Double Digits

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.

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Four Oh

When I crawled into bed the night before my fortieth birthday, Bob looked at me and exclaimed, “So! It’s the last night of your thirties. Ever! That’s kind of crazy, right? You’ll never be thirty again. Weird.” He then promptly rolled over and closed his eyes leaving me to ponder the unrelenting march of time all on my own. How thoughtful.

I fell asleep on the last night of my thirties trying to remember what the last night of my twenties had looked like. In October of 2005, I was about two months shy of giving birth to Henry, my first child. My thirties were all about pregnancy and babies and toddlers. I think I spent the entire decade either thinking about getting pregnant or talking about getting pregnant or trying to get pregnant or being pregnant or recovering from being pregnant. My thirties were years and years of nursing and diaper changes and bottles and cribs and spit up and high chairs and that weird rice cereal and fantasies about hiring a night nanny.

I hadn’t really thought about turning forty as the end of something until Bob brought it up. This birthday has always seemed like the beginning of something. Something different. The beginning of the post-baby phase of my – of our – life. We’ve spent so much time building our family that I’m excited to get to enjoy our family. Well, now that everyone can walk upright anyway.

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I celebrated turning forty by shedding 22 pounds, cutting off most of my hair and purchasing additional life insurance. I’ve been working at the weight loss since May and have wanted the hair cut since forever but the life insurance was a last minute panic purchase two days before my birthday. Nothing screams advancing age like pondering and planning for what would happen to your family following your untimely demise.

Outside of a lovely mid-week lunch date with Bob, the majority of the birthday revelry was pushed to the weekend, when my sister arrived from Louisville. My sister is the life of any party but you probably couldn’t tell that or anything. She makes everything brighter. And, funnier.

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Friends joined us throughout the day on Saturday as we visited local wineries. Some friends, I’ve known for what seems like forever and some I’ve just had the good fortune of meeting since our move here. I loved having the chance to relax and catch up with each of them. I’m always sort of oddly humbled when people go out of their way or make special arrangements to accommodate time together and I know the childcare gymnastics each one of my friends had to go through to make Saturday happen was definitely an exercise. I feel eternally blessed to have such lovely, giving women in my life. The copious amount of wine and cheese was nice, too. It was just a perfect day.

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So far, forty is off to a great start. I walked for four miles with Millie this morning but then had to come home and take a mid-afternoon nap to recuperate. That seems about right. I suppose I should expect a little yin and yang in this coming decade, no?

Revelry

This is four.

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Millie turns four years old today. She is so excited, has been counting down for days and days, will tell you all about it if you ask. It is a Big Deal.

We’re celebrating at home. Just the five of us. Some presents. Some cupcakes. Time together. Time spent marking a special birthday for a special girl.

Happy day, Amelia Claire!