Twelve weeks ago right now I was about an hour away from waking up to the funny feeling of an uncomfortable fist opening and closing in the vast, cramped space between my heart and my hips. The discomfort of that rather obtrusive fist would persist through a long, hot shower, then increase as midnight silently turned the page to the day my baby girl would be born.
It seemed I was the only person on the planet awake just then—twelve weeks ago right now—the only person alive aware of how momentous the silence and how incredibly important the page being turned. And, knowing that a train was heading one way down the track within me and I was strapped to that track waiting to be run through, I was quiet, calm, clean, breathing. I woke my husband to let him in on what was coming our way. He rattled and snorted, not understanding why I was telling him my mom was coming over just then to be with our son.
“It’s time to go to the hospital,” I said in what sounded to me like the calmest voice I had used in weeks. Because I felt calmer than I’d felt in weeks, knowing things, finally, were set in motion and that labor was now, finally, here at last—and there was only one way the long story of my pregnancy could end.
Comprehending suddenly, Sean sprang up from where he slept in bed and started spinning through the room, grabbing at whatever he could find that he could think we would need: keys, shoes, bag, camera, phone charger, etc. My mom was at the door minutes later and we were out the door, then in the car driving west down Madison then south on Harlem, turning right onto the ramp to the westbound Eisenhower in the dark in the lights toward Hoffman Estates, where we eventually would park on the first floor of the garage, right near the emergency department entrance, head inside, register, be wheeled upstairs with our bag to the nursing station on labor and delivery, to our room with our nurse whose name I can no longer remember. Where I’d get an epidural as the fist grew inside of me, clenching and gripping and tearing at my skin, burning and rippling and breaking me in half, and the nurse coached me to slow my breathing or I’d wear myself out, and she was right. Her counsel helped. Where at 4:18 a.m., only a handful of hours after waking up with a funny feeling, after an early-morning thunderstorm, after only three pushes, only half an hour after the epidural finally coaxed the fist inside of me to unclench, my daughter entered the world, a pulsing hot-pink ball of life reverberating with the shock of her cries until I held her, wet and slippery, all bones with a thin skin, and placed her face beside my breast, which her lips grabbed like they’d had years to practice this first, most vital skill.
My husband watched beside us. My husband oversaw, looked over us as he has for 12 weeks.
I have not left her for more than an hour or so in 12 weeks. I have kept her near. She and I have learned to live beside one another, to sleep in our nearest next-door spaces, to breathe each other’s skin.
I have barely let my girl go.
And even as I go 30 miles away tomorrow to do work I love with people I love, and even as I go back the next day and the next and the next, for the next 12 weeks, and 12 after that, and so on and on, I never will let her go. She’ll always be my closest, best girl, and I’ll always love her the most.
Just as I love her brother.
And her dad.