My original due date was March 25th.  After some thinking, Greg and I realized that that date made perfect sense. (*censored backstory*)  It was a few weeks later, when the baby was measured during a sonogram, that my due date was changed to March 30th.  But, I knew I would go into labor on the 25th.

It was 12:00 p.m. on the 25th of March in 2008, and I felt the first contraction as I took the last bite of a hot dog all the way.  (Only a few people will know exactly what that is, but you should know they are very good.)  I was surprised since I had just returned home from an appointment where my doctor had told me that I was no where close to giving birth.  But I knew it was a contraction.  I knew it was starting.

My husband?  My concerned, supportive, loving husband? Left me at home and went to his friend's house. 

I went into my bedroom and for the next 11 hours, I tracked my contractions, while Greg came in and out of the room throughout the day to inform me of the next friend he was going to see.  It was so beautiful to be going through the birth of our first child alone and in my bedroom. 

At least my mother in law had gotten me one of those waterproof mattress pads.

Several hours later, after I had dutifully typed up Greg's homework for a food handling class he was taking, WHILE HAVING CONTRACTIONS PEOPLE, my husband finally agreed to move the whole outfit to my dad's house, who lived considerably closer to the hospital.

And, at 1:00 a.m. after I promised a cruel and unusual divorce if he didn't bring to me the hospital immediately, off we went to St. Joseph's in lovely downtown Paterson, NJ.  (And those of you who know Paterson, know that is sarcasm.  Coincidentally, the ones who know Paterson are probably also the ones who know hot dogs all the way.)  And upon arrival I was given a nice healthy dose of an epidural and assigned a room that was three floors below where my mom had lived for 10 days on life support 4 months earlier. 

     Sidenote: One of my biggest fears during the latter half of my pregnancy was that when I went  into labor I was not going to be able to stop thinking about our time in the hospital when my mom was sick.  I was afraid it would consume me and I wouldn't be able to concentrate on anything else.  That I was going to ruin everything by being crazy.  HOWEVER, labor pains are so incredibly debilitating that, until the final push, I didn't think of my mom's death ONCE. 

Back to the epidural.  I'm not sure if I was supposed to not feel anything below my stomach, but that's what happened and man, at that point, I NEEDED THAT.

And, another 8 hours after that, I began pushing, while my sister and Greg cheered me on.  AND, another 3 hours after that, two doctors, a couple of med students, four nurses, and a cheering section of about 15 various medical staff (janitor? probably.) successfully pulled out my daughter with the help of 1) sheer will, 2) some Jersey muscle, and 3) forceps.  At 12:12 p.m. on March 26, 2008.

That's 24 hours and 12 minutes of labor for those keeping track.

Now, this is the part where I would love to tell you that the second they laid her on my chest I looked down and reconized this child as my baby...but that would be lying.  Because, for me, I looked at this bloody, angry, black-haired, large-cheeked baby and thought, "WHO are you? You don't look like me, or your dad, or anyone in the family, and I cannot BELIEVE that YOU were in ME  You are your own little person!"  And then they whisked her away and began the task of "stitching me up."  (Won't go into details.) (You're welcome.)

I was always in awe of Leah.  I just couldn't believe that I had taken part in creating her.  She entered this world screaming and barking out orders and hasn't stopped since.  I'm a pretty strong willed person, but she takes the cake.  I have met my match in her, and all I have to say to that is, thank god.  Because Leah has saved my life.

I don't know how my dad, brother, and sister have managed thus far without a Leah of their own.  But all I know is that if I didn't have her, my life would not be where it is today.  I don't know if I would have made it.  If I didn't have something growing in my stomach reminding me of her imminent arrival, I wouldn't have had anything to live for in those first few months after my mom's death.  And if I didn't have someone as needy and helpless as my newborn baby, I wouldn't have been able to get through the first year of holidays without my mom.  And if I didn't have anything as beautiful and intelligent as my daughter, I wouldn't be able to get through the days that are hard to live.

She makes me be a better person; she makes me sit up and see what's going on around me; she makes me notice the small things; she makes me feel happiness and saddness and anger and joy; she makes me crazy; she makes me estatic; she makes me feel.  I don't think I'd want to be feeling anything if I didn't have her. 

She makes me live.

I wake up every day for my husband, but I get out of bed for my Leah.
And she makes me live for ME. 

And today, my Leah Patricia is two.  It's been the hardest two years of my life, but the best ones too.  And I pray that when she is old enough, she understands what that sentence means.

Happy Birthday, Leah. You've made me who I am today.

1 comment:

Abbe said...

An Open Letter To Dana & Leah ~~

First I want to say how awesome this Blog is and what you're doing with it. Sometimes it's just so darn hard to try and explain outright about pain and sorrow in the midst of happiness and happiness in the midst of pain and sorrow. The best way is in finding a creative way that can speak volumes and you've found the niche!

I miss Pat too. I think a lot about what she would be saying about Leah's growth accomplishments; and I think more about all the clothes that child would have...no, not just clothes, but designer names. I can hear all the sing song games she would be saying. When you, Marco, Adriana, Ray III, Evan and Stacey were young your Mom and I would compare our shopping, our OshKosh stories and finds. And no doubt there would never be a spit up stain that she wouldn't be able to remove either!!! We did lots of baby shopping - I know so hard to believe that in the two of us!

Dana, you no doubt have done her proud.

For me there was such a fine line I had to find a balance in when she died concerning our pregnancy. The thought of you giving birth without her presence broke my heart. Somehow I could sense how you were feeling. My personal geographic and general logistics of work and school made it difficult to be continually around. But I also knew that fine line of being supportive as I could to you and yet not trying to overrun and step in Pat's shoes. We are both wonderful people, no doubt:), but our stepping shoes are different and didn't want to perceive of even attempting to step in. Basically I didn't want my extra strong presence in your world to be more evident to you that Pat wasn't there ~~ hope I'm making sense here!

Your Mom would be so proud of how you are forming your life with Greg, maintaining a home,a job, and keeping the plates like in a circus continually spinning to keep your Dad, Adriana and Marco in tact, and Leah...yes, Leah..that adorable bubbling baby that I an see so much of you in. And because I see you in Leah, I see Pat loud and clear with every frosting covered face, smile, tear and adorable outfits!

HAPPY 2nd Birthday Leah - I look forward to seeing a picture smothered in frosting.

Aunt Abbe