It's late as I type this--nearly two in the morning--and uncharacteristically, you've kept me up for a while now. I suspect that you are teething, or maybe you can't sleep because you ate way too much at our birthday feast tonight, but the romantic part of me chooses to believe it's because you want me to wallow in nostalgia and get all weepy-eyed. Yes, I think that's definitely part of it. A year ago tonight, I was also up because of you, and there were also drugs involved, though tonight, it's Oragel and baby Tylenol, and then, it was a powerful epidural. A year ago tonight, I was miraculously pain-free, a switch from the seven weeks prior, and anxiously awaiting your arrival.
It was a difficult pregnancy that you and I had; while my pregnancies with Charis and Judah were smooth-sailing and uneventful, you and I had a bit of a struggle. Diagnosed with placenta previa at 18 weeks, I had to hang up volleyball season. It was a big disappointment, but of course, your health wasn't worth the risk. Then, at 31 weeks, during a visit to your Grandma and Grandpa's house, I was blindsided by a kidney stone, and shortly thereafter, underwent a minor surgical procedure to insert a stent. While the doctors didn't see any medical need to prescribe bed rest for me at that point, the pain and discomfort I felt led me to self-prescribe bed rest; no other position was tolerable. But physician-advised bed rest was soon to follow, after I went into very scary pre-term labor a week later. Your dad rushed me to the hospital, and we were terrified--as much as we longed to meet you, it was far too early for you to arrive. They admitted me to the hospital, and twice that night, we thought a c-section was in order. Placenta previa made a more typical delivery an impossibility, but it seemed you needed OUT. But the hospital staff administered some very very strong and very very nasty drugs, and things slowed down. You stayed put, and so did I--for five says they kept me on all sorts of drugs and machines, sending me home only when they were totally convinced we were out of the woods.
As soon as things were under control, they gave me steroids to boost your development. We met with neonatologists who shared with us the challenges we might expect if we gave birth to you at 32 weeks. And finally, we had not elected to find out whether you were a boy or a girl--we like to be surprised--but curiously, the nurses and doctors kept asking what you were. They shared with us that your odds of thriving were much greater if you were a girl, so we ordered an ultrasound and found out you were a She. It was still a surprise, just a little bit earlier than normal for us.
The next seven weeks were some of the hardest in my life. I'm sure it is only because of the strength God provided and the kindnesses offered by many that got us through. Because I was completely unable to do anything beyond laying on my side, your Grandpa very generously offered to come stay and take care of me. Charis and Judah went to stay with Yia-yia, and they'd come by for occasional visits and weekends home. It was a particular time of misery and solitude, of loneliness and longing to hold you and your brother and sister, and Trinie, my midwife, warned me against holding it against you.
I never even conceived of holding it against you.
It's not your fault that my body struggled to fight off infection after infection in those weeks, not your fault that we were in and out of the hospital with false labor more times than I could count. Our separation as a family had nothing to do with you--I will blame my own weirdo body for that. You were mercifully spared, amazingly and miraculously kept safe in the womb until the perfect time had arrived.
I was in the bathtub when I began having contractions, one year ago tonight. I spent a lot of time in the bathtub in those final weeks--it was the only place I truly felt comfortable. My water had broken, though I did not realize it at the time, being in the tub and all. I was hesitant to wake your dad and drag him to the hospital for yet another of my false alarms, but I timed my contractions, and they were getting closer, and more importantly, they were getting harder. I knew it was really time.
Dad and I scurried to the hospital. Auntie Beth came, too. With Charis and Judah, I delivered drug-free; with you, I couldn't bear the thought. I didn't honestly think I had that kind of strength in me after all of those painful, sleepless weeks. So they gave me some very powerful drugs that made your delivery a dream--it truly was wonderful. And when it was over, and they handed me your tiny, squirmy, healthy body, all I could do was weep and say over and over again, "I'm so glad you're here! I'm so glad you're here!"
Ruby Belle, if I had to do it all over again to end up with a prize like you, I'd do it--a thousand times over. You are absolutely worth it. You are such a delight to me, such a mild-mannered, pleasant peanut of a girl, and now that you've been here a year, I cannot imagine a life without you. You make my heart leap when I see you after a long absence. Cuddling with you will turn any dreary day sunny. Your constant smile and cheerful giggle are high points of any day. In times like this, when I really allow myself to think about how very much I love you, I think my heart will shatter into a thousand pieces for the weight of it. Like all of my children, you are my very heart embodied, and in a way that you will only understand when you are a parent, the amount of love I feel for you is at times terrifying; if I lost you, I just don't know what I'd do.
When you started crying tonight, the irony of my being up on the eve of your birthday was not lost on me. It was just a chance to reflect on that night one year ago, and on what we went through to bring you into this world safely, a chance to think about how in one way, we earned you, but in a much more overwhelming way, we didn't earn you, and don't deserve you. You are one of the three most precious gifts God has benevolently given to us, and this one year with you has only made us hungry for more. Even after you had stopped crying tonight, I just kept holding you and rocking you, remembering holding you and rocking you almost precisely one year ago. On both occasions, I cried.
Happy 1st Birthday, Ruby Belle. Thanks for waking me up tonight to let me ponder you.
I love you!