Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Thanksgiving Baby

That stunning specimen of babyness regarding his impeccably made-up mother with suspicion a mere day after being born -- that's my boy, born on Thanksgiving day five years ago.

I remember it took me 15 minutes to put that suit on him, I was so terrifed to more his little appendages. But despite being terrified to the point of nausea, I was as happy as I look. And proud. My golden boy.

So every Thanksgiving, I tell Primo the story of how he was born. And this Thanksgiving, I tell you:

During my pregnancy, I imagined many ways that my labor might unfold. I'll be honest: most of these scenarios involved candlelit deep breathing in the hot tub. What I did not imagine is being on all fours in my parents' living room, bellowing in agony as my family enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner. I didn't imagine childbirth as spectator sport.

After a long day of first-stage labor pains, I demanded that David take me to the hospital despite the fact that my contractions weren't of the proscribed duration and all that. I was pretty convinced that my doc would report I was at least 5, maybe 8 centimeters dilated. Instead, she told me I wasn't technically in labor.

"How is that possible?" I sobbed. I was very little concerned with being brace and even less concerned with seeming so. The disappointment was awful.

"Your make-up is still perfect," the doctor said, "Come back when your mascara is running?"

This is what passes for medical advice nowadays, I thought? Come back when your MASCARA is running?

Since I was already totally demoralized, I figured my parents couldn't make things much worse. And since the thought of returning to our apartment where I'd spent 8 hours laboring to no avail was so unappealing, I decided a change of venue was in order. To my parents' place on the Upper East Side, where Thanksgiviing dinner was in full swing.

My father harassed me with his cameras, documenting every grimace over anitpasto. My grandmother forced me to eat, against doctor's orders, maintaining I needed my strength. And my mother offered moral support, if by support you mean asserting that i didn't look like I was getting very far with this labor of mine.

Two hours later, by the time dessert was served, I was writhing around in the tub, buck naked, moaning and crying, while my grandmother, aunt and mother sipped wine tub-side and offered unsolicited advice.

I was really very regretful that I'd eaten a bowl of homemade cappelletti when I upchucked the lot of it over the side of the tub. I put on a pair of my father's boxers and instantly they were wet. I sobbed to my sister that I'd wet my pants and she pointed out that perhaps, seeing as I was in labor and all, perhaps my water had broken.

Oh yes! That's it! Good thing for sisters.

I got David, threw up on him a bit, bellowed in agony, sobbed a lot and gasped that we had to go to the hospital. If the doc said it wasn't time for an epidural yet, then well, I'd vomit on her until she changed her tune. But I knew it'd be time. My mascara was running.

My sister Melissa came with David and I to the hospital and since I was a very respectable 5 centimeters dilated, I received a big needle in my back. By midnight, I was fully dlated. At long last, and after a sizeable injection of morphine, here was the tranquil labor I had hoped for. As
I waited for this famous "urge to push," Melissa brushed my hair and David held my hand. We listened to the Beatles and I put on a fresh coat of lipstick. After nine months of wanting things to hurry along, I was finally in no rush. I had this keenly poignant sensation of being in the moment before, and I wanted to linger here, savoring the anticipation of the great encounter which was about to unfold.

When I couldn't resist the urge to push any longer, my doctor told Melissa and David to each grab a leg. I felt like a wishbone. Everything moved very quickly then and after only a few pushes, I was reaching down to feel the top of my baby's head, which was unthinkably soft and warm and so near. After that, I didn't need any encouragement. I pushed with a vein-popping force and within minutes, his head crowned. "Look down and see your baby," the doc said.

How can words encompass something this sublime? "Miracle" has never sounded so mundane. His tiny head was just wedged there - perfect, oblong, intricate beyond imagining. Nothing could have made me look away. I was roused from my wonder by my doctor's words: "Come on girl,
one more push!"

I bore down and as I watched, my baby's body slipped right out of me, in an enormous rush. He was revealed to me entire -- shoulders, arms, torso and legs poured out in a wriggling mass of life. It was then that I screamed.

Later David would tell me he'd never heard anything so animal-like coming from a human. My sister thought that maybe I had torn. But it was a the sound of release, of relief, of marvel.
There he was, my son.

They placed Primo immediately on my chest and he was heavy there and warm and wet. We were all hysterical, David, my sister and I, all of us shaking and crying, in the moment now, the great moment which had ruptured and was pouring over us. "My son," I kept repeating, "my
baby." I sobbed with my eyes wide open so I could drink him in. Every inch of him, all 20 of them, was a masterpiece, and so brand new. He reached for my face then, stretching his spindly fingers toward my chin in a jerky gesture that some might think accidental and I thought totally, perfectly pre-destined.

It was after midnight and I was a mother. The prayers I prayed each day for nine months, and for a long time before that, were answered all at once. The day of Thanks had ended about an hour earlier for everyone else but not for me. Not for me.