I woke up alone early on the morning of February 10th, 1994, and something felt strange; the mattress was damp. I called Neal on the phone immediately. "Honey," I said, "I think my water might have broke."
Neal rushed home and we headed to the hospital. I felt no pain, no contractions, but our Natural Child Birth teacher had really emphasized the importance of not messing around with leaking amniotic fluid. She'd shared horror stories and all.
The road was dark; Neal seemed excited. I felt terrified. I remember telling him I didn't think I could do it. All that was on my mind was the birth videos I'd watched. I'm actually pretty confident if you showed them in freshman health class in high schools you could probably cut the teen pregnancy rate by at least half. I just could not imagine that my body had the capacity to push the little baby inside me out. The thought of it terrified me. Neal assured me I could do it, moreover he pretty much guaranteed me that I really had no choice-- so here we were on our due date on the way to the hospital ready to meet our son.
They almost sent me home that morning. I wasn't in active labor and at first they didn't think I'd actually sprung an amniotic leak. But eventually signs indicated that my water was on the road to breaking, and since I had been on bed rest for several weeks due to high blood pressure they kept me and decided to help the labor process along. Besides, he was due. It was time, his due date had arrived.
Tomorrow a different kind of due date has arrived. I feel about it a lot like I did the first one. I don't really know how I'm gonna do it. I can't imagine how it's going to be possible to 21 1/2 years later "deliver my son" out into the world. The night before the first due date I broke all the rules of my bed rest and some serious nesting occurred. I cleaned the kitchen, mopped the floor and did the dishes. It helped me feel like I was getting ready, even though I had no idea if he would come for sure the next day.
Tonight there isn't any "nesting" to do. In fact the last few days I have sat back quietly while my son has pulled all the sticks and twigs that are his from this nest of mine. The "boys' room" has been vacated, and by tomorrow night it will only belong to Ethan. There are a few pieces of memorabilia from Ducks stuff that have migrated to his little sister's room, but most everything else has been boxed and stored or shipped ahead to his dorm room in Virginia. 21 1/2 years ago, just Neal and I home, I sat with my hand on my belly imagining how my life would change when this new little person came home to live. Tonight sitting here, just Neal and I home, I find myself imagining what it will be like when the young man I carried so long ago moves on and leaves, and doesn't live here anymore.
Labor the first time hurt like hell. Being forced into labor loses the easing in process of the first contraction and then progression. When they induce you the labor comes on hard and fast, and when they did that with me it wasn't very effective. From 6 in the morning to 2 in the afternoon I had a lot of pain, tried a lot of meds and made very little progress. Then a lovely nurse came along and suggested we break all the rules I had learned, and offered me an epidural even though I was only at 2 cm. I heart epidurals, and when the pain subsided I was tired and Neal was hungry, so he left me alone and I took a long nap. It was a phone call to my room from my friend 2 hours later that woke me up.
The doctor came in to check my progress while I chatted with my friend. While completely unconscious I had managed to progress beautifully, and in two hours with no pain I had gone from 2 cm to 8 1/2. My friend congratulated me on the news and then I hung up to throw up. And because there were no such things as cellphones in 1994, I just sat alone excited and waited for Neal to come back. It was getting close, the baby was coming soon.
There's no medication for the pain I'm feeling this time. There's no taking a nap and waking up feeling better about this delivery. The last few weeks and months whenever I've woken up I have immediately felt the sadness and anxiety of the impending departure of my boy. It's very bittersweet. My heart aches. I am really going to miss my son. But, just like Neal told me on the drive to the hospital, this delivery is unavoidable, it has to come. It's still hard. As much as I was excited for his arrival, I am just as sad to see him leave.
At the hospital it was just a little while longer before the doctor told me it was time to push. Neal was back and fed. Things were chaotic at the hospital. My body was doing strange things, I was shaking and I didn't have enough feeling in all the places I needed to. Nurses were growing frustrated by family members who kept sneaking down the hall listening for our baby's first cry. And when it came time to push not all was as it should be and there was a lot of flipping and rolling trying to get the baby in the right position to be born. It took me an hour and a half to push him out.
This time as I prepare to "push him out" everything is running smoothly, in fact it's required no actual labor on my part at all. And unlike the infant who seemed to hesitant to come into this world 21 1/2 years ago, the man he has become hardly seems able to contain his excitement about now moving on. Pride and sadness are a strange mix of emotions, and they greatly contrast the mix of pride and joy I felt the night we first met.
"It's a boy!" Neal confirmed what I'd known in my heart from the moment I found out I was carrying the little life inside. Baby Jacob was so quiet it frightened me. I demanded to know why he wasn't crying, panic rising up in my heart, it started to infect Neal as well. "Relax," the doctor told us, "he's completely pink. He's fine." And then I think the doctor pinched him just to allay my fears. He let out a beautiful cry. In hindsight I now realize that his subtle easygoing entrance was just foreshadowing on the laid back and unobtrusive man he has become. He has always been a gentleman.
Within minutes of Jacob's birth, my delivery room was filled with all our family and closest friends, more than 20 people came into the room, and they literally lifted him out of my arms and passed him around. Grandparents, uncles, cousins, friends-- he passed through them all. I found myself feeling a little left out as he said all his tiny little helloes. I've felt a lot like that this week as well, as he's been gone an awful lot to make his farewell stops and say all his big goodbyes.
I finally asked if I could have my baby back, and Neal got him and brought him to me. I pulled back his little blanket and took in the wonder of this tiny little person who now firmly held my heart. It was only a matter of minutes before the nurse came in and told me she had to take him away. I wistfully watched, a little sad, but knowing he'd be back before too long.
Less than 24 hours from now Jacob will be on a flight to Phoenix, his first of two stops before he finally arrives in Virginia early Saturday morning. Having let him be "passed around" the past few days since his Guatemala return Sunday last, I am awaiting the short bit of time I can hold on to him before that big airplane whisks him away. Just like those brief moments felt too few in the delivery room, tomorrow's brief time together doesn't feel like long enough to say goodbye. And even though I know it's right on time on his and that his "due date" is here, it still kinda feels too soon.
Let me clarify that despite the possibly dark and somewhat melancholy tone that may be in this blog post, underneath the hard stuff, I am excited for my son. I am proud of the man he has become. And I do look forward to hearing about the things that God is going to do in His life, and the things God will use him to do. But, it's still hard. Chalk this up to another of life's experiences that you cannot truly anticipate your response to until you get there. I thought that I would be the mom who would have no trouble letting go. I was wrong.
21 1/2 years ago I was enamored with this tiny little person I did not know. He rode on my tailbone so long while I pushed that he came in as a literal pain in my butt. But the pain was worth it, even though it stayed with me for the next six months. The labor of 11 1/2 hours was hard on my body, but in the end it was all worth it.
I had no idea back then that the end of that first delivery was actually the beginning of a different kind of labor, one in our case that would last 21 years, six months and 11 days. Over the course of those years there have been lots of times that Jacob has been a figurative pain in my butt, but I'm pretty sure that this time the feeling was pretty mutual. This long labor was full of push and pull, pain and progress. At the end of the first labor I became a mom and had a hand to hold. At the end of this second labor, I'm still a mom, but I'm a mom who instead of holding on is finally letting go.