Most moms I know call the birth of their children the happiest day of their lives- I can’t agree more. I met my older daughter on a beautiful, bright morning in the middle of the most gut wrenching time my family has experienced.
My dad was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2005 and fought it like a hero for 4 and a half years. After three incredibly invasive surgeries, radiation, and chemo, there came a point where he made the decision that he wanted to spend the remaining time in his life at home with his family. My husband and I moved in with my parents when I was six months pregnant to help with my dad’s care since as his disease progressed, he gradually lost his mobility and independence.
During that summer, I was able to spend hours with my dad. There’s no way I could count the number of rounds of gin rummy or dominos we played or the hours of awful late seventies tv, but I really wouldn’t want to. I was able to spend a lot of time talking with him about how excited we were to meet my daughter, but there was always an unspoken undercurrent that that might not happen. My dad was in home hospice and nearly bedridden by the time my due date came.
The night I went into labor, I tried to occupy myself during the early stages. I watched Labyrinth (not sure what I was thinking there…). I paced around the kitchen. I kept a diary of contractions. When I felt like things were getting serious, my husband, my brother, my mom, and I piled into the cars and drove down to the hospital. We were beyond blessed to have some friends to stay at the house with my dad, since he wasn’t able to travel at that point.
I wasn’t nearly as far along in labor as I thought, so I stayed in a triage room and read a book while the rest of my family watched Michael Jackson videos on the laptop (again with the eighties!). After I got sick of freezing in triage, my mom and I walked laps around the labor and delivery floor, trying to get labor to progress. And progress it did! I was given a room and alternated between the birthing ball, the tub, and the bed as labor got more intense.
I had always wanted as natural a birth as possible, but given the upheaval of living with my parents, I hadn’t quite mentally prepared myself for transition. I told myself “Aah, women have been doing this for eons- I’ll figure it out when I get there.” I remember reaching a breaking point where I was just crying, exhausted from pulling an all-nighter. My husband had gone out for breakfast at this point- when he walked into the room with McDonald’s, I threw up and then threw him out until the McMuffins were McEaten.
I’m so thankful for my mom- she told me exactly what I needed to hear- that I could do it and that I’d be able to meet my daughter soon. Not long after that, I began pushing- in less than an hour, my baby was born. Truthfully, I don’t remember much from there on. My husband says I lost a good amount of blood- I just remember the feeling of having my tiny, warm, daughter on my chest. All the pain from labor was virtually gone and replaced with a beautiful, bright, baby girl.
My mom and brother went home while our little family spent the night in the hospital. I was dying to leave, so we checked out as soon as we could. When we got home, my whole family and a few close friends were there to greet us. I’ll never forget how happy I was to see my dad holding my daughter.
The picture I have of him holding her is one of the last ones I have of him-he passed away five weeks later. The last few months of his life were horrible in many ways, but I’m so incredibly thankful that my dad was able to meet his first granddaughter. Moving in with my parents was one of the best choices we ever made. During the year and a half we spent in their house, we were given such incredible examples of a true, loving, sacrificial family. I’ll always miss my dad, but it brings me such peace to know that our family, including my daughter, was all together for that summer three years ago.