Updated: Oct 30, 2018
MAY 14, 2017
As I begin to write this, I am sitting at a table by the pool at the neighborhood recreation center (as pictured in my last blog entry about my recent move to the suburbs).
Surrounded by busy fountains, palm trees and a cool Florida spring breeze, I have up to 2 hours of peaceful time to create. That is because I discovered the recreation center offers super-affordable childcare while a parent exercises or relaxes by the pool. For up to 2 hours. This… this is why we came to the suburbs.
And why is this time so coveted? Because… I. Have. A. Son. You guys, I had a baby. And I’m still in complete shock and awe over it. We left off back in August when I shared Pregnant at 40: My Journey Behind the Facebook Announcement and How I Became A Unicorn. So, I’m back to catch you up on what’s happened since.
About one day after posting my story about my pregnancy on the blog, at 26 weeks pregnant, I began showing some signs of pre-term labor. I was put on “light bed rest”, which basically means you can move from one seated position to another. And can’t do much else. This news came days before my 40th birthday trip to Watercolor, Florida. But Max and I went anyway. And I went from seated position in bed to seated position in chair by pool to seated position at dinner back to bed. For the week. It wasn’t exactly the 40th celebration I had pictured back in my 30’s (which, in my mind, looked more like an exotic Spanish island trip with all of my best friends or a big party like the Great Gatsby 30th birthday party I threw myself a decade ago.) But, despite the limited activity and the worry over the baby, it was such a wonderful occasion. I spent every day of my pregnancy feeling incredibly blessed, so, to feel a sense of purpose that week of my 40th in doing everything I could to ensure a safe delivery for this baby made it better than any other celebration this event planner could create.
The bed rest only lasted about a month, things were looking okay after that, but I spent the remaining months of pregnancy in delicate mode. I was determined not to push it, to stay rested, and to do anything I could to stay at ease and unstressed. Max and I continued to celebrate every week. Especially week 32. My original fertility doctor had told us that our target was 32 weeks (given my half-uterus). But we sailed through it and kept going.
The final 6 weeks, I wrote every morning. About the journey. Letters to the baby. How I was feeling. It was a great way for me to capture all of the things going on in my mind. As I got closer and closer to 40 weeks, I tried to wrap my head around the fact that I was having a child. I just couldn’t grasp it. I started going in weekly for ultrasounds, the monitoring of the baby’s heart and the big “check” to see if I was dilated. All very surreal.
At my 38th week check-up with my OB, she told me that at age 40 and over, they don’t let you go beyond full term. There is an increased risk that the placenta will start to deteriorate for us elderly moms. She said if the baby didn’t come within a week they would have to schedule an induction. After 9 months of trying to keep this baby from coming out, I was suddenly up and at ‘em again, walking, eating spicy foods and willing it to arrive. But nope. My wee uterus magically grew to hold this baby to full term and I was scheduled to be induced at 39.5 weeks.
And so, on November 17th, Max and I checked into the hospital ready to finally meet this little guy or girl who’d been hanging out with us for nearly 10 months. Up until this point, I had chosen a ‘less is more’ approach in preparing for childbirth. I turned down all offers for friends’ (and strangers’) birth stories. I didn’t read anything outside of skimming my What To Expect book and Max and I attended a one-day childbirth class, which is where I essentially learned everything I knew about the topic (and felt totally overwhelmed by it!).
And childbirth really was every cliché I’ve ever heard about it. But I don’t want that to be the focus of this post. Especially if there are other potential moms reading who also don’t want an unsolicited birth story. I’ve realized every single parent goes through their own journey- through getting pregnant, pregnancy, birth and beyond. There is no need to worry unnecessarily about a variety of things that are unlikely to happen or assume your experience will be easier because someone you know popped out their baby in under half an hour. So, I will NOT dwell on my childbirth story, which, by the way, includes 30 hours of labor, 3 hours of pushing, 1 panic attack and basically everything that, at childbirth class, they said you don’t want to happen.
And to be clear, I’m not glazing over the gory details because I moved into a state of forgetful bliss the second I laid eyes on my child. Because that didn’t happen. I will never forget how incredibly difficult those 30 hours were. And I won’t carry on with repeating a bunch of clichés here, like “it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done”. But, holy cow, I now look at every single woman who has birthed a child with complete awe. Like I want to go up to every single one and tell them I admire them.
And let’s face it, it’s completely crazy that we grow a human in our bellies. Every part of it just blows my mind. Even though I witnessed and felt it happen to me, I still don’t believe it.
But it happened. Out came this screaming creature, with his little cone head and tiny body. “Congratulations, it’s a boy!” said the doctor. Or someone. It’s all a blur. I instinctively had known it was a boy, even though we didn’t find out in advance. So it was more of a confirmation of that instinct for me. I just kept asking, Is he okay? Is he healthy? Still worrying right until the end. (Well it’s really the beginning of the worrying, isn’t it.) And yes, they said. He’s doing great. Within what seemed like 2.4 seconds he was on my chest and breastfeeding. He was minutes old and he knew what to do. I thought they must have been exaggerating in the breastfeeding class when they told us this would happen. Max and I had our hour of bonding with him, which was a bit hazy for me to be honest. I felt like a shell of a human. But was just relieved. I had a son. And he was okay. And we named him Oliver James. "Ollie" for short. James is a family name for both of us. Oliver we just really liked. It sounds friendly and happy.
