I remember snippets. It was a cold day. I think there was snow. I hadn’t been feeling quite right. I figured I was fatigued or had a bug. But just to be sure, I stopped at a CVS to pick up a pregnancy test. It was three weeks after Chad and I married and barely a week since we had returned from our honeymoon.
“This will probably be something I laugh about after I take it and it comes back negative,” I thought as I waited in line for the cashier to ring me up.
The next snippet in my brain flashes to watching the pregnancy test turn positive in our apartment bathroom in downtown Minneapolis. I shouted to Chad, “uh… you better come here.”
Instead of thinking, “wow, I’m pregnant,” I thought, “Dang, I must have a brain tumor” (a very rare reason pregnancy tests are positive when in fact the woman is not). Chad of course believed that the pregnancy test couldn’t possibly be right, so we stopped at Target to pick up five pregnancy tests and red Gatorade.
Five positive pregnancy tests and half a Gatorade later, the statistics were clear enough for Chad to be convinced that I was pregnant, and a state of shock set in.
Avery’s pregnancy was not an easy one. It was full of nausea, vomiting, and fainting spells. I lost 10 pounds in the first trimester. I fainted in the heart transplant meeting at work (yes, it is super embarrassing to faint in front of a group of cardiologists).
I fainted on the bathroom floor in front of a very concerned Chad. I insisted I hadn’t fully passed out as he hurried me to the Emergency Department. “Well do you remember when I slapped your face?,” he asked.
I was incredulous. “No. Why would you do that?”
“To wake you up.” This is what happens when you put an actuary in a medical situation.
Needless to say, I was anxious to give birth by my due date. But consistent with her feisty and stubborn personality, Avery arrived nine days late.
As I lay laboring in the hospital bed, I wondered out loud, “I don’t know. I don’t think I’m ready to be a mom. What if the baby hates me?” My midwife looked down and smiled, “You will be a great mom. Your baby will love you and you will love her, just wait and see.”
I had assumed that once Avery popped out, I would be filled with eternal joy and everything would make sense, and we would live happily ever after. I expected her birth would be peaceful. There would be soft lighting, classical music and tears of joy.
Instead, I lay writhing on a hospital bed, buck naked, while a team of 2 doctors, a midwife, the entire c-section team, neonatologist, and NICU team watched, aided by very fluorescent lights for their optimal viewing pleasure.
I added to the zen by glaring directly at the doctors and loudly asking, “Why is there a finger up my butt hole?” To which the doctor apologized, “Sorry ma’am, I’m trying to prevent you from tearing.” What a chivalrous guy. Classical music and soft lighting my a**.
I was told that the baby was in trouble and I had one last shot to push her out before they were going to rush me to c-section. I somehow mustered enough strength and was soon greeted by a very blue creature.
In my nurse brain, I classified the situation as bad. I watched as they attempted to intubate her three times, with her sats dropping into the 50’s. Fourth time was the charm, and they sped her out of the room with Chad following closely behind.
After I was stitched up, the room cleared. It was just me and my postpartum belly which was disappointingly not flat at all. A timid aide poked her head in the door to ask if she could get me some toast.
I was pretty sure I was a mom now, but I didn’t see a cute, cuddly baby anywhere in sight. Toast in this moment didn’t make sense. I wanted my baby, not toast. So I declined.
Two hours later I was wheeled to the special care unit to meet Avery. Luckily her intubation was short lived and she was able to breath on her own once they suctioned a mucus plug out of her lungs.
They wheeled me up to an incubator and informed me that this was my baby. I peered inside. I saw a chunky, beat-up baby, with adorable fuzzy hair.
Cute, but blonde. Couldn’t be my kid.
The kind NICU nurse tried to teach me how to breastfeed. But, Avery just wanted to sleep and so did I. After an hour of futile latching attempts, Chad wheeled me back to our room, leaving fuzzy blondie behind. “See you in 2 hours!,” the NICU nurse called behind us. What a joke, I thought as I shook my head, I push out a baby and I don’t even get to sleep to recover?
Parenthood wasn’t what I expected. For me, there wasn’t an immediate joy or love.
It was around 3 months when Avery started smiling and interacting more, when my heart melted and I fell in love.
She patiently taught me that kids are resilient. That I don’t need to be a perfectionist to be a good parent. That formula isn’t the devil, and in fact worked just fine.
She taught me that peek-a-boo is hilarious (because the adult looks like an idiot), and to giggle like a maniac. She reminded me that it’s okay to cry when you’re sad, and to scream in delight with excitement.
The emotions of kids haven’t been dulled by societal norms. In fact, nothing about kids is really bound by norms. They march to the beat of their own drums. And that, is admirable.
We are coming up on Avery’s FIFTH birthday. She starts preschool on Monday.
She is no longer a pot-bellied toddler. Her legs are long and browned by the sun. Her sentences are no longer 3 words strung together, she speaks in rivers of words, effortlessly constructing stories (or bossing us around). Thank goodness she has maintained the same deep and infectious giggle of babyhood.
She has definitely acquired the first child personality. She stands with her hand on her hip and bosses us all around, while carrying on a conversation over her play cell phone.
She is sweet and gorgeous, courageous and cautious. She can negotiate like a terrorist. She’s firey. She’s stubborn in the best and worst way. The girl will go places, mark my words.
The midwife was right. I love Avery and she loves me. Maybe we followed a non-traditional path to get there. She patiently and stubbornly taught me who she is, and in learning who she is, I fell deep in love.
Happy Birthday, Aves!
One reply on “Avery Marie 5.0”
What a wonderful tribute to Avery! She is such an amazing kid, and you and Chad are such great parents.