I remember bits and pieces from the night my son was born. Taken together, these fragments form a quilt of memories. These snapshot memories are full of textures, smells, sights, and sounds that transform the day previously known only as my mom’s birthday into my mom’s birthday and the day my son was born. My son and Grandma would forever be “Birthday Buddies.”
I remember my determination to have a drug-free labor and the synchronized breathing my husband and I practiced. I remember reminding myself that each contraction brought me closer to becoming a mother.
I remember my husband by my side, snacking. Heeding the advice of our childbirth class instructor, he strove to keep his blood sugar up and his body energized. I remember alternately smelling sweet jelly beans and salty crackers on his breath as he whispered in my ear, telling me he loved me.
I remember my sister constantly reminding me that I didn’t need to experience all this pain; I could take medication. (She had been heavily medicated when her first son was born, while I resisted being that out of touch with my body). I remember her frustration as she eventually got bored with me and sat down to flip through a People magazine she had brought with her.
I remember my best friend putting my hair up into a ponytail, whispering in my ear, and reminding me of my strength.
I remember my parents were there, though as soon as he could, my dad sought refuge in the waiting room. My best friend left the labor room to keep my dad company, and I would later learn she polished her fingernails to pass the time.
I remember that, after a doctor had examined me to check my status, he told me my son had a lot of hair on his head. I remember feeling truly bewildered, wondering how the doctor could know that.
I remember my sister and my mom taking their positions on either side of me, as my husband remained near my head, rubbing my back.
I remember that sometime during the pushing phase, I looked up and noticed that the flat screen television hanging on the wall had been turned on. A college basketball game was playing, with the sound muted, thankfully.
I remember being very mindful of the language I used as the pain cut through my body, as I cried with fear that I wouldn’t have the strength to bring my son into this world. I remember that I didn’t want my son to first hear his mommy screaming profanities. I remember instead, calling out the very obvious, “It hurts,” “This really hurts.”
I remember worrying that something was wrong. I didn’t hear wails and shrieks when my son was born. He entered the world calmly, with eyes wide open. I remember he made his displeasure known when the doctor needed to clean and measure him. Then he cried. I was in bed, across the room, and already my arms ached to take my son in my arms and comfort him.
I remember that my husband accompanied our son to his first bath. My sister and mom were asked to leave since I would soon be moved to a recovery room. I remember that one by one, the doctors and nurses left, until the once very busy room was suddenly quiet and devoid of anyone but me. I remember looking out the window and noticing how much darker it had become. The deli and bank across the street had their lights on. I could see them, knew the street below hadn’t changed. But in this room, everything had changed. Nothing would be the same as it was before.
I was a mother.
In the five-and-a-half years since my son was born, I have discovered that motherhood is the most joyful, most difficult, most wondrous, and most painful endeavor I have ever undertaken. On the occasions when I feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and distraught by the responsibilities and challenges facing me, I seek comfort in this quilt of memories. They provide me with solace and give me the strength to breathe, again utter, “This hurts,” and keep on pushing through, knowing that more peaceful, content times will come.