Sunday, August 24, 2014

Dear Gideon

August 23, 2014

Dear Gideon,

Happy Birthday, little one.  You were born just twelve hours ago and now you are sleeping snugly in your hospital bassinet beside me.  We're in a corner room on the third floor of Mercy Anderson and I have a view of treetops and storm clouds in the distance.  They tell me it's pretty muggy, but I haven't been outside today.  You and I have been here, recovering from all that we've been through together this morning.  We're focused only on the bare essentials:  eating, sleeping, bathing, peeing and pooping.

We're getting to know each other face to face.  You get to see who's been carrying you around for the past nine months and I get to see those little feet that have been kicking and jabbing me, the little bundle who's been begging for glazed donuts all this time.

And you are a little bundle.  At 6 lbs, 3 oz, you hold your donuts well.

Look at that, buddy.  The sun just came pouring down through the storm clouds flashing light into our room, across those trees, doing that thing that makes it look as if the rays are the hands of God descending, reaching down to grab the earth.

And that's what you are, isn't it?  A little piece of heaven in a pink and blue swaddling blanket?  Your fingernails soft and curled, your eyes opaque and dancing, your knees pink and curled up to your chest, trying to learn what it means to have room to stretch out.

I heard you before I saw you this morning.  They laid you on my chest, but my eyes were clenched tight from the shock of it all--I couldn't see you.  I only felt you wet and wiggly, ready for air.  The nurses took you and cleaned you up and cleared you out; they weighed and measured you, and I didn't look, but I listened. When I heard you speak for the first time, I smiled.  You cooed like a lamb, the littlest mew, the sweetest sound.

Daddy held my hand for a long time.  He stood by me, stayed with me the whole time.  Told me how strong I was, showed me how loved I am.  And when they were done with me, wrapping me up, putting me back together, I opened my eyes and there you were--tiny nose, black hair, wrinkled ears.  Soft.


I'd like to say I knew you were coming, but I didn't.  I had a feeling, but there are lots of feelings towards the end.  Lots of feelings with big question marks.  Is this...?  Could it be...?  Predictions, but nothing solid.  It could all just be gas after all.

I had made one request of God, of my belly, of you:  I wanted to be there when Finny got on the bus for his first day of Kindergarten.  I wanted that moment of watching him, little and independent climbing the steps, walking back to his seat.  It was a milestone, important, monumental.  My first baby stepping out.  After that, you could come.  And you did.

I had called Aunt Laurie at midnight.  Something was happening, nothing regular, nothing I could bet the farm on, but something that woke me up, unsettled me, hurt differently than before.  She came right over, went to bed in the guest room, ready to be there for your brothers in case we needed to leave.

Two hours later I felt you again, urgent cramping.  Tightening that lasted.  Three in a row, ten minutes apart.  My body felt hot and tender.  I called the answering service, requested a phone call from a midwife.  Went into the bathroom and saw the blood.  Heavy blood pouring out of me, staining my clothes, puddling on the floor.

"David!  It's time to go.  Something's wrong.  I'm bleeding."  We grabbed a towel, Daddy grabbed the bags.  We stopped for nothing.  Got in the car.  I prayed.  What was this blood?  The blood wasn't right.  There had never been blood.  Something was wrong.

"David, it could be the placenta rupturing."

"It's ok, Jill.  Everything is ok."  He squeezed my leg, driving the winding roads through stoplights, avoiding deer.

"I just want the baby to be okay.  I just want to be okay."

"I know."

We drove on in silence, urgency.  Worried, scared, trying to be calm.

Daddy parked in the ambulance lane.  I waddled in with the towel between my legs.  We waited in triage. Everyone trying to be calm, worried about the blood, trying not to jump to conclusions.

The nurse saw us to our room, helped me into my gown.  Agreed that it was a lot of blood, but assured me that it could be the capillaries of my cervix rupturing.  She checked my progress between contractions, hooked up the monitor.  I heard your heartbeat.  You were fine.  We were fine.  I breathed.  I relaxed.  I labored.  6-7 cm, contractions every ten minutes.  I rocked on the birth ball, back and forth.  Daddy stood there, looking helpless, trying to figure out his place.  It was 3:30 a.m.  Every ten minutes he pressed on my back, trying to relieve the pressure from the contracting, from you working your way out.  This lasted two hours--the longest we'd ever been in the hospital before delivery.  My water still had not broken.  This was new.  I thought it would be quicker.  How long would this take?

And then another contraction came.  Five minutes, not ten.  It lasted longer, 80 seconds.  The nurse had me back in bed, hooked up to the monitor.  She left.  Five minutes again.  And again.  But then three.  Three minutes.  Then one.  I started pulling my hair out, turning hot and pale.

"David, it's time.  Get them.  I have to push.  It's time to push.  I have to get it out!"  I cussed a lot.  It was sudden and urgent and time.

The big lights came down from the ceiling like a spaceship.  The midwife came in.

"Remind me how to do this!  How do I do this?  Hold my hand!  Someone hold my legs!  Shit!  Can I push now?"

Take a deep breath and push, Jill.

I did and there was your head.  There was your body.  There you were.  Out.  Quick, fast, furious.  Relief.


Born on a Saturday morning in August.  Born in a hurry.


Your name came well before you did, early this summer in Minneapolis.  I was doing the dishes while Daddy was giving your brothers a bath and that My Morning Jacket song came up in my playlist shuffle.   Gideeeeoooon, Jim James wailed and I stopped, looked out, let it settle in.  Gideon.  I looked up the meaning behind the words of the song and found multiple interpretations, but nothing solid.  I looked up the meaning of this ancient name--destroyer--not exactly what I wanted for my little boy.  Warrior--that was better, but warrior for what?

I turned to the Bible, the book of Judges, one of the oldest, there was Gideon.  Warrior for God.  Called on to bring a complacent people back to their values, back to their creator, back to God.  Gideon, called on to remind the people to be grateful and humble and faithful.

That would work.  The meaning and the sound of it, coming out of the speakers in the kitchen as a song, passionate and big.  Daddy and I would listen to it all summer long, always with a secret smile on our faces, knowing our little boy would have a big name.

Gideon.  Six pound, three ounce warrior.  Blessing.  We're so glad you're here.

We can't wait to see who you become.