Ten years ago this week, we brought a brand new baby Henry home from the hospital. Childbirth is one of those unique time stamp events you can pick pieces of from your memory with precision.
Ten years ago this very evening, Bob and I drove to the hospital after eating spaghetti for dinner.
Ten years ago this very morning, I woke up in labor and delivery with contractions.
Ten years ago this very afternoon, Bob went to eat lunch in the hospital cafeteria at the worst possible moment.
Ten years ago right this minute, Henry was born.
So many memories from the past decade of parenting have blurred together, a hazy hodgepodge of details, but the memories of the birth of my children remain large, like skyscrapers sticking up through the fog.
Henry was born by cesarean section after about 36 hours of increasingly unproductive labor. The long, complicated day that preceded his birth left me exhausted and utterly depleted. I fell asleep right on the operating table the minute I knew he had arrived safely. The first family photograph we have was taken in the surgery suite and just behind Bob, who is seen proudly holding a swaddled and slightly forsaken looking Henry, is me, asleep, my glasses askew.
I remember having absolutely no idea what to do with Henry once he finally arrived. My rather extensive babysitting experience accrued between the ages of twelve and sixteen proved surprisingly useless at thirty. Well, in every other baby-related area besides diaper changing. I knew exactly how to change Henry’s diaper. But, that was about it.
When a nurse popped in to check on the two of us that very first morning we were together, I commented that Henry had been fussing.
She looked at the two of us and asked, “Is he hungry? When was the last time you fed him?”
“Oh, right,” I sheepishly replied. “When am I supposed to start doing that?”
Right away. The answer is right away.
When I was finally able to climb out of my hospital bed, several hours after Henry’s birth, I relocated to a rocking chair in the room and Bob handed me Henry to cuddle. Having only seen him swaddled in a striped hospital blanket, I was eager to take a look at him. I wanted to really meet this little boy that was already changing everything. I remember unwrapping his blanket – just like you would a present – and peering in wonderment at his little toes and hands and knobby knees. Realizing with equal parts amazement and fear that he was finally here.
By the last evening of our hospital stay, I was already on the mend and we were beginning to find our groove with Henry’s care. We settled in after dinner to watch Washington play their final football game of the season. There we were, me in my hospital bed, Bob sitting in the recliner next to me, Henry swaddled and tucked into the bed between us. Our little family of three.
I remember thinking to myself, “Okay, this is it. We’ve done it. Here’s how it all begins. Here’s how the story starts.”
I’m not sure how much more of Henry’s story I’ll tell here. He is ten now and seems deserving of greater privacy. He is getting older and I can already see that the changes have begun.
A baby, a toddler, a young child, they’ll tell you exactly how they’re feeling. Every minute of every day, they make themselves known. But, after a decade of knowing just exactly how Henry is feeling – a decade of knowing everything about him – I can see him starting to pull away ever so gently. Keeping more of his thoughts, feelings and emotions to himself. Increasingly cognizant of the way others perceive him. Trying on sarcasm and new kinds of humor. Asking tough questions. Thinking about big ideas and concepts. All amazing things and all things I could never have imagined the day of his birth in 2005.
My newborn has grown up.