Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Happy Birthday, Little Dude

My boy is one year old.

A couple of nights ago, the Big Dude said "Shall I wake you at 2:45am so that you can observe your anniversary?" For a moment, I didn't know what he meant. Then I remembered the begining of that long labour, and my body flinched and felt sick from the memory.

People say that women forget childbirth. I don't find that I have and, after what the Big Dude said, I found myself thinking about it a lot. I remember waking up to contractions that night that were only 2-3 minutes apart. I remember the long, long two days that followed, as I got stuck with contractions of a minute or more each, and only a three minutes apart, hour after hour. I remember, about 22 hours in, truly realising that this was going to be a long one, and sitting in a warm bath all night, trying to conserve every scrap of energy I had. I remember the intensity of the next morning, when they decided to break my waters and accelerate things. Incredibly strong contractions came one after another, without pause, and I was like a swimmer, spluttering and struggling to surface as the waves came crashing down.

And the blessed, blessed relief of the epidural. Apparently a man named Dr John Bonica invented the epidural. May his name be forever honoured.

I remember the exhaustion that hit me at about 30 hours. I felt like I had been running a marathon. And the worst part was that I couldn't drink anything without throwing up.

They turned the epidural off for the last three hours so that I could push, and the pain was incredible. But although I was prepared for the pain, it was actually the exhaustion and the thirst that really got to me. After 42 hours, and almost two hours of pushing, the Little Dude was still not coming down, so they drugged me up again and pulled him out with forceps.

I look at the photographs that were taken later that night, and am surprised to see that I look very alive, grinning with triumph, and it is my mother who looks as white as a sheet and utterly drained. Her mother died in childbirth, so I think watching things go wrong for me was very hard for her. For quite a long time afterwards, I felt quite traumatised by the whole thing. The trauma was part of the weepiness and disorientation of the early weeks.

But it was such a powerful experience. And, a year later, I remember the happy parts more. The excitement and euphoria I felt. Calling my mum and telling her it was starting. Laughing and joking with my mum and the Big Dude. Working harder than I have ever worked. Believing that I could do it. Seeing the Little Dude's face when they brought him to me.

It was the hardest thing I've ever done, and it was also the best thing I've ever done. I read somewhere once that childbirth means that two people are born: the child and the mother, and it is very true. I think the changes in my partner over the last year suggest that the total is actually three.

And the Little Dude has been such a source of joy.

I looked at old pictures of him yesterday. And I almost missed the little baby he was.

I wish that we could somehow turn back the last year and just have a few minutes with him again at every stage. Hold him again as a sleepy newborn, golden with jaundice; watch his constant kicking and waving of his fists a month or so later; see him learn to recognise us; feel again how light he was at four month old, and look into his slender, intelligent face; see him again as a plumper, smiling six month old; watch him grow strong and sturdy; watch him learn to roll, sit, crawl and walk again. Watch him learn to play.

I enjoyed each stage. But I feel like I didn't enjoy it enough. I worried too much. I tried too hard. I wish I could snatch all those moments back and enjoy them more the second time. But time keeps moving and he keeps changing.

He is constantly on the move, now. When I chase him, he bolts away, laughing and shrieking with excitement. Only last week, he was practically running as he chased magpies in the park. If you play the Beach Boys, he bends his little knees and bounces up and down, dancing. He has just learned to wave. And he is into everything. No bookcase or drawer or TV remote is safe from his eager little hands. And lately, he is babbling constantly. He still only says mum-mum and dad-dad and bub-bub, but he chats in his baby language so constantly that it feels like some kind of verbal breakthrough is imminent.

I bought him a little red push-along car for his birthday. It was a bit extravagant but, for some reason, after thinking all those depressing thoughts about September 11, war and death and destruction, I just needed to see my little boy having fun in a little red car. He was quite clever at pulling the wrapping paper off, very interested and excited, and examining it from every possible angle. And we had a small party with coffee and cake with our bowling friends. But the best part was pushing him along in his little red car, down to the shops. People stopped and smiled at us and waved to us. We were like a procession.

Happy Birthday, my Little Dude.


Blogger O272 said...

Happy birthday to your lil' man! And happy birth day to you, Emily! :)

Childbirth is an extraordinary experience, isn't it?

4:54 PM  
Blogger trueself said...

Happy birthday to the Little Dude!

It's stories like yours that make me glad my son is adopted. Not sure I could make it through labor and delivery.

5:18 PM  
Blogger C-Marie said...

Awe... Happy Birthday Lil' Guy!


5:24 PM  
Blogger Tajalude said...

