12:15 am … I hold you, screaming on my left hip as I navigate our dark kitchen. Put an empty bottle on the counter, grab all it’s pieces and parts. Over the past 12 months, my hands have memorized their feel. “It’s coming buddy,” I reassure you as I open the fridge door and flood the kitchen with light as I grab the milk and fill your bottle. Assemble the bottle, close the fridge door and carry you to the recliner.
As we settle into the recliner, I realize the time. I whisper “Happy Birthday” and my mind goes back to one year ago…
One year ago at this time I, too, was having a midnight snack. Some chicken tenders and Mac and cheese from Sheetz. I was anxious and could barely eat. Nothing tasted good. But they insisted I have something before they started the pitocin part of the induction. I didn’t care about food. I just wanted to know you were okay. I longed to know I’d have this middle of the night feeding with a healthy little baby…
8 am … I grab oatmeal and a banana. I see the clock and flash back to a year ago. Around this time they came in to break my water and affix internal monitoring devices for you. Roll this way. Roll that way. They shift the bed to an upright position and have me sit like Buddha for a while…
You start squawking and fussing over food, bring me back to today. I’m glad I’ve taken the day off to spend with you. The clock and it’s memories may haunt me but your demands ground me, bringing me back to today. Helping me ‘finish the story.’
10:30 am… We’re making our way through Pittsburgh, joking about how horrible my memory has gotten in the last year.
This a a much lighter tone than this time last year, when Dr. K came in and explained your heart rate was dipping with the contractions on pitocin and we decided to take the route of a c-section. I was thankful for the option knowing you’d be here soon.
11:19 … We’re somewhere between the tiger exhibit and the elephants.
This time last year you were born. You cry –or should I say scream! — I begin to cry with relief. You’re here. You’re safe.
They announce your weight – 6 lbs. 2 oz. I joke with the doctors about it being all the Handel’s ice cream I ate over the two months prior. I wonder what in the world they’re doing that makes my belly button feel weird but certainly don’t want to know what’s going on over the curtain. The nurse brings you over and we meet face-to-face for the first time.
We walk through the zoo, seeing monkeys. You’re not too interested in them, but are enjoying the new view from your papa bear’s shoulders. We have lunch. Dad sneaks some of his crisp rice treat to you while the rest of the food cools down a bit. We make our way through the aquarium, crawling through the tunnel, looking at starfish and piranhas. We watch sea lions do tricks. Then we head to our favorite bakery.
3:30 … We leave our favorite bakery, with an Oakmonter and other small cakes as well as several paczi in hand.
I only know what I was doing this time last year from the time stamps on photos as the day turned into a fog.
We were just getting to see you settled into your room in the NICU. The wires and lights were terrifying but there you were- so perfect and ready to show us the extent of your strength. And along the way I’d learn the extent of my own strength as well.
You eat your birthday cake … Possibly at the time I was munching on some pudding and cookies I’m finally permitted to eat.
You get a bath … Likely somewhere in the endless cycle of pumping and napping.
You are born at 33 weeks gestation, almost 2 months early. We know you’ll have hurdles to overcome from my rh sensitization to your blood. Fear. The unknown. Uncertainty. Bittersweet. It’s your birthday.
Happiness. Joy. Exploration. New experiences. It’s your birthday.