My dear little Henry, Today marks one year since you entered this world and family and as I’ve watched you and thought about that day over and over again today my fingers itched to tell your story. So here I am.
Do you even know how wanted you were? When I told your brother that we were going to have a new baby he begged and pleaded with me for a brother – “there are too many girls in this family, please, mama, I need a brother.” I told him it was out of my hands, but I knew. I knew when I couldn’t stomach vegetables and I knew when my hunger for Trix cereal (of all things!) could not be satiated, just like when I was pregnant with him. When we found out and we told Elliott he was so happy, he immediately started to dream of playing legos with you. We warned him that it would be awhile before that dream would come true and that is still the case, although I know from past experience that it will happen sooner than I want it to. You were conceived in India and we planned to give birth to you there as well, but then there was a feeling that it just wasn’t…right. So we changed course and a California baby you would be. At 34 weeks pregnant I boarded an airplane with 3 kids aged 6, 4, and almost 2, for a 24 trip around the world BY MYSELF. I knew it was the right thing to do, but it was a hard thing to do, and I cried as I boarded that plane and said goodbye to my husband for 5 long weeks. We survived the flight and we settled into our Residence Inn and enjoyed all that the United States has to offer. It did not disappoint, California gave us sunny, 80 degree weather every day and we soaked it in, trying out a new park every day. In the meantime Justin was all alone and got Dengue fever and while I wished I could have been there to nurse him through it we thanked heaven that I was in California because it could have been me and it could have been your siblings and it would have been much, much worse. I haven’t had a baby early yet and I knew that it wasn’t going to happen this time. Your dad made it from Delhi to California as planned. I had my first contraction the day after he arrived, the night before your grandparents arrived to stay with your siblings while you came into the world. Again, just like each time before I had contractions all night long only to have them stop once daylight would break. My body is pretty good at being pregnant, not so great at getting the babies out – they stay breech until 36 weeks at which point they turn with their hard little heads right in my back and I back labor all night long for days and days. It is not the most fun, but it is how it gets done. Your grandparents arrived on Friday, I was due on Sunday. Things got a little more intense Friday night, Saturday night, and by Sunday evening the contractions were too intense and too close for comfort. I said goodbye to my three former babies and prepared myself to meet another one. We got to the hospital and I was at the magic 4 centimeter threshold to be admitted. Huzzah! I was sweating with the unending pain in my back and I told the nurse not if, but when for the epidural. I hadn’t slept for 3 nights. Not that there is much sleeping in a hospital when you are in labor. Every couple of hours the nurses come in to check your progress, the unending beeping. Hours passed with no progress. The nurses walked around puzzled, wondering why oh why this mother of 3 was taking so long. Trust me, I wonder that myself, nurses, but, again, it is how my body gets things done. Justin “slept” on the floor. I tried to rest. Morning came. You were now one day late. More hours passed. Soon it was the afternoon and my body had barely progressed. The nurses came to me and gently told me that if something didn’t change soon I was headed for a c-section. I cried, because a c-section wasn’t part of the plan. Our carefully timed plan so that we could all go home together – if I had a c-section that would mean an extra two weeks in the states and Justin would fly home to Delhi alone while I flew 24 hours with 4 kids this time. I prayed and I talked to my body and told it that this would not work for me and when the nurses came in next they were amazed at my progress. Mind over matter. Things were still happening slowly, but they were finally happening. It was now the afternoon and we had been there for 16 or so hours. A nurse came in and said that two paramedics were hoping to watch a delivery for their training and 3 other moms had turned them down, would I be willing? I’ve had several kids, I can count the number of people now who have seen my goods, my modesty is gone, so I agreed. It was around that time that the epidural wore off and I felt it all and it hurt so much worse than before. I told the nurse and she held my hand and said “if you can handle it, this will help you come to the end” so I didn’t get any more medicine and I cried some more. But then I felt it, the urge to push, and finally, it seemed I was almost at the end. Did I mention that in all of this my doctor still had not bothered to show up? Not the best doctor ever, but I’ve long known that sainted nurses are the ones who really matter when it comes to labor and delivery. I told them I was ready and they said that the doctor was on his way, but that I could start pushing until he arrived. They called the paramedic trainees in and two of the most handsome nineteen year boys walked into my room with me splayed everywhere. Oh, there’s the modesty I thought I’d lost! Oh well, grab a leg, nineteen year old, while my husband grabs the other and prepare yourself for the miracle of birth! I pushed and I pushed and I felt EVERYTHING. I screamed and I moaned and I really didn’t think I could do it this time around. My doctor FINALLY showed up, vacuum in tow, because you were sunny-side up, so like your brother, and he thought he could help me along. Oh, that sound, and they kept lying to me, saying one more push, one more push, and every time I believed them and then they would say it again and I cried because it was never really one more push and I had been pushing for over 30 minutes. The sweet little paramedic was a little too into it, he pushed on my heel so hard I couldn’t feel it for days and it was bruised for a week. But then, when I was ready to give up and I looked into your father’s eyes and told him that I couldn’t do it anymore, it really was just one more push and out you came, into the California sun, sunny-side up, sunshine from the moment you were born.
The other day your father watched you and told me that he was trying to figure you out. We had certain glimpses of each kid’s personality by the time they were one – Elliott just wanted to make us all laugh, that hasn’t changed, Eleanor was sweetness and gentleness personified, Frances was and is DRA.MA. You’re gentle, too, and you are warm sunshine, and you are forgiving. Forgiving of parents who have dragged you around the world twice in the first year of your life and moved you from house to house to hotel to hotel to house. You forgive the fact that as the youngest your diaper gets changed a little later than it should and that your next biggest sister wants to love you to death. Thanks for your understanding. Just know that the price for the slow response time is the love of 5 other people who think you are just the greatest. Thanks for coming to our family, Henry, like your daddy said as you destroyed your birthday cake with gusto, “how did we ever think our family was complete without you?” We didn’t. Thanks for coming.