Four Years Ago Yesterday…

With all the birthday party hullabaloo yesterday, I barely had time to reflect on the fact that it was also Stephen’s fourth birthday. It’s hard to believe he’s 4 now, the same age Alex was when we first moved to Portugal.

If I ever get around to writing my kids’ birth stories, Stephen’s will be short and sweet, very unlike my first labor and delivery experience. 4 hours from when the first contractions woke me in the early morning hours of April 6th to when I was pushing him out on a hospital bed with no one but Rusty and 2 L&D nurses in attendance. We barely made it to the hospital, checking in a mere 12 minutes before Stephen was born; my doctor wasn’t there yet, and the doctor on call didn’t make it to the room in time. She showed up later and gave the nurses a little bit of grief for delivering a baby without her. Whatever, lady. Like they could have stopped me?

And the difference in their birth stories is just the beginning of the differences between Alex and Stephen. Stephen is so different from his older brother in so many ways. Before he was born, I think I understood intellectually that all children are different, have different personalities, different needs, different aptitudes, different interests, but now I understand it based on my experiences these last four years. And yet, despite their differences, there is a bond forming between these two that is precious to see. I love watching them play together, interact together, imagine together, create together. Of course, it’s not rosy all the time — we have plenty of moments when they annoy each other, pester each other, or are downright mean to each other. I hold onto hope as they grow, those moments will decrease, to be replaced by a genuine friendship, like the one I share with my siblings.

My mom reminded me when we Skyped yesterday evening that Stephen was born in the middle of an April snow-storm, a Michigan winter’s last hurrah. We drove to the hospital through slushy streets that had yet to see the plows, and later, I nursed my newborn baby while watching the flakes softly fall outside the window. I’ve been reflecting on that moment today, as I look at my now 4-year old. How he’s changed and grown in the last 4 years! How many changes our family has seen these last 4 years. And how thankful I am that Stephen has been a part of it all.

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I Remember February 26th

In two days, my Alex will be seven years old. And while we celebrate February 28th as the day he came into the world, a small part of me always privately remembers February 26th as the day I went into labor. Alex should have been born on Feb. 26th. My water broke early in the morning followed by strong and fairly consistent contractions… there was no reason to think I wouldn’t be holding my baby in my arms by the end of the day.

Except that by the end of the day, I wasn’t. And I wasn’t holding him by the end of Feb. 27th either. It wasn’t until almost the end of the third day, Feb. 28th, that he finally came howling into the delivery room of a small Japanese clinic.

I was in labor for 64 hours. Without drugs. Without an epidural.

Even now, I can hardly believe it. I don’t consider myself a person who has a very high pain tolerance. And yet I got through it. And then I went on to give birth twice more — without drugs and without epidurals.

Even now, I am amazed. Amazed at my own strength. Amazed that both I and my baby came through that experience safe and healthy. Amazed that it did not end in a c-section. Amazed that I had the courage to have another baby after that experience! Amazed at the miracle of life.

Someday, I keep telling myself, I will write this story down, in all its excruciating and beautiful detail. Someday, I will do it, but not tonight. Tonight, I simply remember and give thanks.