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Today is my son’s birthday. Fourteen years ago, I was in a small hospital in the Sierra Nevada Foothills. My labor lasted about 27 hours. That ninth day of May was a Saturday and the day before Mother’s Day. My husband and I frantically searched through a baby book for a boy’s name. Although we had chosen not to know the sex of our baby, I had become certain it was a boy.

My son as a baby in 1998.

My labor had begun early on the evening of May 8. I was relaxing after dinner. My husband and I were watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Around the scene of the Black Knight, I felt the need to stand up. As I stood, I felt what I can only term as a “karate kick” in my abdomen and the unmistakable realization that my water had broken. (The karate kick metaphor is interesting as my son has since become a black belt in Shotokan.) My little one was coming three weeks earlier than expected. I didn’t even have a bag ready for the hospital.

By the evening of May 9, my labor had ceased to progress. After my initial resistance, I finally acquiesced to the doctor’s suggestion of Pitocin. (To be fair and honest, the doctor had given me a lot of time to try to progress the labor using natural methods, which did not work for me.) The doctor was concerned about infection because my water had been broken for so long. At 11:17 p.m., less than an hour before Mother’s Day, my baby was born.

The first thing I noticed were his large, brown eyes. The first thing I said, “So, we finally meet!” Soon, however, it became clear that he was struggling to breathe. Within moments, he was whisked off to the nursery to try to stabilize his breathing. My husband went with him and I found myself very much alone. I had never felt so lonely and frightened in my life.

My baby was diagnosed with neonatal respiratory distress syndrome. He was lacking surfactant in his lungs. The causes could have been associated with the long labor and the sudden introduction of Pitocin. We just don’t know. I do know it was terrifying to see my little 6 pound 2 ounce infant struggling to breathe. My first Mother’s Day was spent talking with the doctor and having arrangements made to send my son to a larger, Sacramento hospital that had a neonatal intensive care unit. He would spend the first week of his life there.

Eventually, my son’s health stabilized. We brought him home. Over the course of that first week, I had gone through the gamut of emotions. What I did know was that my life was completely changed. Suddenly, here was this other person whose well-being and happiness trumped my own. I changed my way of living and thinking. No longer could I behave in self-indulgent ways. My son was now my priority. I didn’t necessarily become a new person, but I became a better person. In some way, my son’s birthday was my birthday too.

For a previous post I wrote about my son, go here!