Confession: When it comes to holding a newborn baby in my arms, I’m slightly terrified. Which sounds crazy coming from someone with three children of her own, but it’s true.
Way back in the 1980s, when all of my babies were born, “natural childbirth” was all the rage. Despite the fact that women had been giving birth for thousands of years without the aid of any kind of pain relief other than a bullet to bite on, our generation pretended to have invented “focusing on your peaceful place” and
“ah-hees” and “sniff-puffs.”
George and I dutifully attended six weeks of Lamaze classes and felt supremely prepared to bring our first child into the world without the trappings of modern obstetrics. Okay, okay. Not entirely true. We definitely planned to have the baby at a hospital. Vanderbilt University Hospital, to be exact, where George was a surgery resident and where I would be attended by some of the most well-trained
physicians in the country.
But there would be no anesthesia and no traditional labor-and-delivery room for us. Our baby would enter the world in one of Vanderbilt’s newfangled “birthing rooms,” where dim lights and soft music would welcome him or her peacefully into the world.
It didn’t happen quite that way.
Without going into a lot of detail, let’s just say that all my Lamaze training went out the window as soon as labor began in earnest. No focusing on my peaceful place. No a-hees or sniff-puffs. Just lots of yelling and screaming and begging for an epidural that never came. Heck, I didn’t even get a bullet to bite on. When, on the stroke of midnight, our daughter Meg finally made her entrance into the world in that newfangled birthing room, I was too shaken and exhausted to hold her. “You take her,” I told George. “I’m so weak I’m afraid I’ll drop her.”
And so it went, with only slight variations, for Babies Two and Three.
All of which is to say that the warm-and-fuzzy Hallmark moment when a brand-new baby is immediately placed in its cool, calm and collected mother’s arms didn’t happen with me. But now I’m at the stage in life where I can rectify that, at least partially, by confidently holding my newborn grandbabies in my arms.
Or maybe not.
I met grandson Eli for the first time when he was almost a day old. As daughter Leigh handed him over to me from her hospital bed, my first thought was “I hope I don’t drop him.” My second was that he felt just like a little sack of potatoes in my arms. My third was that I was pretty sure I loved him more than anybody else in the whole wide world.
Flash forward seven months. The phone call from son James came in the wee morning hours of April 24. Natalie was in labor and they were headed to the hospital. At noon, word came that the baby was here. I made it to the hospital without a speeding ticket and beheld my granddaughter when she was only forty-five minutes old. Now that’s what I call a newborn.
All I could see of her was three square inches of a precious little face that hadn’t quite pinked up yet. A knitted cap covered her ears and head and her six-and-a-half pound body was swaddled chin-to-toes in receiving blankets. As Natalie handed her over to me from her hospital bed, my first thought was “I hope I don’t drop her.” My second was that she didn’t much feel like a little sack of potatoes in my arms. It was more like holding a roll of paper towels, and not the jumbo-size. My third was that I was pretty sure I loved her (along with Eli, of course) more than anybody else in the whole wide world.
So welcome to the world, Emily Jan Ivey. I was just kidding when I said I’d be disappointed if you weren’t redheaded. Your dark hair is perfect, just like everything else about you.
And I promise I’m not going to drop you.
(May 5, 2013)