Saturday, January 03, 2004

Happy Birthday Baby Bee

I was bone-tired, sore, and woozy with Vicodin, but I have never experienced a more pure joy than I did the night Bee was born. All my visitors had gone, including my husband - after I reassured him I would *not* be offended if he chose to sleep in a comfortable bed at home rather than squeeze his six foot five body into the hospital's dinky easy chair. The lights were turned off except for one glaring yellow bulb over the sink, and Miles Davis "Birth of the Cool" was playing on the boom box that Becca left for me. In my sleepy, dreamy haze I drifted along with the be-bopping harmonies of "Venus de Milo" and looked into the wide dark eyes of my perfect, beautiful baby girl.

Three years earlier, in that same hospital room, I endured a tearful, sleepless night after hearing the on-duty nurse casually call my newborn Bug a "Downsie baby." "A WHAT?" I demanded. "Oh - um, nobody's talked to you about this yet? Jeez . . . well, sorry. You better talk to the doctor tomorrow." Though my husband was snoring soundly in the chair next to me, I felt as scared and alone as I ever had in my life.

This time around, I made a stronger effort to maintain a sense of control of my pregnancy and labor. I had an amnio in my 24th week to avoid any delivery-room shockers. I took months of intensive prenatal yoga hoping it would give me the tools to have a natural, drug-free childbirth. When I was in labor with Bug, I was so frustrated at being unable to push because I was too numbed by the epidural. My inability to participate in that basic function of birth seemed to foreshadow all the other things that went wrong - his failure to nurse, the bombshell of his diagnosis, the heart defect that was soon discovered. Just as quickly, things started to look up - he finally caught on and breastfed exclusively for over a year, the small hole in his heart closed on its own, and we fell madly in love with our sweet, solemn blue-eyed baby who was perfect just as he was. But the searing, painful memories of his birth day will always remain fresh.

Bee's birth didn't exactly go as planned either. I came prepared with the traditional, soothing birthing imagery of ocean waves and island breezes, but all I could see when I closed my eyes were the endlessly shifting stacks of cards from the Spider Solitaire game I nervously played for hours the night before. I was wracked with contractions that came one right after the other and lasted for three and four minutes at a time, causing me to writhe helplessly on the bed, kick off my fetal monitor, and rip at my flimsy hospital gown. The pitocin-induced labor was so powerful that Bee arrived hours earlier than predicted, forcing my doctor to make a mad dash through three blocks of traffic, running through two red lights to be there for the delivery.

Despite my last-minute, frantic protests to the contrary, I was in fact able to get through the process without an epidural. I loved being able to push and feel the baby's head and shoulders moving forward, and I felt a tremendous sense of relief when she successfully nursed within minutes of being born. I cooed over her surprising shock of dark curly hair and her tiny, chubby feet.

But the real euphoria did not set into until that night. Alone with baby Bee, all lovingly washed and swaddled in fresh blankets, I held her in my arms and stroked her soft sleepy face and fell in love with my miraculous new creation.


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