Greetings, Everyone! This is Benjamin Rutledge Young, who was born December 13 at 11:44 in the afternoon, to great squallings and kicking of his long froggy feet. Isnâ€™t he splendid?
He arrived six weeks early, much to everyoneâ€™s surprise, since most first babies tend to be late. Simons was at his birthday Man Campout at MoĂŻse Island, and I’d spent the day returning baby books and buying carseats and Cleaning Everything. At 2 a.m. I leapt out of my pristinely clean bed, thinking Iâ€™d wet my pants. I made it too, as even in an engorged state, I am a fast leaper.
Anyway, I donâ€™t normally wet my pants, so after feverishly thumbing through What To Expect When You’re Expecting, I called the OB, giving the answering service the wrong number twice in my middle-of-the-night stupor. The doctor told me to come in and get checked, although I’m sure she just thought I was crazy, since two other women had already woken her up with false alarms. Only mine wasn’tâ€¦
I remember standing in the doorway of our little house, in my supposedly slimming black pregnancy pants, peering through the darkness with the sound of the rain pouring off the roof, wondering, “Should I bother packing something, just in case? A knitting project? A book? If this is an emergency, should I risk finding clothes?” For years, I sent my sisterâ€™s list of What To Pack For The Hospital to all my friends, but in the end, all I had was my purse.
Driving myself to the hospital in the pouring rain, I called to alert my parents from the Cooper River Bridge, halfway there and too far to turn back. When my sister went into labor early with Beanie, Daddy took 42 embarrassing photos of her on the stairs, getting into the car, outside the hospital, etc, etc, and I wanted no part of it. The photos he took of me in the hospital bed looking malignantly cross are bad enough. They arrived thirty minutes later, where Momma pondered great existential questions like whether she should postpone her Beaujolais Nouveau Party or just cancel it altogether. And then she reminded me to rest between contractions. While this may sound fun to some of you, any of you who know me are aware that I was clawing my face off at that point, because WHO GIVES A DAMN ABOUT A WINE PARTY, WOMAN, I AM HAVING A BABY!!!???!!!
A few weeks before, Iâ€™d had to have my wedding rings sawed from my fingers, having suddenly gained 14 lbs purely in my hands, feet and nose (no, seriously). Noting my lack of marital bling, the receptionist, the OB, the nurses, even the infuriatingly slow wheelchair volunteer, all asked where my birth coach was, and when I said, â€śMy HUZZZ-BIND is on his birthday camping trip,â€ť they all nodded wisely and said, â€śOhhhh! Heâ€™ll never live THAT down! Har har!â€ť
Good grief, itâ€™s not like the man left me on the eve of my due date to go thump his chest at the strip clubs. To show you what a paragon of a wife I am, I waited about five hours to call him to tell him that I was in labor, since I had horrible visions of drunken boat accidents–aquatic carnage in the wintry predawn. Daybreak seemed a much safer time to inform him that his mantime was officially over. Forever.
â€śSimons? I donâ€™t want you to panic, but I need you to get up and get dressed and start up the boat. Weâ€™re having the baby today.â€ť I really was impressed by how quickly he came awake.
He thought I was lying. But I would hardly be playing that kind of cruel prank before sun-up, so all of his dudes rallied round, finding him clean clothes and bailing out the boat, which was filled to the gunnels with rainwater. My dad met him at Mooreâ€™s Landing, cigar smoke pluming out of the truck windows, and his opera music rattling the dew off the trees. And just as I started to really squirm from all of those contractions I was supposed to be resting between, in bounded my dimpled husband, reeking of woodsmoke and fresh rain, and I have never been so glad to see anyone in my whole life.
He helped me breathe and didn’t care when I barfed on him, and he was as shocked as I was when after so many pushes, out came this wet and wriggling, sprawling little person, bawling furiously with his long toes bruised black and blue from kicking his mama and his head full of dark hair. He was taken away from us almost instantly, which was a strange and terrible feeling. All of a sudden, you have these instincts that make you want to rip tigers limb from limb, but they’ve taken your baby away, and all you can do is glance around desperately and wonder what it is that you are supposed to be doing.
