As we celebrate your first birthday today, I find myself reflecting on our journey together. I loved being pregnant with you, watching my body change as you grew inside me, listening to your heartbeat at each check-up, and feeling you move around. Feeling you every day was absolutely my favorite part of our early time together. The first time I felt a flutter of movement was when Daddy and I went to the Green Day concert. Perhaps you were rocking out, or perhaps it was the vibrations, but I thought for sure I felt something. It wasn’t until a short time later, when I was lying down for bed talking to you and rubbing my belly, that I felt a stronger flutter. I called Daddy in, and he felt it too - we looked at each other excitedly and smiled. After that you were always moving, and I mean always. That is probably when I felt most connected to you. It was our secret since no one else knew when you flipped upside down, rocked side to side, or snuggled on my left side, or hiccuped.
I’m amazed this sense of movement has carried on so strongly in your development this past year. It’s your “thing” if you will, and this past week you’ve learned to walk, driven by your curiosities. You have such a proud look on your face as you teeter totter over to Mama and Daddy, as if to say “Look what I can do!!”. As you gain your confidence, you’ve wanted to be held less and less. You still toddle over to me with your arms up in the air, and I gladly accept your invitation to pick you up. As soon as I pick you up, you want down again, as if you needed a quick recharge or assurance I’m still here. Lately I’ve been picking you up in the middle of the night to hold you closer, longer, feeling your every inhale and exhale while I stroke your head and rub your back. As I breathe you in, I’m taken back to when we first met in September of last year, when you made me a Mama and changed the very core of my being.
Fall was settling in early as summer came to a close, and after a brief cold spell, the weather warmed up. The leaves, having shown signs of changing, began to fall. By now your due date had come and gone, but Daddy and I weren’t worried. I trusted my body, but more importantly, I trusted that you’d come when ready. So, fitting to the usual social butterflies that we are, Daddy and I went to a friend’s engagement party at 11:00 on a Saturday night. We parked the car and were crossing the plaza when I felt something.... different. I wasn’t positive it was my water breaking, as it didn’t really happen the way it’s depicted in movies or other stories I’ve heard, so we weren’t too alarmed. We met up with our friends and continued to say hi before excusing ourselves to go home. By now I started feeling a few light and very infrequent contractions, but since it was late at night and things seemed to be moving slowly, we decided to get a few hours sleep.
We woke up about 9:00am the next morning and went for our usual walk around the neighborhood to help ease the contractions. The leaves, brightly colored and crisp, had fallen over the weekend and littered the sidewalks and streets. It was beautiful, and a bit surreal to be walking outside mid-September on a warm, sunny day. Upon our return, I bounced on my yoga ball, then ate some lunch. By this point, my contractions really started ramping up, and I told Daddy we should pack up the car and head to the hospital. Despite the urgency of it all, the drive there was very relaxing and calming; Daddy drove while I focused on breathing through the duration of mycontractions. Once we got into triage, the doctor had a hard time assessing how far along I was since my uterus was tilted, so she decided to consult with another doctor. Meanwhile, Daddy was texting Nicole, our birth photographer, on whether or not she should leave; I hadn’t been formally admitted yet, so we didn’t want her to leave only for her to turn around. While all of this was happening, my contractions increased in intensity and timing. In between texts, Daddy called the doctor back in, insisting this was the real thing. As it turned out, I had progressed much more than they expected, so they immediately began the process of moving me to a laboring room, and Daddy gave Nicole the green light (we later found out she was putting the camera together in the elevator because of how fast things were going). I wanted so badly to use a laboring tub with you; as I looked at it, I half-jokingly asked the nurse, “So, I guess it’s a little too late for that?”. She laughed, nodding her head as she helped me prep for labor. With the nurses and doctor focusing on me, Daddy put in a few drops of Peace and Calming into the oil diffuser, began playing soft yoga music on his phone, and unpacked our bags. With the lights dimmed, essential oils diffusing, and soft music playing, I had begun active labor; it was the most calming and relaxing environment for such a momentous occasion.
With each contraction, my temperature fluctuated between intensely hot and shivering cold, so Daddy made me a peppermint compress with the bamboo towels he had gifted me. As the doctors and nurses came in, they not only commented at how calm it was in the room, but also how good it smelled because of all the oils! They were unfazed by us being down on the floor, with one nurse saying, “It’s been awhile since I’ve been down on the floor, but here we go!” and proceeded to take your heartbeat in between contractions.
