I was pregnant and it was terrible. I’d been so sick that at 7 months pregnant I weighed less than I did just before I’d conceived. Battling placenta previa and a temperamental baby favoring my stomach as a pillow, shooting all the acid in my stomach up my esophagus, forcing me to eat only baby food for about two weeks while I healed, made me an even more unpleasant version of my pregnant self. I had morning sickness for about five months, beginning every day when I got out of bed and passing at 7 o’clock every evening like clockwork, as if someone had lifted a veil of nausea from my body. The smell of food made me nauseous and the last thing I wanted to do was eat. Every night at midnight the baby would commence dancing in my womb, keeping me and Jim awake with his gymnastics.
I was teaching first grade and almost two months from my due date. The teachers I worked with held a surprise baby shower for me. There was a pool trying to pick the day my baby would be born. The winner got $25. December 10, 2002 was the very first day picked. I had fun laughing with my co-workers until Mrs. Babb, the teacher who had picked the first day said, “You have until midnight to have that baby so I can win.”
“It’s too soon. You’re not going to win, Sandy,” said one teacher.
“Please let me go into labor when I’m NOT in school, Mrs. Babb. That’s been a recurring nightmare of mine all year,” I said.
About 5 o’clock I got home from the shower and finishing up work. I was still thinking about the next day, our school priest’s birthday, and what the students should do for him when I waddled through the door. Jim was on the phone in our bedroom. Jimmy, who was 2 1/2 years old at the time, was watching Elmo on TV.
My water broke.
Damn you, Mrs. Babb.
I waddled to the bathroom, gushing water all the way, screaming, “Jim, my water broke!”
“Well, mop it up,” he said.
“My WATER, from the BABY!”
“Your water? From the baby?” A moment of silence passed as he figured out I wasn’t talking about a water glass. “Oh, shit! I gotta go! Oh, SHIT!”
He scooped up Jimmy and the emergency bag I had packed since summer and we took off for the hospital.
“Take Jimmy to Grandma’s and come back, okay?” I said to him as we pulled up to the sidewalk. He was so worried about getting everything done that he literally dumped me on the sidewalk, amniotic fluid pouring out of me and melting the snow, and drove off. A sweet, kind lady came over to me, saying, “Honey, are you okay?”
Through tears and disbelief I said, “I’m in labor.”
“Oh, my God!” she said, looking at the steam coming up from the sidewalk as my water continued to flow from me like a river. “I’ll get a wheelchair!”
She popped me into the wheelchair and I tried desperately to keep my legs clamped together to stem the flow of water. She talked to me about how much she loved pregnant women because she could never have her own children. All I could think about was that my water didn’t keep coming like this when I was in labor with Jimmy. It stopped because he had dropped and blocked it with his head. This baby wasn’t doing his job. This baby was coming too soon. All of his water was leaking out. Something was wrong.
We arrived at the maternity ward, nurses asking if the kind stranger was my mother. “No, we don’t know each other,” I said. “My water,” I whimpered and burst out crying.
The stranger whisked me into my room and I politely thanked her. She winked at me and walked out of my life.
With 40 minutes to spare, after only ten minutes of pushing, Tony was born. He was covered in vernix and so very hairy. He was premature. He couldn’t suck and we had to hold a wash rag under his mouth to keep his milk from gushing all over him. He was angry and holding his breath until he’d pass out.
In the months to come we would learn all about his allergies to milk, especially mine, and colic. Fucking. Colic. He’d have episodes of passing out from sheer anger, and we’d worry constantly about his health. He was about three months old before the scare and worry about losing our baby boy stopped.
He was two years old before we could let him drink anything but predigested formula as his milk.
When he was five he developed asthma.
When he was 9 he started having migraines.
And that’s just the beginning of his health issues.
Through it all, he was the happiest baby we’d ever seen. He has always been quick with a smile, singing to sooth himself, even now. I don’t have many baby pictures that don’t feature him grinning from ear to ear. He is a sensitive soul, crying when anything dies, even his fish and a random sick chipmunk. He thinks of others more than any kid I know, donating money he’d saved for a dinosaur to kids with cancer because it was the right thing to do. His love of animals is boundless, his attachment to pets something to behold.
I’ve always taken the kids to the library, even as babies. When the A/V librarian saw Tony for the umpteenth time the other day she said, “You know, I don’t think I’ve seen a happier kid. Ever. He’s always smiling and happy. Even when he was a baby and you brought him here.”
I smiled. “Yes, always.”
Just yesterday I was on the phone talking to a friend when she said, “What’s that noise?”
“Oh, that’s just Tony singing in the bathroom.”
“Singing? Every time he goes potty?”
Today, he came to me with a huge smile because for his birthday we were having reverse dinner: dessert first and then dinner. He loves when we mix it up like that.
“Mom, I’m so happy we’re having reverse dinner. I love my birthday. Don’t you, Mom?”
“Yes, baby. Always.”