As You Like It: 30 Years

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My baby is about to turn 30 next week. How is it possible that my little bright eyes has been in my life for 30 years? No one ever warns you how quickly child-years race by. Or maybe they do, but you’re not really listening until suddenly, you are the parent of a child who is married, supports herself, and lives on the other end of the country. And you keep repeating, “When did this happen?” Sometimes I try to warn new parents about this time blitz. But just as I didn’t listen 30 years ago, ain’t no one listening to me now.

Thirty years ago I thought I had at least another week to relax at home before becoming a mom. I had left work two weeks before my due date to rest. I was working as a computer programmer at a brand-new job that I loved. For eight months my energy never flagged until suddenly, at the ninth month, I felt like someone had dumped an elephant on my head. At night I thrashed around trying to find a comfortable spot as Lisa alternately kicked me or had marathon hiccup bouts.

The accountants at work told me that I should have the baby before the end of the year for tax reasons. I told them that I would do what I could. I relished the time ahead when I wouldn’t have to get up in the morning and face the rush hour traffic.

The first week was a lazy haze, but then the next week, just a couple of days after Christmas, I started feeling funny. I didn’t realize that I was having contractions until I spoke to my friend Laney and she told me that it sounded like my baby was on its way. “But it can’t be!” I told her. “It’s not due for another week!” “Tell that to the baby,” she answered. I quickly called Steve and then my doctor, Mitch Levine. I got the usual instructions about timing the contractions and settled back to wait.

That night Steve fell asleep, but I lay in bed wondering what the night would bring. At about 11 p.m. things started to feel serious, so I woke Steve and told him that I was going to take a shower. Once he was up he began timing my contractions, telling me to call out from the shower each time a pain hit. A few minutes into the shower he began to sound panicky when he realized how quickly they were happening.

“Joni,” he yelled. “I think we should get to the hospital!” But I was feeling fine. I finished my shower then further infuriated him by taking my time choosing the sweater that I wanted to wear. He almost picked me up and threw me over his shoulder and into the car. By the time we got going it was midnight and freezing. We found out later that it was one of the coldest nights of the year.

We arrived at Mt. Auburn without incident, although Steve was hyperventilating by then. He parked, grabbed my bag and ran off. I stood near the car feeling like I was living a TV sitcom. “Shatz!” I yelled. “Didn’t you forget something? Me?”

Somehow we made it into the hospital and up to the room. A cheery nurse told me to make myself comfortable. Somehow I felt that that was not really going to be possible. She came in afterwards to see how I was “progressing.” I still remember her beginning her examination with the words, “Well, let’s just see how much you’ve … oh my goodness, I’d better get the doctor here quickly!”

So on a freezing, December night Mitch ambled into my room as if he had all the time in the world — and as it turned out, we did. My water still hadn’t broken so nothing was happening. He told tell me to get up and walk while he settled himself on the chair near the window with a pillow and blanket, trying to get some sleep. And that’s how we spent our night. Steve and I walking, me squeezing his hand at every contraction until his hand was completely numb, Mitch alternately sleeping and exhorting me to walk, walk, walk. Afterwards when I would tell people that my doctor stayed with me throughout the entire birth, they would look at me as if I were crazy. I soon found out that doctors did not do that. They generally just showed up for the fireworks.

The nurse kept assuring me that the baby would come before her shift was over, but I knew that this baby went by nobody’s timetable but its own. Finally, at 7 in the morning, Mitch asked if he could speed things along by breaking my water, and I told him that if he didn’t I was going to break it myself!

It wasn’t until 8 a.m. that Lisa made her entrance. Mitch looked at her wide awake expression and asked, “What are you looking at bright eyes?” And that’s how she got her pet name. She may have taken her time coming, but when she finally arrived she was hungry for the world. Funny, she’s still like that — usually late but wanting to see it all. Happy birthday, Bright Eyes. May you always keep them wide open for the world.

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avatar Posted by on Dec 26 2013. Filed under As You Like It, Featured Content, Opinion.
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