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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Evening and Morning: My Best Mother's Day

Since it's Mother's Day and all... I thought it might be fun to remember the very first day I turned into a mom.

It was June; closer to Father's than Mother's Day, but both had passed. I knew something was up about four in the afternoon. It was June, hot and sunny, and I was getting cramps like you do when you have a period, only these were much more insistent, and didn't seem to let up.

I think I must have called the doctor, who told me to wait until the cramps, aka pains, were just a few minutes apart (three? four? Who can remember this stuff)? Eventually (maybe around dinner time?) Josh's dad and I went to the hospital, and the nurse on duty met us there. It turned out she was pretty young and this was only her third time attending someone in labor.

Yes, it did make me a little nervous, but she was so friendly and warm I decided quickly this was the best possible nurse I could have, and started out by giving her lots of chocolate. (Tip: I was told to bring chocolate for the nurses, and can't recommend it highly enough.)

Most of what I remember is hanging out in one of those hospital beds in a pretty nice room. The idea was that I'd be able to have the baby right there, without having to go into a delivery room.

 I also remember asking Josh's dad to crank the bed up and then crank it down at least three thousand times.We also played music (more rock than classical) and after a while, the pain became more persistent and the breathing exercises they give you in class weren't helping much.

The nurse described a drug that "wouldn't change the pains, but would make it so you don't care any more." I thought that sounded good and we tried it, and I do remember it working for a good long time.

At one point my "good" nurse left for a little while and a second arrived, much more stern and demanding. She probably needed them, but did not receive any chocolates.

As we got closer to midnight, I could see Josh's father's arm was getting tired of cranking and I was starting to experience serious pain. I think we had a monitor by then and I could hear my son's heartbeat, going harder and faster every once in a while. It seemed to me he wanted to get born very badly, but I couldn't figure out how to help him.

Our doctor was called. It turned out my dear friend's father was on duty, which turned out to be wonderful - as by then I really needed a friend. He came at about 11:15 and immediately criticized Josh's dad for his choice of music (which in fact was my choice). The doctor then determined that a membrane needed jabbing in order for the water to break, and that's what he did.

Within minutes, it seemed, things were rolling, and they asked me if we could go to the labor room to make sure everything went the way we wanted. Of course we all said yes, and at two minutes after midnight, our son was born.

Joshua Gabriel entered the world with great determination and no wailing. The nurses told me to open my eyes and I thought that whatever else I did, I had to remember this moment--the face and body swimming up toward the light, a tiny bruise on his upper lip, thinking how did that happen, and never finding out.

My doctor did some weighing and measuring and told us Josh got a 9.9 on his Apgar scale, which sounded lucky, whatever it meant. They wrapped him up and handed him to his dad, who sang a song to him. And because it was two minutes after midnight on a Saturday morning, his dad informed us it was a magical time because Jewish tradition says this is the time when the Female Spirit of God (Shek-hina) is supposed to be hovering.

I thanked her, silently, for showing up, and I have to say I've called on her more than once in the years since. Last night I was talking to Josh, and he said he thought maybe the Spirit was responsible for his deciding to be a cantor when he grew up.

Being a writer, I'd love to think so. But what I do know is the best mother's day I ever had was the day I became a mother. Because, in a way, a new version of yourself gets born along with your child. A different window into seeing things you'd only seen one way flies open. And all of a sudden, new dimensions and layers appear.

The funny thing is I hadn't been sure I wanted to be a mom, and Josh's dad had kinda-sorta talked me into it. But I think that's why I feel so lucky and blessed to have had the opportunity. And I pray everyone who wants a child can have the opportunity, too.

Happy Mother's Day.