I’m told a children’s book by Jamie Lee Curtis called “Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born” is quite popular. I don’t know much about the book, but I do know my kids love to hear their own versions.
Since it was just four years ago today that I was entering my 24th hour of labor, tonight will be one of those nights. A chubby, round face will look up at me with big, hazel eyes and say “mommy, do you remember when I was born?”
Of course, I do remember. As she is my second child, I think we were calmer for her turn to enter the world. My son had attempted three times to arrive early for his delivery date, so I was happy to have made it to 36 weeks with her at all.
It was mid-afternoon and contractions were coming along pretty steadily by lunchtime. I insisted on eating, since I knew exactly how this processed would soon go – I’d be carted into Labor and Delivery and expected to starve to death until the kid arrived – so I was not missing a meal this time.
Little did I know that a day later, I’d still be pushing (and hungry). We joke that she at least came 12 hours quicker than her older brother, who made me suffer for 36 hours of joyous labor.
At 3:55 p.m., a 7-pound, 3-ounce, 20-inch long bundle of joy was forever added to our lives. She had jet-black hair, which has since toned down to a softer brown with auburn highlights. Her face was (and still is) round and chubby. She had 10 perfect fingers and 10 perfect toes.
Not knowing the genders of either child before their births, we were surprised to hear, "It’s a girl!" from our family doctor. I was excited to have one of each, and I, for one, was happier in the moment to know I’d likely never have to go through labor ever again.
Weighing a solid two pounds more than her older brother at the time (even though both were deemed "preemies" as both arrived exactly at 36 weeks and 0 days of pregnancy), she seemed happy and healthy. She nursed right away.
We had not finished nursing when my mother- and sister-in-law arrived. Again having learned their lesson from my son, they weren’t going to miss the chance to be the first ones to see this new arrival.
When my son came, at 1:46 a.m. on a Saturday "night" in 2005, we called my father-in-law to tell him. He congratulated us and promptly went back to sleep without alerting anyone else in the house. By 10 a.m. the next day, (well into my second day of labor), my mother-in-law was getting nervous, only to find out her husband had neglected to share the big news.
This time, she wasn’t about to let that happen. They were there before either of us had been cleaned up or changed. They brought with them an overjoyed 2-and-a-half-year-old little boy. He was so excited. He’d waited oh so long for that big bump in mommy’s belly to be a sibling.
We told him he had a baby sister, and he immediately wanted to hold her. Propped up in a big, green armchair, we handed the little bundle over to an anxious toddler (with my mother-in-laws hands at the ready, of course). He snuggled her close. He told her he was her big brother. Then he said four simple words, thought of all on his own: “I keep you safe.” (No, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.)
We contently nursed and dozed through the evening, and the UPenn Nursery happily took the beautiful angel so mommy and daddy could rest. At 4 a.m., just 12 hours after her arrival, our family doctor ducked in to wake me (my husband stayed asleep the whole time in the room's not-so-comfortable couch). Despite our early beliefs that she was a solid preemie, developed enough to function on her own, Alora was not thriving in the nursery. They’d have to take her to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
Having gone through this with my son, who had been immediately whisked away upon delivery, I was crushed. It is a draining and difficult process to live through, to watch your tiny baby girl hooked up to every nearby machine, with IVs, breathing tubes, monitors. It is a hopeless, sinking feeling.
After a week on a breathing machine (I could go on and on about that process itself), she was discharged, happy and healthy. She never did take to nursing again, which lactation nurses said likely was due to her bulky breathing machines. She got pumped breast milk instead, served a la bottle, for the next year.
Today, she is a vibrant, healthy 4-year-old. I can’t believe it! The time surely does fly, in a way no person can possibly explain to you. You have to live it to know how fleeting these amazing moments are.
I’m blessed to have an amazing little girl, as stubborn and independent as her momma. Happy birthday, my pretty princess! I love you!