I was eight days late to deliver Harrison. With my due date having come and gone with nary an acknowledgement of me and my extra fifty pounds, I was more than ready to deliver. My pregnancy had been uneventful, easy. When I finally went into labor in the middle of the night, I graciously allowed Rich to sleep while I spent hours timing the contractions (which never seemed to establish any kind of rhythm) only to have them totally stop. I spent the better part of the following day doing word searches (at that point my cognitive output was too compromised to even consider my normally favored crossword puzzles) and checking in with the doctor. Finally, late that afternoon when the contractions returned, coming hard and fast (and not in a good way) we finally got the blessing to head toward the hospital.
It was a ride I had been nervously anticipating for years. Remember, I am a pre-worrier and had spent not just my pregnancy, but a good part of my adult life fretting over labor and delivery. For once, it was well founded worry as I proceeded to spend the next several hours with agonizing contractions, back labor, an unborn child who repeatedly stopped breathing and, perhaps most obnoxious: no epidural. (For the record, the lack of anesthesia was unplanned, unwanted and extremely unpleasant. They finally went through the motions of inserting the ten foot long needle into the small of my back, but I am quite certain it was attached to an empty vial.) Just moments away from rolling me in for a c-section, I was rocked onto my side, had my top leg on my doctor’s shoulder and, with help from a nurse who was pushing from the outside, was doing everything in my power to get this kid out of me. I recall a moment of calm and lucidity when I gently requested to the doctor (I may have pulled her close by the neck of her scrubs) that she pull it out of my ear if she had to. It wasn’t easy, but eventually, Harrison was born.
We oohed and aahed and called our parents to tell them that we had a beautiful son. (We did not realize at the time that he wasn’t such a beautiful baby, after all. In fact, that birth did a number not only on me, but on Harrison’s face which, thankfully, got very cute very quickly after his initial entry into our lives. And, rest assured, this is not new information that he is going to see here for the first time – we have long shared with him his lack of cuteness at the outset. Bad parenting?) On his eighth day of life, I came downstairs with my now freaking adorable son and was greeted by a house full of people, including our Rabbi and a Mohel there to perform the naming and ritual circumcision. Once I got myself through that, I was blessed with a great kid…until, that is, he turned three.
Having been duped into thinking that there is any truth to “terrible twos” (which were easy), living with Harrison from ages three to five was hell on earth. People who have met him after that age cannot even imagine what I am referring to, but trust me when I tell you that he was a gigantic pain in the ass. (And, on the flip side, those who knew him then will attest to his shenanigans.) He was a runner: (mostly away, often in public), a night owl (sleep, who needs sleep?) and had an obnoxious streak (primarily when we left him somewhere like a birthday party or, um, school.) But, then he got to first grade (Kindergarten was a little sketchy, but I did manage to make and keep many friends from that year!) and was suddenly a mensch. So, naturally, when George (n.c.i) finally came along, I assumed things would take a similar path. Silly, silly me. (In my defense, this was back in the day when I was still green enough to think that I had any handle on how to parent…)
In part because Harrison was driving us crazy and in part because we just couldn’t get pregnant, it was a full seven years before George (n.c.i.) was born. Vivid memories of my first delivery still firmly ensconced in my brain, I was even more terrified of giving birth the second time around. My doctor, bless her heart, remembered just how awful it was and suggested to me that we induce this one so that we could, perhaps in vain, attempt to control the delivery. Aside from being far more civilized, it was an entirely different experience.
We arrived at the hospital at 7:30 a.m., four days prior to my due date. We walked in calmly, devoid of any pain, completed the paperwork, got a room and commenced to birthin’ a baby. The Pitocin drip was started at 9:15 a.m. and a mere four hours later, I was holding a truly gorgeous baby in my arms. Not only did he (g.c.i. throughout) shoot out without incident, but there were two things of note which hold far more significance to me now than they did that day: 1. he was born posterior – that is, he was face down so all I saw when he came out was his cute bum and, 2. it all happened so fast that I had to ask if it was a boy or a girl. Holding him up in the air to face me, I was told (and saw for myself) that it was a boy. I was surprised. The entire pregnancy (even during the amniocentesis during which I requested not to be told the sex) I was convinced the baby was a girl. Positive. I even went so far, in the delivery room to respond to the doc’s announcement with an “are you sure?” “They taught me in medical school that if there is a penis, it is a boy” she replied. Hard to argue with that.
From the day we brought him home, he never cried unless there was a really good reason, slept like, well, a baby, ate well, proved his portability at every turn and was, by all counts a perfect baby. And then he turned two.
He was energetic: one didn’t dare go anywhere with him unless it was to drop him off and not return for as many hours as possible. He was persistent: once he had decided that another Barbie (or mermaid tail or hair extension or wig) was needed to “complete” his collection, it would take some sort of divine intervention to sway his thinking. He was frustrated: we were trying like hell to not give in to each and every wish, but often we did, so when we found the strength not to, all hell broke loose. He was hysterically funny: his perception of the world around him was always that of a far older, more seasoned person. And he was, I now know, sad. That is the hardest part.
Jessie (n.c.i) is energetic: but now she uses most of it in her twice weekly (and you don’t want to know how expensive!) gymnastics class. She is persistent: less about dolls, more about hair, shoes and outfits. She is frustrated: despite the speed with which her social transaction happened, she is wildly impatient to get the puberty blocker implant which, to her horror, is still a few years away. She is hysterically funny: still callin’ things like she seem ‘em.
Now seventeen, Harrison is still a runner of sorts: now he does it in the pool, with great speed and agility and, if I may brag, the title of Captain for the upcoming season. He is still a night owl: I cannot recall a single night in the past several years that he has gone to bed before I do. He does not, however, have an obnoxious streak and I am never afraid of anything he might do or say that he shouldn’t. Well, almost never.
So how does ones’ entry into the world go on to reflect their life experiences? Harrison had a rough go of coming into our lives. His birth was nothing if not dramatic. All was fine and then he had a moment. That very much parallels how he has lived his life. He is sweet and easy, but every so often creates a big tumult (usually with crazy-ass medical issues which are always frightening – like Blebs (yes that is a medical term) on his lungs, or the need for a middle of the night appendectomy) which, thankfully, we are able to resolve. Jessie, on the other hand, came shooting onto the scene quickly and without drama but then morphed into a complicated soul. Definitely reminiscent of her transition and, perhaps, foreshadowing of what lays ahead in our lifelong adventure? We’ll have to stay tuned to see…