She kicks me. Hard.
I feel my water break and suddenly she's completely motionless. Her stillness speaks: Oh crap, what did I just do?
I answer: Oh crap, here we go. I steel myself for another race-to-the-hospital, this-is-an-emergency kind of birth. The other two were that way.
But it's nothing like that. This child comes into the world calmly. After a labor I can honestly say I enjoy.
I sit on the birthing ball, eating a popsicle. Engage in quiet conversation with John, pausing to breathe through the kind of contractions I can honor as honest work but nothing that can scare me or send me jumping out of my skin. John rubs my back when I want him to. This is rare alone time and it's almost like we're on a date. I feel safe and in control.
She is born. Ruth.
In my arms, she's not exactly a calm-mannered baby. I have to walk and bounce even in the hospital, learning the steps to a brand new dance. It is an improved sequence, subject to change. I have to work for this one.
But somehow, this doesn't stress me out the way it did the last two times. The crying. The work. The feeling my way in the dark. So she sleeps in the carrier – fine. So her naps are crazy short – fine. So she nurses often – fine. So I'm tired – fine. I've been there and back already. And we all survived.
As the months pass, I find myself worrying not at all about milestones. I don't wonder what I'm doing right or wrong. I don't search through books for any secrets that will help me whisper this baby.
I've been here.
So I notice more, stress less. I live in these moments of physical needs, fully aware that this too shall pass.
And it has passed. Not without difficulties, of course – I've waded through a number of low, swampy places – but overarchingly, I've felt the sense of calm that was present during my labor with this child. A safety in my own knowledge and experience. Pleasure in the little moments. Poetry in the quiet spaces. Awe at the life growing, growing, growing – a package bursting at the seams with personality and potential, unwrapping before my very eyes.
Happy Birthday little Bug. Thank you for showing me how to enjoy a baby year. I can't wait to see what you'll teach me in your second.