It was a pregnancy that barely took I think, now looking back on it. This one bypassed the hallmarks of my first go round—uber-thick tresses, hankerings for gooey grilled cheese sandwiches and Campbell’s tomato soup, and the inevitable three scoops, two breasts and a belly, peeking out from the bath water, too swollen to submerge where it’s warm.
We were sailing along through the pregnancy, and then it happened: the slow trickle down my leg. I was not just eight months pregnant, but now an embarrassingly and inconveniently incontinent eight months pregnant. Thankfully it quickly dawned on me that it was my water that had broken and not my bladder, thank God. I was already carrying around diapers for my barely two-year-old and there wasn’t going to be lugging Depends around, too.
I wouldn’t dream of arriving at a dinner party a month early, so why had my baby lost his own manners, toyedwith the notion of showing up this early, and gone and done it? We weren’t nearly done with our nesting and besides, I hadn’t yet taken my pregnant belly photo, yet this baby was coming on his terms I realized, another trickle moseying down my leg. He was leading and I was going to follow. Tonight.
I was determined to birth this baby, who I knew would be my last, naturally and I checked out videos from the hospital which coached me on a drug-free labor. I’d be setting off on this inward journey I’d thoroughly prepared for, and soon found myself in the delivery room in bed on all fours staring down at the hospital mosaic floor tile. The sporadic dark tiles interrupted the pale ones, part of the peaceful beach scene I’d conjured, and with each wallop of a labor pain, I blew away these pesky dark tiles, which I’d decided were roaches I could obliterate with each exhale. After I’d gained considerable ground on these pests, I could hear my doctor instructing me to do something, but his voice was muffled and far away, and I struggled to understand. I kept telling him I couldn’t hear him, but I was the reason, I was the noise screaming bloody murder. Somewhat intimidated by steep roller coasters as it is, for this interminable ride, I’d been placed in the first car, and was flying down arms up on an infinite track with no end in sight.
After a long six hours—which I’d later learn is a textbook labor for one’s second delivery—I got to meet this little fella, all five pounds three ounces of him. His eyes were big—beyond saucers, we’re talking platters here—and he looked up at me, the momma bird, and batted sweet butterfly kisses my way. His enormous eyes fixed inside extraordinarily long lashes studied me. I tried my best to answer with my own unremarkable eyes, though was still shivering from the drug-free labor.
He was unique from the get-go. A mere four pounds leaving the hospital, he caused quite the stir in the elevator with women mostly who peeked into his blanket to study his miniature face buried inside a hospital-perfect swaddle. He’d bat those luscious lashes at them, and they’d beam back at me, jealous—or was it relief that this unusually miniature bundle wasn’t accompanying them home?
His ears were not exactly ears yet, but appeared like forming buds I worried could go either way, absorb back into his head or unfurl and evolve into separate flesh and cartilage we all take for granted as ears. Don’t touch the ears, I reminded myself, as I swaddled him loosely; let them blossom into true lobes, God willing.
We soon began our dance of breastfeeding and sleep, cries and burps, diapering and swaddling. His head was no bigger than a squirrel’s, but it was smooth and warm and smelled heavenly, a scent if you could market could earn you a fortune off wistful parents of older children, but needing a fix of early baby days.
Time zoomed by and one day, out of nowhere, we found ourselves by the crib, mattress set at the lowest setting, before our baby, now tall and grabbing the railing, yelling, “New Di! New Di! New Di!” He made quite the ruckus over this “New Di!” thingamajig he insisted on, and even though we felt tired and slow, we ultimately caught on. He was imitating our very own words we said to him each morning, “Do you need a new diaper?” He did indeed and was telling us plain as day, then and there, as he would again and again in the days that followed.
Life went on and he ate more and grew stronger and we slept less and grew exhausted. One morning, we looked up to find our big-eyed boy standing before us in the kitchen, having quietly climbed out of his crib all by himself—a remarkable feat he’d never performed—ready for a new di and breakfast. Like a cat jumping from a high perch without a sound, he could now go places he wished and do it silently too, but for the swishing sound of his diaper while en route.
Forever watching, learning, and absorbing, he did things in his own way and time, like when he first learned to walk. Unlike his older brother, who tried and fell, tried again, and fell again, this baby crawled, pulled up and stayed propped up with furniture, never letting go or falling, until one Easter Sunday when we were at grandma’s house. Out of the blue, he took off, from the living room through the dining room into the kitchen and back again, walking like a pro, simple as pie. That was that. On to the next milestone.
Walking led to running and running led to tricycles, scooters, and then on up to bikes. Starting with training wheels, he wobbled like we all used to, but stuck with it, always declining our offers to take the wheels off until one day he requested the wheels off today please. So off they came and off he went, a bike rider now, pedaling and balancing with ease. He’d done it again: accurately sized up a situation, dove in when he knew he was able, and performed perfectly and without hesitation.
Today, I’m cycling home from his elementary school with him in front taking the lead, as he likes to do, and he’s just barely fitting on the red 21-speed bike he got for Christmas. Not far behind, I’m working my way up the hill and noticing his little spine that’s visible through his shiny blue soccer shirt. Like little pearls strung on a chain, these vertebrae are the very links that hold him together, the same ones I saw in the ultrasound some nine years ago. I pause for a minute, remembering, until he shouts “C’mon, mom! You comin’?”
Note: I wrote this some 14 years ago, and today, Evan’s 21st birthday, it seemed a good time to share these memories.