Today I walk Hudson into his first dress rehearsal for Willy Wonka. We tour the green room, then the dressing room, and as we step out of the shadows backstage onto the main stage, I watch his eyes grow three times their normal size. All prior practices took place inside a church rec room. “Is this a real theater?” He asked in the parking lot. In this moment, with the studio lights illuminating his six-year-old face, mouth agape, he can’t hold it in – suddenly he sweeps his hands into the air, fingers splayed in dramatic ta-da fashion. I can practically feel the pitter-patter of his heart, and it transports me back to times when I’ve done something big or noteworthy – a public reading, a national television broadcast, a reality show – but none of those times feel nearly as significant as watching a bright-eyed Oompa Loompa take the stage his very first time.
Tonight Hudson stands quietly in front of the warm light of our tree. Taller than last Christmas and each day looking more like a miniature young man. Somehow that chubby baby grew into a kindergartner this year. A polo shirt adorned with his school crest tucked neatly into crisp navy blue shorts, his brand new tennis shoes a radiant white the sandbox had yet to sully. He looked at himself in the mirror and beamed nervously. “My heart just started beating this fast,” he exclaimed while patting his chest as quickly as he could.
A year full of heart-fluttering milestones for us all: A first day of kindergarten for Hudson. Ollie’s first steps. Her first words. Hudson losing his first tooth in the middle of our favorite restaurant – his excitement so palpable, the entire wine cafe erupted in applause. And the moment when early one August morning before Ryan had gone to work, two blue lines appeared on a stick in our bathroom.
So many significant moments, but in a year that has been so hard for so many, it reminds us to cherish the mundane ones as well. The lunch boxes packed, the tantrums endured, the bedtime stories told. We cling a little tighter to each other and to the hope we find in this season.
As I whisk Hudson away from the tree to his bed tonight – his sister already sleeping soundly in her crib – he remarks, “You know why I love the tree so much Mama? It reminds me of Jesus and makes my heart feel warm.”
“Me too, Bear,” I tell him, as we snuggle into his bed for another bedtime story.
Ryan approaches Mother’s Day with reverential fervor. He booked a J. Crew personal shopper on my first Mother’s Day when Hudson was just a few weeks old and none of my clothes fit. He once learned how to edit together a reel of home videos complete with narrated voiceover. This year our poor Hudson bear woke up with a fever no amount of Tylenol or lukewarm baths could break. He refused to eat even his very favorite food – roasted sweet potatoes. With the pediatrician’s office closed on Sundays, we hopped in the car and headed for Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Before long we were snuggling together on a reclining pediatric exam chair. We watched The Little Mermaid on a small television hanging in the corner of our tiny room, and at long last, the fever broke, but not before Hudson requested the nurse switch the movie to something less scary. A fluorescent orange popsicle, a strep diagnosis, and a shiny new Hot Wheels car later, we headed home for more rest. I love the in-home massages and earnestly presented finger paint art projects, but today was pretty special too.
If you read the last post, you already know what we’re having! But I wanted a fun way to tell our friends and since we already had book club on Friday, we did an impromptu gender reveal the same morning. (Let’s be real, we didn’t do much book studying this time!) I loaded up a piñata and let the littles bat out the pink or blue. Oh and only two kiddos got hit in the head with the bat, so overall a real success!
I let Hudson, who decided to wear his Cowboy Woody getup for the occasion, get first bat mainly because this is how he felt when anyone else got a turn:
Our favorite little people batted their hearts out, but they needed some help.
Aaaand when that didn’t work…
Thanks to one of my favorite mamas, Sarah Rhodes, for capturing these photos!
Our day starts at 5am. I’ve been ordered not to eat or drink for eight hours prior to surgery – not an easy ask for a very pregnant wanna-be foodie. Ryan wakes early to prepare his most acclaimed dish: French toast. For a boy raised on yogurt nights and take-out, French toast is as gourmet as his cooking gets, but it’s legit. I savor the last few bites, not knowing when I’ll eat again, then take my time getting ready. How do you get ready to become a parent? Sure, there are months of doctor appointments, birthing classes, and a stack of books I should have read, but in just a few hours, I will be a bona fide mama.
Ryan showers and packs our hospital bag. I look over its contents – clothes, magazines, a camera – and determine I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. Ryan snaps a picture of my enormous belly, and we hit the road. I answer phone calls of support from my dad and sister along the way, and say things like, “This is our last car ride as two married people!”
Due to a pregnancy complication, Hudson will arrive via C-section, something that utterly terrifies me. I called one of my sisters a few nights ago seeking advice. She had three children, all delivered by cesarean. Her recollection of doctors removing organs and then stuffing them back in did little to calm my nerves. Still, when I get off the car at Good Samaritan, the same hospital I was born in 25 years ago, I feel relief. After all, today marks the end of morning sickness, back aches, and tiny baby feet lodged in my ribs. “I feel like I’m graduating,” I tell Ryan as we cross the parking garage. “Only it’s really more like the first day of school.”
Most of the morning flies by – my mom meets us on the third floor, nurses monitor mine and baby’s vitals, we watch Grey’s Anatomy reruns, and before we know it, it’s time. A nursing student wheels me into the operating room, where the anesthesiologist explains the numbing process in a calm, soothing voice. It’s like listening to Morgan Freeman, and I think that must be why he gets paid the big bucks. I lie completely exposed on the operating table, numb from the chest down, when a nurse ushers in Ryan, dressed head to toe in sterile doctor garb. The only time I’ve seen him look this excited and terrified is the night he proposed. He asks how I’m doing. I smile and nod, “I’m okay!” Taking this as their cue, the resident and my doctor begin.
A blue sheet blocks the procedure from view, and we’ve been warned not to look at the overhead lights, as they are reflective, and we have weak stomachs. Instead, Ryan and I lock eyes and nervously smile at each other. While painless, I can feel the pressure of our baby boy being pushed down toward the incision. Nine months of anticipation have led to this moment. The doctor pulls his little body from my own, and suddenly, the most beautiful high-pitched wail pierces the cool O.R. air. The sound of our newborn babe exercising his lungs for the first time sends a flood of tears surging forward. Hidden behind a blue veil, I feel like a blind man with my sense of hearing left to compensate where my sight cannot. The shrieks and gasps that will soon keep me up at night create a perfect harmony. That’s our baby, I think in disbelief.
The nurse waves Ryan back to where they are cleaning and weighing. “This kid looks incredible!” he exclaims.
The anesthesiologist standing near my head concurs, “He’s going to be a looker.”
“Really?” I ask through tears, “but newborns all look weird.”
He assures me, “No, he’s a good one.”
I’m relieved. If he had an extra finger or foot, surely someone would have said something by now. Finally, Ryan walks back to me, baby in his arms. He left my side an imposter, a child playing dress-up in doctor clothes, but returned a natural, a father effortlessly calming his son. “He’s perfect, Ryan. He’s perfect,” I say it over and over.