My little sister, Trish, had warned us one night during my pregnancy when Max and I were out with her and her husband that the first month ‘is hell’. She said to not plan to do anything but feed the baby. The entire month. And that we will occasionally find ourselves thinking ‘what have we done’. It’s a warning that I am always glad we had. Because it was. Hell. Actually hell is not the right word because it was simultaneously amazing and magical. And for us it wasn’t just the first month, it was the first 8 weeks. The absolute hardest weeks of my life. I think Max would agree. We both kept thinking – we are 40. We have lived a long time, we aren’t strangers to hard work and have so much life experience. I’ve managed events for over 10,000 people before. Max is an officer in the freaking Navy and has deployed several times. Surely, surely, we can manage this ONE tiny human. Nope. It turned out we couldn’t. I mean we did. But it was so hard. Oliver went from not pooping (because, unbeknownst to us, he wasn’t eating at first) to pooping 20 times a day. He was colicky. Had acid reflux. Very common baby stuff. But figuring it all out was a full-time gig. And I was figuring it out on no sleep while trying to physically recover myself. And learn to breastfeed (holy crap people, breastfeeding is a whole other world). There were several times when Max and I wondered how the human race has survived because having a baby seemed impossible. We are also unsure as to how anyone has had more than one child. They are all my heroes.
But, we tried to just take it day by day. Waiting for that “light at the end of the tunnel” all my Mommy friends had promised me. And then, one day, it came. I’m sure it was the combination of us just getting more acquainted with our little guy, him developing a bit more and us reading a book with some guidance on sleep training. But we suddenly felt like we had taken back the reigns of our days. Oliver fell into more a routine. And I could see the light. In the form of life outside of this new parenting prison of overwhelm I’d been living in.
Something else happened during that time. Oliver started smiling all the time. And giggling. And responding. We were getting feedback. And he seemed to really like us. Ollie and I became buds. We developed inside jokes and code words and sounds. We played. I sang to him (he thinks I’m a fabulous singer.) Read to him; fed him; took him on walks. We took him on dates to the bar at Whole Foods. To other bars and restaurants. I started taking him with me to Stroller Strength classes 3 times a week (amazing, by the way). Max and I spent time with our families and friends, sharing our little guy as proudly as any parents ever have. And, of course, I became that parent, constantly posting photos of him on social media.
And somewhere along the way, I found the time and head space to plan my wedding. Probably not the best timing ever and I definitely had a few ‘moments’ in the planning process, just feeling like it was too much at the time. But somehow, it all came together. And, 4 months after Ollie arrived, Max and I headed up to St. Simons Island, Georgia in a rental mini-van filled with everything from a pack & play to reception table numbers to a breast pump to a wedding gown.
Having a newborn, as previously mentioned, is a mountain of work. Having a newborn at your destination wedding (as a Type A former event planner, no less) is slightly chaotic. My mind was so filled with tedious details and schedules and logistics. And all I wanted to do was to spend time with the family and friends who had journeyed to the island to celebrate with us. And to do that at the pool bar. And preferably to not have to breast pump for milk every 3 hours round the clock (including during my reception). That would have been awesome. And it all bubbled up to a mini meltdown when I was getting my hair and makeup done before the ceremony. I will spare you the boring, stereotypical details, but I essentially spent the final hour before my wedding being consoled by my 19-year-old hair stylist (a morning-of replacement for the more experienced one who had the flu) and breast pumping alone in a bedroom in tears.
But then, as I was standing in the holding area right before the ceremony, watching everyone arrive onto the beautiful oceanfront lawn to see me get married, our friend who was watching Oliver brought him into the room and put him in my arms. And everything changed. At that very moment, I suddenly felt completely calm and peaceful and that all was right with the world. I looked into his sweet little face and he was looking at me in a way that made me feel he knew I needed him. I just held him for the next 20 minutes or so. I have no idea who came and left the room. Who I spoke to or what I said. Oliver made me realize what was important at that moment. He grounded me. It was one of my favorite moments of my life. I will remember it forever. And then I sent him out to Max in a little red wagon with the wedding rings in tow. From that moment on, everything was perfect. It turns out that having your newborn at your wedding is sheer magic.
Our wedding was the culmination of my year crammed full of nearly every life milestone a person can have. Having so many of our people come together to help us celebrate was the perfect bow to wrap around this gift of a season. I never could have scripted my story and my life today is unrecognizable to my life of just a couple of years ago. And the younger me of my 20’s and 30’s probably would probably have passed out to think I would have to “wait so long” to get married and have a baby. But sometimes life just flows in a way that is bigger and better than you could ever imagine. And sometimes life waits for you to be ready for it. As my Mom said in last year’s family Christmas card…”allow the unfolding”.
And so here I am today, on Mother’s Day. Married to the dreamy guy I met on Tinder nearly 4 years ago while living in San Francisco. Living in the suburbs of Jacksonville, Florida. With a 6-month old smiling red-head baby named Oliver. I would say I am indeed a unicorn.