On May 20th, 2016, at 3:59 am, my world changed forever.
My son, Roman Orion Alexander, was born after a dramatic labour and delivery. I remember everything and I remember nothing all at once. I remember my water breaking in bed at 11:00 pm the night before. I remember telling my husband that, no, I was not "peeing my pants" and that this was, indeed, really happening. I remember trying to take a shower and then falling to my knees as soon as I turned on the water.
I remember feeling the urge to push and hoping and praying that I wouldn't be one of those moms who gives birth on the toilet.
I vaguely remember calling my Mom to look after the dogs, of attempting (badly) to bend myself enough to sort of sit on the passenger seat of our old SUV. I remember getting to the hospital,asking for an epidural and being told that, "No sweetie, we don't give epidurals when you're already ten centimetres dilated". I remember trying to stall the whole process by asking to go to the bathroom. After that, I remember nothing.
Roman's delivery was fast for a first timer like myself. He was a few days late and, as I came to understand, I was actually in prodromal labour for a lot longer (more like two weeks) before my water broke and things really started happening.
Like Roman's personality, my labour and delivery was a fast fury of action.
The rest of the story has been filled in by my husband, a paramedic by trade who, by all accounts, was NOT on the job when I was labouring and was very much confronted by his own emotions regarding the situation. I pushed for four hours, ineffectively. They tried to give me laughing gas to take the edge off. The doctor's tried to physically push back on my legs to try to give me some leverage. Roman descended quickly, but he was stuck in the birth canal. His heart rate began to show distress and we were in trouble. I remember the obstetrician asking me (pleading me) to allow him to give me a third degree episiotomy to get my son out. I nodded and Roman was born.
Before I could even look at my baby, he was whisked away. I remember asking my husband if my son was alive. His expression was motionless for a second, then we heard our baby cry.
When I finally got to hold my baby, I felt a flurry of maternal instinct wash over me. I felt an instant connection to my son and was grateful that we were together again. Physically, however, I was in rough shape. Mentally, I was in an even rougher state. In an attempt to "fix" the labour and delivery story that just didn't go how I had hoped it would (natural, drug-free and reliant on a lot of positive visualization), I refused to take medication for pain. Instead, I "toughed it out" and concentrated on breastfeeding my baby. If my labour and delivery weren't perfect then, surely, I could try hard and have my breastfeeding journey be exactly the way I had planned, right?
Not so. Roman's latch was terrible. He was termed a "lazy eater". He had acute reflux issues and had to be medicated. We later found out that he was highly sensitive to all dairy and soy. As for me, my milk came in seven days late due to my being in acute pain, I had cracked and bleeding nipples and I was engorged. I had no idea what pumping even was and found myself using a drug-store grade manual pump with a flange that cut me. I was a complete mess and I felt like I was failing. In an effort to save our breastfeeding relationship, I rented a hospital grade pump and then purchased my own and pumped and fed my child for eight months straight up to fifteen times a day. The amount of pumping was in order to mitigate the amount my son was throwing up. Needless to say, breastfeeding Roman was a complete nightmare.
And, yet, as I write this, here he is. a four year old. A thriving, intelligent, rambunctious and insatiable preschooler who lives for all things prehistoric. You would never know of our struggle, of our struggles. From the outset, Roman was a very intense baby and he continues to be an intense child, one that thrives on constant intellectual stimulation and physical outlets. He continues to challenge us in new ways every day and I wouldn't have it any other way.
It is funny when your first born celebrates a birthday. Yes, we do the cake thing, the balloon thing. We have friends over (pre-pandemic, of course) and we open presents.
But the birthday of your first born is so much more. Not only is it the birth of your child, it is the birth of you as as parent.
Before having Roman, I was a hyper-perfectionistic version of my self. I longed for order, for control. I really didn't care for the great outdoors and my life had more of an aesthetic quality to it. What people saw of me was very much a curated version of myself, something that I wasn't ashamed of sharing but that wasn't really deep enough to create any type of meaning.
My experiences with Roman, as a baby, as a toddler and now, as a preschooler, has shaped me as a parent, as a person, in ways that I didn't even think possible. I've learned from our trials and experiences. I now understand that life can't be planned, that people aren't meant to be perfect and that, sometimes, imperfection is exactly what we need. Today, I crave our outdoor time and find solace in nature. Roman has guided me the whole way.
He has taught me more in the past four years then I could ever have had the hope of teaching him.
And so, On May 20th, during an international pandemic, Roman, Aurora, Nic and I sat down and ate store-bought vanilla sprinkle cupcakes, adorned with a Dollar Store candle. We saved the balloons for another day and hid unwrapped presents outside for Roman to find during his daily outdoor romp. Was it a perfect birthday party? Not even close. Was it exactly what we needed? Absolutely. Roman was happy, I was happy, and, together, we celebrated another trip around the sun together. Another milestone. Another birthday. An imperfect ode to the imperfect birth of a first born and his mother. And that, in itself, is perfect in my eyes.