I’ll refrain from saying “I told you so.” When we opted to wait until the delivery room to discover Little One’s gender, we were met with a variety of reactions, most of which could be predicted based on generational lines. Our friends and contemporaries, those of us who are more likely to consult our smart phones to check the weather than look out a window, gave us thinly veiled looks of skepticism. Older generations, the ones who look outside to check the weather, seemed all for waiting. “Good for you!” we’d hear with a little “pip-pip” of cheer in their voices.
Everyone, generational barriers aside, was skeptical when we shared that we had the gender documented in a sealed envelope, burning a hole in our pockets, from week 20 on.
We didn’t peek.
So I spent months feeling convinced in my DNA that we were having a second little girl. Everyone else, including Big Friend felt tugged in the direction of boy. Now I can say, “I told you so,” but I’m not going to. I will say…
…It’s a Girl!
Cora Bailey Hendrickson entered the wider world on April 25th at 7:39 pm after 24 hours of what turned out to be a surprisingly relaxed, joyful, and blessed labor. After the trauma and fears of Little Friend’s premature birth by emergency c-section, the full term VBAC, while induced every step of the way, was a healing, beautiful journey for me.
Things I was unprepared for with this birth experience:
1. Water breaking. I mean, really? No one could have prepped me for that gushy, ooshy, mushy experience? I’m just going to leave it at that.
2. Simple joys. The relief of an epidural after two hours of pitocin-punched contractions. The warm smile of a midwife threading the 24 hour wait. The sound of Alison Kraus crooning to YoYo Ma’s rendition of “Simple Gifts”. The pictures of Little Friend cycling around and around on Big Friend’s iPad while we waited through push after push.
3. A mama’s love. Cora was wrinkly. And red. And covered in some icky stuff that made her look like a marbled alien. I loved her at first sight.
We’ve had ten days to get to know her. She’s been kind to her sleep-deprived parents, giving us three sometimes four hours between night feedings. She’s slept through a lawnmower, sander, leaf blower, car rides, adoring visitors, and shouts of “It’s bedtime” to Little Friend struggling to fall asleep upstairs. She has forehead wrinkles just like mine. She has long fingers like her daddy. She looks identical to a newborn Little Friend. She has ragged fingernails too tiny for me to cut. She has eyes that have moved from cross-eyed to focused for the four minutes each day they’re open. She loves to sleep with her legs folded up like an envelope against her belly. She has a butt that I know from it’s shape in my hand–I pushed it off of my ribs just days ago.
She has filled our hearts.
We chose the name Cora for her in part because it’s an old family name, but also because it means “a filled heart.” Part of Cora’s life story is the loss of her twin at 14 weeks. It’s important to us that we avoid dwelling on what wasn’t to be with this pregnancy, and instead focus on what was–a little girl who at 5 pounds, 13 ounces fills our hearts to the brim. Yet with her arrival comes the bitter part of the sweet. The final surrender to the truth that Little Two will be waiting for us in heaven’s delivery room. In honor of his(?) 14 weeks in our lives, we’ve named him Joseph Thayer, and right now, if he’s anything like his sister, he’s cuddled up on an angel’s chest, breathing quick little puffs, smacking sleepy lips, and fluttering paper-thin eyelids. We’ll hold him someday, and we’ll ve just as filled with joy as if we had held him on April 25th, 2012.
And Little Friend? What is she up to in all of this?
She’s patting Cora’s head, kissing her hand, “helping” with diaper changes, and wondering constantly, “Where is MY baby?”. She’s also throwing temper tantrums, perfecting a particularly obnoxious version of the word “No”, and wishing that she weren’t a big sister.
It’s a see-saw, this big sister thing.
When our dear friends, who were watching Little Friend during the birth, told her that her little sister had finally arrived, she leapt out of bed (of course already dressed in her “fanciest outfit” picked out especially for the occasion), grabbed her fairy wand and pink sparkly shoes and announced, “I’m ready! I’m ready!”
The sweet, serene look of pure joy on her face as she saw Cora for the first time rent a new tear in my heart.
And then the see-saw tilts down.
A few days after Little One joined Little Friend at home, I intervened in a colossal bedtime meltdown. “You know what I think is happening?” I asked Little Friend’s back, which was directed, pointedly, at me. “Humph” came her response. I soldiered on, “I think it’s hard to be a big sister all the time. Would you like a break to be just Isabelle tomorrow?” The back twisted to a front and I suddenly had a puddle of Little Friend limbs, torso, and head in my arms in a gigantic bear hug. I watched the dusk gather around the neighborhood houses outside her window. Then came her small voice, “I just want the baby to be back in your tummy.” I could barely choke back the sobs as I confessed, “Sometimes I do, too.”
It’s an adjustment, this family of three becoming four thing. It’s not smooth sailing, and I’m not sure when the choppy waters are supposed to smooth out for us. We’re all on Little Friend’s see-saw in some stage of up, down, or in-between. Through this uncertainty and new ground rules, I’m ever so grateful for the thread of grace that runs clear and bright and strong among us. Grace for a tired mom who doesn’t want to police the obnoxious “No” one more time. Grace for the tired dad who has offered to get up for a diaper change at 3 am. Grace for a big sister who may or may not have dropped a book on her sister’s head intentionally. Grace for a life that is never easy, never predictable, never boring, and never unrewarding.
We are blessed to the brim.
It’s a girl.
Please excuse me if I don’t post for a few weeks in this precious window of newborn baby. I will hopefully be sleeping occasionally, laundering constantly, cleaning seldomly, and mothering lovingly. I’ll be back with stories to share and an exciting new direction for Belle Squeaks in June.