[NOTE: I started this post at 9:21 on November 4, but it has taken me a while to get it right. I think it's about as close as I can get to telling the best story I have to tell.]
Eighteen months and two minutes ago, Hadley was born. She didn't arrive as I expected her to, but I suspect that's kind of how parenthood goes. Kids rarely do what you expect them to do, even when they're not even born yet. They're tricky like that.
I remember when the doctor told me, after 20 hours of labor and three hours of pushing, that I needed a C-section. I told her I'd keep pushing. She told me I couldn't keep it up much longer. She was right.
I cried. I cried because we had to leave the warm, friendly labor room for an OR that was cold and white and sterile. I cried because I had imagined THAT moment, when I birthed her and the doctor put her on my chest, and Jason and I cried happy tears together. I cried because I believed that women birth their babies; they don't have their babies pulled from their bodies. It just wasn't right.
And the C-section was kind of scary. Where the labor had been painful but casual, this was so...formal: The doctors announced my name, and the time, and the reason for the C-section. ("Failure to descend"--sounds so ominous, don't you think?) Nobody warned me about that. Then the doctor said, "Hilary, we're beginning now." It was so strange to know someone was getting ready to cut into my body behind a thin blue curtain while I laid still on the other side of it, wondering if I was going to hear gross squishy-body sounds.
A few minutes in, the doctor said, "You're going to feel some tugging." "Some tugging" is what you do to pull on your favorite jeans that are a bit too small. C-section tugging felt like someone was trying to pull out my ribs, and then I heard...crying. Our baby crying. Jason said, "That's her! That's our daughter." And I said--I remember so clearly--"That's the best sound I've ever heard." It was.
I heard her Apgar scores--8 and then 9--and I thought, "Good. So far, so good." Jason went to see her, and he or a nurse brought her over to me to see. I can't remember, but I see so clearly in my mind's eye her abundant dark hair. I said, "Hi, sweet girl. Happy birthday." Then Jason and Hadley (who wasn't yet Hadley because we hadn't named her) left. I wasn't ready for that part either. I remember thinking, "Of course they can't stay," but part of me wanted them to. They were off to do daddy-daughter things already, and I was stuck with a numb lower half and an open wound. Fabulous.
I remember asking how much longer it would be before I was sewn up. The anesthesiologist told me (kindly) to relax. Apparently I didn't do a very good job because then he gave me something to relax me, and I think I fell asleep. The next thing I remember, someone said, "Hilary, you're all done," and they hoisted me back onto a rolling cart to deliver me to the recovery room.
I was desperate to hold Hadley, and after a minute or two, Jason walked in with her. She was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. I could not comprehend that this person had grown inside me, and I know that I will not ever be able to explain to her what that kind of intimacy means to a mama. Maybe one day she will know if she has babies of her own.
My mom and dad were in the recovery room. I remember my dad saying, "She's a beautiful baby, Hilary." It was a gentle reminder that my labor ended with the best possible outcome: a healthy baby girl. It didn't matter how she got here. I couldn't respond; the cries were caught up in my throat, and I was afraid if I said a single word, they'd just come pouring out, and then my eyes would get all blurry, and I wouldn't be able to stare at the amazing creature lying in my arms.
And today, here is that amazing creature, expressing her creative streak, her preference for choosing her own style, her happy heart.
I love her like I've never loved anyone. She couldn't do anything to get outside of my love, to shake it off or diminish it.
Today, we celebrate Jason's birthday and Hadley's half-birthday. It is a very good day for me. The best of the whole year, really, because no matter what Jason and Hadley think, I got the best gifts of all.