“This?”

Seeing as how I’ve blessed you with a reading about my little girl, Clara, it’s only fitting that I follow that up with something about my little boy, Jerry.

I gaze at my daughter, lovingly. I watch her ponder the newness of everything. I watch her with a smile as I see her inspecting her own hands in wonderment, or catch her staring up at a light on the ceiling in awe. To see a young child discover the newness of everything is such a blessing. And while I gaze at my daughter and watch her discover everything, it is actually my son that I marvel at these days. To look at Clara and then Jerry gives me a touch of perspective. It is a reminder of not only what Jerry once was before words and behaviors could show me but also a reminder of how quickly it all goes.

My son was born on June 26th, unexpectedly. “Unexpectedly” meaning that Rob and I were vastly unprepared. I wasn’t due until July 7th. Rob and I had been thrown two showers by friends and had a lot of baby things that still needed sorting through. The nursery wasn’t finished. Our overnight bag for the hospital wasn’t even packed. We just weren’t ready. This is a  bit embarrassing to admit seeing as how I was full term at this point, 38 weeks. Pregnancy lasts, at most these days, 41/42 weeks. Yea, we were definitely down to the wire if you hadn’t noticed.

I still worked full time, on my feet, all day long and was normally passed out by 7 p.m. every night from exhaustion. I can’t tell you how many episodes of “Lost” I missed because I couldn’t make it to 9 o’clock. I was swollen beyond recognition ever since the summer heat reared it’s ugly head sometime in May of that year. Combined with a 40+ hour work week spent mostly on my feet wasn’t helping my poor ankles or legs…or hands and feet, or fingers…or face.

I’m not going to spare many details because this is my “war story.” Thus far in my life, Jerry’s arrival has been my biggest “ordeal.” Both physically and emotionally. I consider it all a blessing now. He arrived safely, was born in perfect health and is an amazing little boy. But when he arrived, he put me through the works.

I met Rob at our OB’s office for one of our last weekly visits. I had a few orders of business to talk about with the doctor during our appointment. I had been feeling lousy all week; headaches, nausea, spots in my vision and dizziness, I was feeling awful. I was going to ask for a formal letter releasing me from work earlier than originally planned. At the beginning of my pregnancy I had decided I would work for as long into the pregnancy as I could. Now that I had, literally, popped from swelling I decided that it was in my best interest to take it easy for the next few weeks before the big day. Ideally, Jerry would have at least made it to 39 weeks and I would have gotten a small period of rest.

As a side note, let me say this: life never gets more real than right before you’re about to have a baby.

I remember being a little kid, with a napkin on my head pouting at a restaurant in Easton because they didn’t serve spaghetti. I couldn’t have been 8. Now here I was, preparing for my first baby and let me tell you – as an adult I wanted to put a napkin on my head and hide when it came to thinking about birth and there after. Sure, we were happy to welcome a child into our home and into our family, but any romanticizing one has about becoming a first time parent goes out the window when you simultaneously feel like a whale and are burdened with decision making right before giving birth.

More importantly, there is no turning back from becoming a parent. Not that I would ever reconsider becoming a mother, but most things in life these days are given an out. That is never for being a parent. And nothing is as profound as trying to comprehend the knowledge that 24/7, for the rest of your days on earth, your life will be spent living with someone else’s best interests in mind. All of this adds up to the perspective of becoming parent: Joy and terror mingling simultaneously. Anyone who tells you that they weren’t scared in the least is a LIAR.

For all of the anxiety and fear that you may have, let me offer you encouragement from someone who has emotionally hung out at both ends of the spectrum – it is the single most important thing I have ever done in my life, and my children at what I am most proud of. I’ve never experienced a measure of love like this before and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Back to our appointment. We met at our OB’s office around 3:30 on Thursday, June 25th. I wasn’t sure about Rob, but I had MY evening planned out. It would include copious amounts of salsa, cheese and chips at the local Mexican restaurant. We arrived, and did the usual tests before you saw the doctor. Pee in the cup. Check. Get weighed. (Sigh) Check. Blood pressure. Check. The week prior my blood pressure had crept up some, but it still wasn’t anything to be alarmed about.

During this visit, however, the nurse’s face told me otherwise.

The nurse told me to lay on my side and relax. My blood pressure was super high. I don’t remember exactly, but I vaguely remember somewhere in the 150/90 range, give or take.

My OB, who not one for rushing and who normally takes her time to greet you when she walks into the room, hurried into the room. Long story short, there was a build up of protein in my urine. That coupled with my high blood pressure had made her very anxious. And, as it turns out, my feeling less than stellar the week before was not normal. I thought feeling miserable was normal for nine months pregnant. Of course my head may hurt, of course every now and then I may feel nauseous. I had written it off.

Doctor Liu quickly made me snap out of it. She was highly concerned about preeclampsia. She was sending us immediately over to the local hospital for blood work and a stress test. And I still remember the following words, and see the room and Dr. Liu sitting in it perfectly in my mind’s eye like it was yesterday:

“I’m going to be honest, Ashley. If I don’t like the looks of your blood work or the results of your tests, I’m going to induce your labor today.”

Me, the horrible parent with no hospital bag, no finished nursery, and no idea what was going on. My husband’s eyes lit up slightly. He had simply heard that we might get to meet our baby for the first time today. I heard “horrible…testing…blood work…unhealthy….seizures….labor….”

We got our paper work and headed out to the car. But not before making our phone calls to the respective parents. Rob said that it sounded like his mother dropped the phone. My parents didn’t believe me, and were then simultaneously excited and nervous. Then I called work and told them that I had to tap out early. Should my test results have pleased my doctor, at the very least, I would be put on extreme bed rest. Working was off of the table.

I’ll leave it at this for now…there is a lot more in my war story!

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