I first tried out a few positions on the floor with the yoga ball, with Daddy holding my hand or rubbing my back. A few weeks prior he had the cast on his left hand removed, and I remember being so worried I’d squeeze his hand too tight during contractions. I also remember my hair getting in my way, so I asked Daddy to get out a bobby pin and pin it for me. I sent him on a wild goose chase since I couldn’t accurately describe where it was in the bag he didn’t pack. Nicole gently offered to help, and she pinned my hair for me, and continued to assist along the way while documenting your birth. She was a tremendous help, and at times served as a doula in a sense, enabling Daddy to a focus on me.
When the doctor encouraged me to start pushing, I decided to move up to the bed and lean back on the yoga ball for some additional support. As labor progressed, the team removed the yoga ball and put a crossbar in position to assist with leverage. I didn’t want to push while on my back, since I thought it was unnatural and heard it was uncomfortable, so I alternated through squatting and side laying positions to finish out the labor. I ended up on my side a bit with Daddy holding my left leg for and a nurse holding my right one for leverage as I pushed during each contraction. I had my eyes shut nearly the whole time as I focused on my breathing and you. I felt such a strong connection to you during our 41 weeks, 4 days together, so it came as no surprised to me when later found out I would talk to you and rub my belly in between contractions, telling you to take your time and come when you were ready. I always trusted my body would do what it needed to do for you, and that you, in turn would do what you needed to do.
I’ll never forget the moment the doctor motivated me to push harder by placing my hand on your head as you were crowning. It was an incredible, intense feeling that I remember so vividly today. It brings tears to my eyes remembering feeling the top of your head, and the immense jolt of emotional will power I had to continue pushing, and I recall letting out a soft “Awwww”. Within a few more pushes, the doctor lifted you up into my outreached arms, and I brought you to my chest for skin-to-skin. Our new little human, in my arms. Daddy noticed how quickly your skin color went from purplish-blue to rosy-pink. You gave one short little shout to let us know your lungs were working perfectly, and Daddy and I looked each other lovingly in the eyes, smiled, and he leaned down to kiss me. We were now a family, and you were at the center of it.
After allowing the umbilical cord time to give you your extra nutrients, Daddy proudly cut the cord, then stepped back over to us. You wrapped your tiny little hand around his finger and wouldn’t let go, a moment he will never forget. After a few minutes of absorbing what just happened, the doctor gently asked us if we wanted to know what we had (we wanted it be a surprise). I asked Daddy what your name was, and, with a shy but proud smile, announced you as “Jasper Royal”. Since I had immediately brought you skin-to-skin, all I could see still was the top of your head, but I boldly stated, “I can’t even see his face, and I love him so much already!”
Shortly after, I tried nursing you for the first time. I had prepped myself for this moment, and with some guidance and some awkward moments, you momentarily latched. After we tried our first latch, it was Daddy’s turn to hold you. You quickly nestled into his arms while he cradled you, with a content, relieved smile. Once Daddy had his time to say hi, I nursed you some more to help establish your latch. One of my favorite pictures from this moment was one taken over my shoulder, with you looking up at me. This was the start of a beautiful nursing relationship, which I’ve come to cherish this past year.
Time seemed to have stood still, and before we knew it, we were up our private room. We had music playing and oils diffusing again, and the only light on was one soft spotlight above your crib. We tried to sleep, but we were in so much awe of you. We’d sit there in silence, with music playing, simply staring at you, ooh’ing and ahh’ing over every movement and tiny coo. We were speechless!
By now you’ve given completely into sleep as your body calmly sinks into mine, your pacifier falls out of your mouth, and your head tilts back slightly. I look down at you, seeing the same tiny, peaceful, sleepy face looking back up at me from almost a year ago. As I hold you just a little bit longer, I continue reflecting on how much you’ve changed me for the better, what you’ve taught me, and how I now look at the world through your eyes. Then I kiss your forehead, stand up out of the rocker, and gently lay you in your crib. You curl up to the side, similar to how you did in my womb, and lift your little diaper bum into the air, letting out a deep sigh. Before walking out of your room, I look back at you and smile.
Jasper, you are everything we could have asked for, and you have filled a space in our hearts we never knew we had.
Happy 1st Birthday Jasper! And thank you Kate for sending me his birth story! <3