The night before I gave birth, Dave taped a black plastic bag down on my side of the bed. “It’s an expensive mattress,” he said. “And you could go at any minute.”
My due date was in eight days, but anyone who looked at me, thought I was just some blue hair dye short of turning into Violet Beauregard. Some days, I swore oompa loompas were hovering around the corner, just waiting to roll me away.
The joke was on Dave. That night, I woke up at 2am and went to go work (what else is a girl supposed to do at 2am) and my water broke on his leather office chair.
After some frantic googling of “my body is leaking should I call the doctor?” I did call and Dave and I were ordered to the hospital. But I refused to let him unpack the bags. I was sure this wasn’t real and they would send us home. Finally, as the nurse prepped me for my epidural, she looked at Dave and said, “GET THE BAGS! YOU’RE HAVING A BABY!”
As Dave walked out, I shouted behind him. “Just get my chapstick. No need to unpack.”
When I was epiduraled all up in there, I made awkward small talk with the nurse assigned to monitor my pitocin-induced contractions. I was reading the New Yorker on my Nook, which is probably like the twenty-first century equivalent to wearing a monocle. What can I say? I’m a classy lady.
“So, what are you reading?” The nurse said.
“Oh this great article about Tom Stoppard. He wrote Arcadia and it’s my favorite play I’ve never seen. There is a pun in there about the Latin root of ‘carnal.’ It’s a gas!”
She blinked. Dave just shook his head.
That’s what it was like for 16 hours.
Me: “So, what’s the weirdest thing someone’s asked you?”
The nurse: “Probably the question you asked me five minutes ago about why it’s called the ‘bag of waters’ plural but when your water breaks its singular.”
Me: “Oh, I was hoping you’d say something like people like to ask you how to perform at-home tracheotomies.”
Dave shook his head some more.
Then, it was time to push. And ladies and gentlemen, I pushed for five hours. Next to eating my weight in nuggets, it’s probably the most physically exhausting thing I’ve ever done. Five hours of pushing, also meant I was silent for five straight hours. In times of crisis or stress, I don’t get louder, I get silent. In those five hours, I only spoke once, to tell Dave he needed to do a better job of holding my legs.
Finally, an episiotomy and a baby vacuum later, Ellis was here. Only that wasn’t her name, yet. We were so shocked that she was a girl, all we could do was look at each other and say, “A girl!” “Our little girl!” She was blonde and pink and scowled at me with her little wrinkly face. Her neck wiggled like a turtle and I didn’t even notice that meanwhile on the other end of my body, my doctor and nurses were scrambling to stop me from bleeding.
I still remember that. Every excruciating detail. Things I won’t tell you, because no one needs to know how many times I pooped, the exact number of bad puns I tried to make to while away the 16 hours of labor, or how many suppositories it took to stop the bleeding. But you do need to know that holding Ellis that first time I felt so exhausted, so spent and so completely complete.
Today, she woke up at 5:30am, because she’s pushing out four teeth at the same time. She threw her breakfast on the floor, asked for her “bawltle” reached for her plastic football and yelled “BAWL! BAWL!” Then, she crawled over to her books opened Hop on Pop while yelling “PAP PAP!” She tossed that book aside and made roaring sounds at the lion in the animal book. Barked at the neighbor’s Corgies she saw in the alley. Said, “nonononono” when I put her hair in a ponytail and waved, “buhbye dada.” All before 7:30.
And I’m exhausted and I’m spent and I’m so completely happy to have her.
Ellis I am in awe of you. Of all the little things that make you Ellis. Your squeals, which you apply liberally, even in the middle of a dedicated whine. The way you snuggle your baby doll then almost immediately poke her in the eye. They way you cuddle your green blanket in the morning, but casts it aside when it’s time to go play. How much you hate being fed (except ice cream, I can feed you ice cream). The running commentary of “uh ohs” I get every time I trip or drop something, which is a lot. And how you cheer for yourself when you shut off the light in your room. How much you love everyone you meet–you say “hi” and reach your hand out, as if to join them in your little party that you are always having everywhere you go. Your daddy and I love that we’ve been invited to the party.It’s the greatest honor of our life.