Happy Birthday to Little Dude!! I can't hardly wait until I can really relate to these types of things. I must be ovulating... I just set a season pass on my TiVo for "A Baby Story" and "Bringing Baby Home" on TV, and can't get through one episode without at LEAST getting watery eyes, and I am not a crier!! My uterus is looking for work! : )

But yes, your childbirth story sounds... intimidating!! Hopefully that makes the experience that more meaningful.

7:22 PM  
Blogger Sweet Distraction said...

My daughter Emilie is 10 months today - the 13th. I think I miss her falling asleep on my chest the most. It was such a special time for us... her drifting off, me stroking her cheek or rubbing her back. Now she's into everything, very independant and wiggly. I miss cuddling too. The only time she wants to now is if she's exhausted. They just grow so fast don't they? Kinda makes me want another one.

So happy birthday to your little man... and to you. We'll be there ourselves

11:20 PM  
Blogger Sweet Distraction said...

My daughter Emilie is 10 months today - the 13th. I think I miss her falling asleep on my chest the most. It was such a special time for us... her drifting off, me stroking her cheek or rubbing her back. Now she's into everything, very independant and wiggly. I miss cuddling too. The only time she wants to now is if she's exhausted. They just grow so fast don't they? Kinda makes me want another one.

So happy birthday to your little man... and to you. We'll be there ourselves very soon.

11:21 PM  
Blogger Dewdrop said...

Happy Birthday to your son :) !

11:54 PM  
Blogger Satan said...

What a great year you've had with him - here's to another, even better one!

3:56 AM  
Blogger oblivion said...

Happy birthday. God they grow up so damn fast. Enjoy every moment.


7:05 AM  
Blogger Lady Let said...

Your moving words brought tears to my eyes as you made me relieve the birth of my two kids (now aged 9 and 6).
Those special and unique moments are impossible to forget.
Now I am pregnant for the 3rd time and hopefully, I will be able to pass through this amazing experience of giving birth once again.
Happy birthday!

8:06 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

And a belated happy birthday from me too, Little Dude! Btw Emily, any chance of a Little Dudette in the future? :-)

9:31 AM  
Blogger Desmond Jones said...

42 hours! That's. . . I'm at a loss for words. I think Molly's longest labor was 13 hours (w/ our first), and we thought THAT was just about forever!

On the other hand, 6F was born about 45 minutes after she got to the hospital (and they asked her to wait until the doc could get there).

(Can I tell labor stories and still keep my Man Card?)

You're right, BTW - it's not just baby and Mother that are born; becoming a father is probably the most profound change that ever happens in a man's life, if he's paying attention.

And, just because it needs saying -

Happy Birthday, Li'uhl Dewd!

12:01 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

Wow, new commenters, too! Yay! and welcome.

O272 - Its like nothing else, isn't it? So painful, and yet so exhilarating.

Trueself - I bet you could. I have always been such a physical coward with a "low pain threshold", and even I got through!

C-Marie - Awe is right, in both senses of the word.

Taja - Well, it sounds like it won't be long for you. I'm going to love hearing about your baby.

Sweet Distraction - Oh, that was such a beautiful experience with the Little Dude, too, and now he is always wriggling off my lap to go and run around the loungeroom a few more times! I really miss it!

These are the kinds of thoughts that are making me think about having another one.

Dewdrop - *wave* I can't believe your baby is in secondary school already! Just the thought of my boy being able to *speak* makes me feel woozy, let alone reading, writing and calculus.

Satan - Yes, even though I loved having a baby, I think I enjoy him even more as a toddler. So I'm truly looking forward to the next year.

Oblivion - They do. Do you ever get the feeling that time is moving faster and faster every year?

Lady Let - Oh, I love the thought of having three! Good luck with the birth(hopefully better than mine)

Rob - I would love a second child, regardless of sex. But with the necessity of IVF to do it, and the illness issue, I'm pondering whether we can summon up enough cash to conceive again and enough energy between us to raise two!

Desmond - I can't tell you how long it seemed. The longest two days of my life.

But a friend of mine had a two-hour labour, from first twinges to holding the baby. I was briefly envious, but actually she said it was a really shocking experience - so sudden, and such an incredibly rapid onset of the pain, with no time to get used to working with the contractions before the pushing stage. It didn't sound like much fun!

I reckon you can definitely keep your Man Card while talking about this. My Big Dude says the amazing thing is that ours went for so many hours, and yet he never felt the urge to eat or sleep and wasn't bored for a single moment.

And I believe you're right about fatherhood: attention and participation are key.

1:49 PM  
Blogger freebird said...

I wonder if he'll ever know of all the birthday wishes he got! Add mine too, if a little late!

2:24 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

Freebird - I wouldn't necessarily mind him knowing about this blog and you all, but perhaps to show it to him, I'd have to scrub out some of the sex part about daddy!

1:11 PM  

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