I have flashbacks to all the winters I’ve known in LA, driving, driving, always driving before I had a baby, the hour when NPR turned into news and I had to switch the headlights on. I’d be in a cocoon of darkness with whatever joys or defeats of the day. I’d talk to my agent or manager one last time and then hang up, wrap my sweater around me tighter in the car, and drive on. Those dark afternoon felt so lonely.
I had always imagined babies and summer and white onesies in the yellow sun just always go together. Too many laundry commercials? But Akiva was born in December. It was very dark all the time. Especially since a newborn is as likely to be awake at 2 am as he is at 2 pm, I always seemed to look out the windows into blackness. He was always swaddled up tight and I was always in a ratty sweatsuit and the kind of large socks that aren’t meant to worn with shoes. When I’d put him in the big wrap around body sling I’d bought and take him for a walk, I felt like he had to be bundled in so tightly to stay warm that I’d close my jackets and zip it over both of us.
The early darkness these days makes me really think of that transition into motherhood. It rained the day we took him home from the hospital, I sat in the back seat with him. I was just getting used to how he was a totally different person. That after all those months, he looked like that! He has my husband’s eyes, and trust me, he really has them. Akiva’s tiny little strange delicate newborn body was totally mismatched with that set of eyes I already knew. Rain streaked down the windows. He was ours.
I didn’t feel immediate euphoria as a mother. I was exhausted. I had a c section after 4+ days of labor, and had stretches of sleep lasting no more than 4 hrs that entire time. My water had broken in the middle of the night, while I was sleeping. It was very anti-climactic. I woke up and went to the bathroom in a daze, trying to figure out if I had peed in my sleep and why would I have done that? In the back of my mind, I knew my water broke, but I was trying to convince myself otherwise because I really didn’t want it to be. It was 2 weeks early. My OB thought I would be late. At my last appointment there was no sign of anything happening. I was in that minority of beta strep positive women, and my OB knew I didn’t want to be hooked up to any IV antibiotics during labor, so I was taking oral antibiotics and hoping to re-test before I went into labor. I wanted 2 more weeks.
I went back to bed. In the morning we went to the doctor’s office and yes my water broke. But my contractions weren’t doing anything. I barely felt anything at all. My OB let me stay home, and drive to his office every 6 hours for antibiotics, a move he would laughingly tell us the other doctors at the hospital thought ludicrous. But I wanted to be at home as long as possible. I tried everything to get the baby out of me. Walking walking walking, spicy food, castor oil, you name it.
Finally my doctor ran out of IV bags to mix the antibiotics in at his office, and so I had to check myself in to the hospital. Dramatic, it was not. I was nowhere near having the baby as I filled out the paperwork. I spent hours and hours in a tiny pre-delivery room, enviously listened to cheers from other rooms as babies emerged into the world. I paced the halls, leaning into the rails with each contraction. I wasn’t allowed to eat at all, once I’d checked in, and I was soon starving on top of being insanely sleep deprived. I’d walk by the nurses’ station. I could smell their lunches. I had brought them some gourmet peanut brittle as a little gift, and I was salivating like mad thinking about it in its tin on their counter. (I had so much time on my hands in labor, I shopped for the nurses on the way to the hospital.)
And after a day and a half in the hospital, after every possible horrible medication I was opposed to had been reluctantly administered and failed to get me to dilate, ( for those moms out here I was at 3cm after 4 days) I had a c section. And I was exhausted.
To my most wonderful OB’s credit, on Sunday morning when the nurses had all been rolling their eyes, telling me a c-section was inevitable the whole time I’d been there, and I stormed on, (even with a pitocin drip cranked up all the way I refused the epidural ) my OB measured me and sadly told me I was 3 ½ cm dilated, but things would go so much faster if I could get to 4! He believed it was possible! One more hour? He said. Sure! But an hour later I had regressed to 3. My doula thought my body was saying it was too tired to give birth.
Akiva cried a gentle cry as the pediatric team got to meet him first. Matt and my doula were both there, and my doula ripped open my hospital gown for me while they stitched me up and I started nursing Akiva about 3 minutes after he emerged into the world. The pediatric team came to take him from me, but when they saw him snuggled in quietly nursing they couldn’t exactly take him away.
And so the world now had Akiva.
But as I said, I was most unfortunately drugged up and exhausted and living off endorphins. I tried to do things my way at the hospital, but didn’t have much in me to insist. For instance, the nurse freaked out when she came into the room and Akiva and I were cuddled in my bed together for a nap. “He could fall out!” she exclaimed. He wasn’t going to fall out. But I let her put him in the bassinet next to me. I never would have given him over now. But I was so weary.
Matt and I laugh now at the strange pieces of paper we keep as mementos: the purple charts we scribbled on detailing Akiva’s feeding, pooping and peeing. It was required while we stayed at the hospital. My introduction to parenting involved so much logging and chart work. It was like a science project. It was also exhausting.
And coming home was stressful. His breathing was stressful. There was absolutely nothing wrong with him, but those breaths were just so tiny! And I have to admit the umbilical cord was something I dreaded dealing with and then Akiva’s wouldn’t fall off all the way and I personally hate my own belly button being touched, so, well, it was stressful. Akiva was born but I didn’t have the calmness or brain power to know what I felt about it. When I was pregnant I would read accounts of other babies being born, and be a mess of tears- so deeply moved by each and every story! I'd read them over and over again! I loved them. But I was so deeply exhausted that my own birth story was a matter of fact thing that happened.
I was slow to feel the quiet and deep force between us. It was like a large ocean wave rising around me, coming to swallow me up over the next few days. The cold dark December days became beautiful to me. As I rested, as things came into focus, through those dark afternoons, the brightest shining light of love I have ever felt burned it’s high beams through the black night. It was so big, so monumental, this change from being a couple to being a family. This bond this little circle forever.
It is almost 2 years ago that my water broke at night. With these early sunsets, these dark afternoons, I remember that sweet bright gush of light that first falling in love with Akiva was. The biggest most beautiful transformation of my life.
Happy almost 2nd birthday.