For months, we have planned to open the post announcing her birth with this Peanuts cartoon we found over a year ago. Tattered at the edges, and growing yellow from being on our refrigerator so long, this cartoon conveys how we feel about the birth of our daughter.
(Except the snottiness of that Lucy. We don’t think she’ll be like that one.)
All is right in the world, as long as Lucy is in it.
Our daughter was born on Monday, July 21st, at 4:40 pm. Lucy Marie Ahern (no longer just Little Bean) weighed 7 pounds 7.5 ounces, and measured 19 inches long.
Those are just numbers. No words will ever match the experience of hearing her cry for the first time, a barbaric yawp that echoed against the walls of the OR, a huge lusty cry that said, “I’m here. I am.” We will never find the words to tell the story of holding her on my chest as I still lay on the gurney, my body being sewn closed, and seeing her wide open eyes slowly turn from one of us to the other, as we talked to her. She knew our voices, without a doubt. And no words can match the sweetness of a hospital room filled with loved ones, holding her in turns, and beaming with pride and happiness at the sight of her small face.
We became parents, as soon as we saw her, as soon as we heard her cry. Instantaneous, enormous, bouncing-off-all-the-walls love. No words for this love.
Oh god, we love Lucy.
Originally, we knew exactly how this post would go. We’d announce her, tell you all about her, and end by saying how happy we are to know her. Goodbye.
If only life were always so easily planned.
We knew we’d be singing lots of Beatles and John Lennon songs around her birth. The song playing as she entered the world? “I Will,” a song deeply important to both of us. We both cried at that. But the lyrics that have rained insistently in my head these past few days? These lines from John’s song, “Beautiful Boy”:
Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.
The Chef and I have spent the past three days in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, our arms sore from leaning on the hard plastic sides of the isolette, trying to will breath into our daughter.
We don’t want to say too much here. We can’t say too much. If I take the time to contemplate what has happened to us, what we have endured on so little sleep, how scared and in pain and trying to buoy ourselves up we have been — I’ll start crying and not be able to go on.
It’s like living in a different world, in constant twilight, saturated with numbers we never knew existed. We are with her, next to her side, as much as possible. The entire world focuses down to the way her toes curl against our fingers, the wheeze in her throat from the breathing tube, and waiting for her to grip our pinkies.
This time of constant twilight is almost unbearable. Almost, because we are bearing it. We have to bear it. For Lucy.
Lucy stops breathing sometimes. My new definition of terror? Sitting strapped in a hospital bed at 3:30 in the morning, watching our daughter being raced to the nurses’ station, alarms going off, a stampede of feet running toward her. And I can’t get up and follow her because I just underwent a c-section only twelve hours before.
Oh lord, it’s like hell.
But we’re still finding the light in this. We’re both convinced that we have lessons to learn, and so does she. She’s a strong little cuss, stubborn and feisty. She does NOT like having blood drawn or procedures done to her. She fights. She squirms. I love it. One of the nurses said to us, “That’s good. Sick kids don’t fight. They just lie there. Tell her to keep fighting us.”
(The Chef and I have that fight in us as well. If you saw me, you wouldn’t believe I underwent major surgery four days ago. I’m walking, standing, moving things around, no real pain, just a dull ache. Right after the nurses took our daughter to the ICU, I called in my nurse and said, “Okay, get me up and walking. I need to recover, now.” I understand those news stories now, the ones about women lifting up cars to save their kids. The body’s capable of amazing things.)
The nurses have been phenomenal. Compassionate and direct, taking care of us as well as her. Whenever a nurse says something kind, or asks how we are doing, or does something efficiently for Lucy and makes her feel better, we just burst into tears, almost. And the Chef always turns to me and says, “I LOVE that person.”
But still, we are here, living on the bounty of food that our dear friends bring us, only a few hours of sleep fitfully tossed on a hospital cot together, and deep abiding hope. We believe.
We thought about waiting to post until everything was hunky-dory. That might be soon. We seem to be through the worst of it.
That first night, I was convinced she was dying. It’s bound to be better than that. On Tuesday, she had more tests than any human should. Imagine a lumbar puncture at two days old, two EEGs, two MRIs, blood drawn multiple times, chest x-rays. But those tests eliminated almost all of the scary stuff.
This morning, all the tests seem to bear out our common sense. For whatever reason, little Lucy just doesn’t know to breathe regularly yet. Perhaps she came out a little too early. Maybe she just needs to learn her way. Who comes out perfect anyway?
Last night, we began feeding her. After living on sugar water for three days, she finally took in the first food she had eaten since she landed in the ICU. Milk my body made, loving put into a tube by the two of us.
And today, finally, we had the chance to hold her. Skin to skin, heartbeat under her ear. When she lay on one of us for half an hour or an hour at a time, she never once had a difficulty with breathing. We were teaching her.
But still, we don’t know. Something horrendous could come up tomorrow. We could still be here for days. Perhaps the Chef’s entire tw0-week paternity leave will be spent in this hospital room.
We’re here. And perhaps more than any other experience in our lives, we are learning to lean into the moments as they come, and find the light. Tomorrow does not matter. What matters is right now, when she is sleeping peacefully, the two of us watching her in her crib.
She’s here. That’s all we need.
I keep thinking of this moment just after her birth. Still covered in gunk, she cried out her arrival. I am here. I am.
She knew how to breathe in that moment, and for the next twelve hours after that. She will, again.
Breathe, Lucy Marie. We want to show you the world. And you are already loved, by so many people who have never met you.
Breathe, Little Bean. Breathe.