelings about my boy. And how, when I just knew in my heart that we would never be able to afford more than two children, (God has a way of doing what we think is impossible) —I asked God for a boy.

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Even though I was exhausted running after a 20 month old, I had a desperate desire for my children to be close in age. I wanted them to grow up together. And God granted my prayer. I just had to think about getting pregnant, or so it seemed. I had easy pregnancies. I enjoyed the thicker, longer hair, the stronger, longer nails, and the bright skin and eyes. I had that glow.

My deliveries seem easy compared with a lot of the grueling stories I’ve heard. I got through without an epidural the first time, so I thought I could do it the second time.

Probably not the best choice. Different hospital, second baby, unsympathetic, weak bedside manner of my nurse nun. I had done it before. No need to coddle this mother.

She did try to warn me. I had not felt any contractions, even though my body had been gearing up silently. I was between five and six centimeters dilated at the doctor’s office – two and half weeks early. By the time I got to the hospital I was between seven and eight and hadn’t felt a single contraction. Zero pain. It was my miracle. I think God made my pregnancies and deliveries relatively smooth because he knew what I would have to deal with after the birth. After I took the baby home that I had prayed for. Postpartum depression.

The nun hadn’t been exaggerating when she said my pain would be very intense after she broke my water. I wish she would have exaggerated more. Maybe then I would have had the epidural. But I didn’t and so 30 minutes later I was begging for one. Anything.

But the answer was no. My baby boy would be here soon. In less than an hour to be exact. I don’t really remember the agony, but I do remember it was awful. At the time, I wished I wasn’t feeling every knife slashing pain, that my body would have helped me out with some natural made endorphins. But when I heard his healthy cry a few minutes later —-when they handed him to me crying, beet red —when we all laughed when he peed on his dad while cutting the cord—-when those same cries were stilled, the moment he heard my voice, all was forgotten.

It wasn’t a perfect, idyllic labor like the natural birthing classes promote. (I remember hearing the nurse yell at my husband to hold one of my legs down. I wasn’t a very cooperative patient. Kicking and screaming. I’m sure I traumatized every other woman in labor on that wing on that day. To those women – I’m really sorry!)

No, it wasn’t a perfect labor. But he was the closest thing to a perfect baby. I mean really —I had his sister to compare him to. She would cry for seemingly no reason and want to nurse around the clock. Refused to sleep in her crib.

No, Drew was my perfect baby. He would cry only when hungry. Even a dirty diaper didn’t upset him. And sleep. Not to worry. This kid has always put himself to bed. When he was a toddler, even in preschool, we’d turn around and there would be Drew – lying on his stomach, onto dreamland. He even slept in his high chair. He would nod off after his tummy was full. He didn’t need his mouth wiped off to be able to relax.  Most of the pictures of the first six months were of him sleeping.

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Yes, he was my perfect baby, and that’s part of what made what I went through so sad. I loved this child, but I was not equipped to take care of him. Not in the way I wanted. Sometimes I would just rock him, and I would be the one crying. What is wrong with me? Why am I not happy?

I’ll spare you the scary moments when I had to call my husband at work. When he had to race home because he was afraid. It’s so hard for me to remember those times. And I’m sure I have blocked out the worst.

I’m not talking about the baby blues that many women experience the first few days or weeks; I’m talking about a heavy stone on your chest that lasts for months.

It’s okay to talk about postpartum depression. It’s not you. You’re not a failure just because your body has rebelled and isn’t cooperating with your heart. Your heart is full. Reach out. Get some help. Medication brought me back. Yes, it meant I had to give up nursing when he was four months old, but my baby needed his mother, not the milk that others sometimes so lovingly guilt new moms into.

So much of my time spent as Drew’s mom has been covered in guilt. I’m just not worthy of the great baby, toddler, child, son he’s been.

His first few minutes out of the womb are etched in my memory, seared to my heart. He had a hearty, newborn healthy cry, but he’s always making us laugh when we take things too seriously. I mean, c’mon, his dad was freaked out and serious about cutting the cord, so Drew pees on him, making us all laugh. While holding him in my arms for the first time, I began talking to him, and he quieted. It was beautiful. He knew my voice. He was listening to my voice. He relaxed and knew he was home.

Drew’s first minutes from the womb have been his heart’s cry for the past 16 ¾ of his life. He is a fighter, hence the crying. He is determined.

But he is gentle. Meek. A listener. He feels things deeply.

And just when we’re all taking life too seriously, he does something to make us all lighten up, like peeing on his dad as he cuts the cord.

 

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He has taught me so much, but one of my favorites is this:  I’ll never give up. I have a son who is listening to my every word. He is counting on me. And I can count on him.

A few days ago he gave me a letter for my birthday which he had handwritten. A page long. Pretty much unheard of in this day and time of cell phones and texting.

It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read. Here’s part of his heart:  “Through your writing and getting rejected you’ve shown me to be relentless in everything I do. If I want something all I have to do is go after it. Thanks for everything. ‘Never understood why we dedicate certain days to people who should be celebrated every day.’”

In case you’re wondering – it was a wonderful birthday. One of the best.

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3 thoughts on “Imperfect life; Perfect baby

  1. Mendy, once again, you have moved me to tears with your beautiful, heartfelt words! So much of your story is like my own, my two children are 21 months apart in age. Thank you so much for sharing, I have now revisited some very precious memories!

  2. I love this sharing of your heart. I cried, bitterly, almost every day when I went back to work and had to leave Alexa… Even if I did leave her with Jerry. Your tenacity is inspiring!

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