Going into all of this, Jack and I (both pretty squeamish) agreed that we did not want to see anything bloody or guts-y. He was adamantly anti-cord cutting. We had some kind of plan of staring into each others eyes, or something equally stupid, that got thrown out the window as soon as I went into shock and delivered a baby in total bad-ass delirium. Apparently at some point, as a form of encouragement, a nurse offered me a mirror and I shouted "god, no!" or something like that. So I held up my end of the bargain. Jack however succumbed to curiosity and told me it was the most insanely awesome thing he had ever seen, like a star exploding in space or something. He even said he would have cut the cord, had Cash not been strangled by it, making it an emergency procedure that had to be done by the doctor.
Due to the cord being wrapped around his neck, they didn't lay Cassius on my chest like a nurse had suggested during the morphine fiasco. They whisked him instantly away, after that brief peek. So I didn't see his face, and I didn't see his fingers or toes. Just a baby. A person. A freaking HUMAN BEING. Like. With eyeballs, and a central nervous system, and thought patterns and a conscience and a respiratory system holy crap. I did that.
I DID THAT.
Because this is what becoming a mother does to you, or, did to me, I am going to go totally into la-la-land here and you can follow me down the rabbit hole if you please. Do you ever think about how incredible life is? I don't mean each of our lives independently necessarily but, like, life itself. I am not a religious person but I get why people believe in a higher power because you get this sense of life being this totally fluid continuous experience that you are only a speck of, but also a channel of, and you realize it doesn't start with being born and it doesn't end with dying.
I think about how every breath we take, we are inhaling these particles. These microscopic pieces of history. Of everyone and everything that has ever lived or died. Some hero of the civil war could have died on the battlefield, clutching a romantic love letter (this is of course how I picture it) and then later, much much later, someone plants potatoes in that field. And those get made into potato chips. Which my mother enjoys on a warm, late summer evening, a few days before she finds out she is pregnant with me.
We are all here on this planet just getting recycled and reborn and I am all for believing what ever you want but you don't even have to "believe" this I mean, it is science and it is real and its happening and its incredible.
While I laid there in the bed, thinking about all of this and also about how freaking tired I was, Jack was having an experience of his own. He followed Cash as the team of doctors and nurses whisked him away. He held his hand. When Cassius cried, Jack would talk softly to him, and Cash would stop, his bleary eyes searching for the familiar voice.
Its been said that a woman becomes a mother once she becomes pregnant and a man becomes a father once his child is born. I am never a fan of time-honored generalizations, but in this case, Jack says for him it was pretty true. Jack was incredible throughout my entire pregnancy. He waited on me hand and foot, was there with me at every possible check up, even the boring ones he didn't really need to attend. He kept the house stocked with my latest cravings and nearly assaulted a Taco Bell employee who made my cry by putting sour cream on my burrito. All of that he says, for me. Where I stayed up reading What To Expect When You're Expecting for Cassius, he stayed up reading it for me. In the hospital room, I had sweaty palms when Cash's heart monitor would drop, Jack had sweaty palms when I threw up 16 ounces of cranberry juice like a low budget reenactment of The Exorcist.
Cassius was a stranger, until the moment he wasn't. Until the exact second the universe exploded and Jack saw his son for the first time. And all the emotions I had gradually worked my way up to over the course of nine months got dumped on Jacks head like a bucket of cold water.
Finally, after a round of hurried tests confirmed that Cassius was healthy and thriving and no worse for his mildly traumatic birth, they brought him to me. And the funny thing is, my first thought was, hey, I know you! And he looked at me, and he looked at Jack, with this look as if to say, oh, you guys!
Oh and. Remember how I talked about hilarious sitcom style events, and how there were a few? Can't forget this one.
So Cash was born at 2:02 am. Lots of rejoicing and baby passing and photo taking followed. I am not sure what time I FINALLY got to fall asleep (the absolute most needed, and earned, sleep of my life) but I was NOT prepared to wake up at 6am. To the sound of banging and grunting.
My mom and Jack were in the room with me, and my newest of newborn babies. We were all sleeping, and then awakened by a maintenance worker having a very loud and apparently arduous experience in the bathroom. He comes shuffling out, and says to me, I swear to god, FOUR HOURS after giving birth "So what did you flush down the toilet!?" Considering that I had been catheterized for the past 12 hours and hadn't eaten in nearly 36, I hadn't personally even seen the inside of that bathroom.
We assure him we have no idea what he is talking about. He scoffs and leaves, and then returns with more tools. Hooray! Suddenly from the bathroom comes the most outrageous, unbelievable grunting I have ever heard. If I were to describe the sounds he was making it would be completely NSFW so suffice to say it was absolutely hilarious. Until he shouted an obscenity. And then water started pouring out into my hospital room.
But, I had this guy to keep me company:
Before I had Cassius, I thought, motherhood won't change me. How silly when women say becoming mothers totally transformed their lives. That isn't going to change who I am.
All of this thought, in the most condescending way possible, by someone who didn't know who in the hell she was. By someone who looked in the mirror (at her very young and fantastically lovely body) and saw a thousand flaws stitched together in the shape of a human being.
And then, at 2:02 am on a Saturday in January, I was struck by lightning, and instead of seeing my flaws in the mirror, I saw my incredible, unfathomable power in the shape of a 7 pound baby boy. The nurse held him up for me, just for a flash, for a second. The longest shortest moment of my entire life.
I am a badass. I am the hand of mother nature. It is true that motherhood did not change me. It did not make me these things. But it did give me the eyes to see it. I am the same. But I am new. I have no fear when it comes to advocating for my child. I have a new depth of understanding for nature. I have a new humility for both the power and fragility of human life. Pregnancy was something I never really wanted to experience, but in my case, I am glad I did. I needed it. Now, when I go bathing suit shopping with my new mom-body, which according to a magazine editor is probably much less great than it was previously, all I see is awesomeness. Look at those childbearing hips! I am a goddess! Basically this:
Yes. That is a man blowing into a conch shell in my honor.
I often joke that childbirth made me a feminist. Which is kind of a joke but also kind of not even a big enough word. There were a lot of reasons I didn't love being pregnant, but its hard not to feel important when there is a human being growing inside of your body. Just populating the earth over here! Continuing the human race, no big deal! Magic, cosmic stuff your mortal brain can't comprehend happenin' in my abdomen, don't worry about it! Make that bagel amazing, because I will be using it to create a human mind and personality, no stress! Its no wonder that in ages before people decided to start referring to god as "he", giving men an embarrassing superiority complex that makes no sense in the natural world, dudes spent their days mindlessly whittling Beyonce-esqe lady figures and sketching boobs on cave walls. "I should probably go hunting/gathering right now, but all I can think about is how awesome women are."
But then again, guys are okay too.