I was cleaning up my laptop this week when I ran across something that bore my younger son’s name. I didn’t remember creating the document, and when I opened it up I didn’t recognize the text.
After a few minutes I realized it was the beginning of an unfinished letter to my baby, written in the few hours before we went to the hospital. It is unfinished and not anything like the eventual “Letter to my second son“, but has one moment that I like. What’s more, it helps me remember it all as it should be, instead of what I wrote in St. Francis Hospital: The real cost of having a baby.
The human brain can’t process details on days like this. I didn’t know that when your brother was born. I have only vague memories of what I was doing on the day he was born. It’s like looking at the day though sheer cloth. I can see it: my trip down Pleasantburg Drive, pulling up in front of the hospital, your mom being hooked up to the various tubes and wires. The rest of it is gone, though, until I saw your brother for the first time.
I honestly thought you’d be born on Sunday. That was Mother’s Day and it seemed sort of appropriate. We’d spent the previous three days trying to walk you out. Your mom and I went on a date the previous Thursday and walked several miles in downtown Greenville and the West End. We ate Mexican food at Cantinflas, but we couldn’t make it happen. The following Saturday, we got up early with your grandparents, walked through the downtown Saturday Market, bought some steaks and strawberries, and then spent most of the day walking around the annual arts festival, Artisphere. Sunday was Mother’s Day. We had a giant brunch at Larkins then walked around downtown and a goodly distance on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. I made Low Country Boil for dinner. You will probably hear this several times throughout your life, but your mom ate shrimp the night before she gave birth to your brother.
Your mom woke me up this morning before sunrise and said she thought today might be the day. I didn’t get jumpy. I went back to sleep and figured I’d get rowdy when we were sure. I got up later, took your brother to school, and came home to work. Your mom had a different look in her eye than usual and wasn’t humoring me by laughing at my jokes. Our Whirlpool Cabrio, a lemon of a washer if I ever owned one, had broken down and I couldn’t get a repairman to the house before Wednesday. I went to the laundromat for the first time in as long as I could remember to wash what was left of the laundry your mom was working on. By the time I got back to the house, your mom had crawled in bed and was looking tired.
The contractions started hitting every five minues little bit after noon. Your mom took a shower, then I did the same. By the time I was out, she was ready to call the doctor. The doctor’s office asked us to come in. By that point, I’d packed the car with your mom’s stuff and my bag. I’d packed two iPods, two books, my iPhone, a couple of t-shirts, and some underwear.
When we left the neighborhood, we had to dodge the crazy guy who walked his snake twice a day (yes, there was a guy in our neighborhood who took his snake for a walk every day). We we turned on E. North St., we had to be careful not to run over a very tall, but very old man who was jaywalking (with his cane).
Your mom had instructed me not to make any jokes because laughing made the contractions hurt worse. I realized that half of what I say consists of some sort of joke. By the time we turned on Pelham Rd, I’d run out of ways to keep quiet. I started thinking about how your mom had been in labor with your brother for 17 hours and how the doctors had induced her labor nearly five years before.
As your mom finished up another painful contraction, I quietly remarked, “All of the fun, none of the Pitocin.” There was a moment of silence, and then your mom said quietly, “That was a joke.” I shut up after that.
At 3pm, we walked into the doctor’s office. A nice nurse did her thing and said she was fairly certain your mom was in labor.She told us that rather endure all the pain in the hospital that we should go home until your mom couldn’t take the pain anymore. So, back home we drove. Your mom walked around and soaked in a bath while I wrote a few of these paragraphs.