As your dad and I started getting things together to head to the hospital, I was so excited and so scared that I couldn't stop shaking. We said our goodbyes to Rudy and your dad stopped to kiss me on the way out the door. We knew we’d be coming home with you and we were so, so happy.
We got to the hospital around midnight and despite the contractions I’d been having and the fact that when my water broke, it really broke, I wasn’t as far along as I’d hoped. The doctor agreed to let me wait a few hours before starting any Pitocin to speed things up (which I wanted to avoid) but they wanted to hook me up to the fetal monitoring since you didn’t have all that nice amniotic fluid to keep you comfortable anymore. Also, your heart rate had been doing funky things, so we all decided that keeping an eye on you was the best plan. I have to admit, I loved the lull of your heartbeat. Your dad pulled up the chair next to my bed and we were able to sleep a little bit. So far, so good.
I should also tell you about the nurses. Cindy was our nurse when we checked in and while she was good at what she did, she wasn’t very friendly. She was pretty cold and matter-of-fact about things and when you’re having a baby, you want to be coddled. You don't want someone to treat you like a fool for asking silly questions. I was feeling scared and uncomfortable and I wanted someone to say, “you’re doing so great!” But Cindy wouldn’t play that part.
About 2am, she came in and said that because I wasn’t progressing, they wanted to start me on Pitocin. And that’s when the party started. The contractions picked up pretty quickly and were getting stronger. I hadn’t wanted an epidural, but because they wanted to keep you on the fetal monitor, I was hooked up to all sorts of stuff and was pretty confined to the bed. I felt like I couldn’t do anything to work through the contractions except breathe and that wasn’t enough. By 6am, I was ready for the epidural. The contractions were awful – one would start before the other stopped – and I was miserable. By the time the anesthesiologist made it to my room, it was 7:30am.
I was sitting on the edge of the bed, leaning over while the epidural was being administered and I could hear Cindy debriefing my new nurse, Erin, who had just started her shift. Sitting there, I prayed that Erin would be nice.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed your dad sitting to my left and I remember thinking that he looked concerned. He told me later that watching all of that was so hard for him because he couldn’t do anything for me. Your dad is a good man, Jack, and I pray that you’re just like him.
When Erin came over and introduced herself to me, she stood in front of me and put her hands on my knees and told me that I was doing a good job. I remember that her hands were cold and that felt good. And then I started crying. Crying because she was so nice, crying because I knew there was relief on the way, crying because you were close. And within minutes, the contractions were weaker and weaker until I wasn’t feeling them at all. I looked at your dad and said, “I’m so happy” and then slept for two hours.
Before that day, I wondered if I’d somehow feel like a failure if I ended up getting an epidural. But I have to tell you that I don’t regret it at all, because it allowed me to enjoy the moments leading up to meeting you. And for that I’m so grateful.
Several hours later, after not feeling much at all, I started noticing that I was feeling contractions on the left side only. A hot spot, they called it. It was painful – nothing like before – but definitely painful. Before the anesthesiologist could get back in the room to check things out, I realized that it was time to push. Feeling the contractions actually made that part easier and pushing gave relief. I think that was my favorite part of the whole experience because I felt like I was actually doing something.
That was about 1:30pm on Sunday. Here’s what I remember about the next 45 minutes:
After the first push, Erin started laughing and said, “That’s how to have a baby!” Apparently you were closer than we thought! She ran into the hallway to tell Dr. Dacus that she’d be needed soon. When she came back in and told me that it wouldn’t be long, I was so excited. You were coming, Jack, you were coming! She started bustling around, getting everything ready for you. We had the TV on for a time when things were more relaxed and had never turned it off. I realized that the Panthers game was on and mid-push, asked your dad to turn it off. That’s not exactly what I wanted on in the background as you made your way into the world.
Your dad was great, holding me up as I put every bit of strength I never knew I had into pushing. Erin would count, loudly, to ten each time and then tell me how good I was doing when I laid back down to rest. Your dad never let go of me, the whole time. I pushed some more. Erin told me when she saw your head and told me that you had hair. She told me that we were almost done.
Jack, let me tell you something. I have never been as proud of myself as I was in those moments. In those intense minutes, I didn’t ever think that I couldn’t do it. When both Andrew and Erin thought that I needed to rest, I’d push some more because I knew I could and because I wanted my boy. Even now, your dad says that he can’t believe how strong I was and honestly, I can’t believe it either. But I want you to know that I’m so thankful that it was you, sweet son, who allowed me to recognize that strength in myself. It was the perfect start to motherhood.
After 45 minutes, Dr. Dacus came in to deliver you. I pushed one last time, with everything in me, and then I heard Dr. Dacus and Erin shouting, “Page, look! Look!”
If there had been music playing, this would have been the crescendo. We all felt it in the room. I opened my eyes and there you were. My sweet, precious son. I recognized you immediately, like we’d known each other forever. And in a way, I guess we have.
They wrapped you up, placed you on my stomach and your dad and I both cried. Because you were here, because you were healthy, because you were beautiful.
Two hours later, after we had stared at you and said “I can’t believe he’s here” about a hundred times, it was time to go tell the family waiting for you outside. Apparently, Papa Johnson couldn’t handle the anticipation and had already found out from the nurse’s station that you’d arrived. Your dad greeted everyone in an outside patio area of the hospital – Papa and Nana, Grandpa and Nonni, Aunt Laura and Aunt Rita were all there for you. Just for you, Jack.
They tell me it was a beautiful day, the day you were born. That it was a perfectly warm and sunny Charleston day. I like that.
And now here we are, a month later, and I can’t believe how easily I remember everything. On Sundays, I glance at the clock throughout the day and think about what was happening at that time on your birth day. It was all so perfect and even though I was exhausted by the end of the day, I had you. You with your big eyes and beautiful mouth and dimple on your left cheek.
You, with my heart held tightly in your hands.