He was planned for January 24. I’d hoped to knit him a blanket and paint a happy vintage moon over his crib and childproof the kitchen. We’d planned to deliver in water at the birth center with a midwife and our yogic doula, but life happens while you are planning other things.
He was 5lbs, 8 oz–grandiose for a preemie–but six weeks is rather a long time to be early, and he needed a great deal of attention from the neonatologists and nurses. They were wonderful to us, calling me to breastfeed at the first crack of one of his gigantic blue eyes. Cheryl or Amy or Annette or Lori or Steph or Jennifer or Robin or Nancy would ring me on the phone in my room, where I would hitch up my lovely hospital smock and leap hurdles to get to the Level II nursery to feed him. And we would have these long luxurious nursing sessions, his soft baby skin all smashed up against my chest, which would totally wreck all of his lead connections. But no one complained about needing to stick them back on, since he would breathe so deliciously and evenly during our skin-on-skin time.
One morning, Nurse Jennifer called me in to nurse him, and we crept up to his isolette to see that he had found his itty bitty thumb amidst the horrible mangling swathe of bandages and tubes and wires and splints. He was sucking noisily away at it, as though he were comforting that poor tiny thumb instead of the other way around. He graduated from the C-Pap breathing tube in one day. And moved to a fancy isolette the second day to keep him warm and help him ignore the din of the rest of the Level I nursery. The heart rate monitor on his toe looked like he was phoning home to E.T., and invariably heâ€™d have that one foot stuck straight up in the air, like a airplane beacon. He only had to have a nasal feeding tube in for 24 hours, which helped him grow strong enough to nurse properly. And it was a wonderful day when they were able to remove the IV; Nurse Nancy knocked at my room with a Special Delivery, wheeling him wire-free in his stately regular baby bassinette. Thirty hours later, one of the nurses peeped in to say, â€śYou know, you donâ€™t have to keep him in your room. You can bring him back to the nursery if you need a break.â€ť I still donâ€™t know what that woman was on.
A week from that exciting, tumultuous night when I stepped out onto my front porch an anxious pregnant woman, I emerged into the frosty clear morning as a mother, my tiny baby nestled into his enormous carseat. He slept in a little Moses basket on our dresser or, more often, nestled between us in our bed, which is suddenly prime real estate, with two people, a boy and a bed hog dog. His warm little body fit right against my side, and we’d wake up gazing at one another.
It is now February 21, and he is 8 lbs, and still eats every two and a half hours. He is still a slow eater. After an hour feeding him, and a half hour of soothing him to sleep, I have exactly one hour to either sleep OR eat OR bathe. Bathing seems so optional these days! You would think I would resent him, being this tired, and housebound, and my God, whose body IS this? But when I hear his little cries coming from the basket, or sometimes now, the crib, itâ€™s like the first date with someone you utterly adore. Itâ€™s wriggling butterflies and this joyous soul-wringing giddiness, and then he makes these frantic gasps and grabs me with both hands and latches on, and I think, â€śYes.â€ť
I spend whole hours just smelling his silky little head. It seems unbelievable that heâ€™s actually mine and will always be mine. That I will get to witness the joyous rompings of sturdy little boy legs, to show him how to pick up live sand dollars with your toes and to spy sea turtle tracks, and the thrill of phosphorescent summer creeks. I canâ€™t wait to teach him how to pinch soft piecrust and dig holes and catch toads. Someday Iâ€™ll loathe his girlfriends (or love his boyfriends) and yell at him for driving too fast. Iâ€™ll skin him if he ever gets a tattoo or rides a motorcycle. I will knit him embarrassing sweaters and keep all of his jar-lid and paste Christmas ornaments like they are gold, frankincense and myrrh. God, the joy. It’s endless.