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The Ride of Your Life

One more time

My third labor began right on schedule and I delivered my baby in three hours flat. I was sure at that point that I had new motherhood under control, but it quickly became clear that something was wrong. The baby, a boy we named Owen, seemed lethargic. He didn't want to nurse. Then his circumcision -- and our ride home -- was delayed for several hours because he wouldn't pee.

The doctor, hospital staff, and my husband tried to reassure me that everything was all right, and I wanted to believe them -- in ten years of parenthood, hadn't I seen and handled it all? But in the days that followed, my discomfort turned to panic as my baby's nursing problems grew worse, he developed trouble breathing, and then started losing weight.

In the middle of the darkest night, I sat in my bed on the phone with a stranger from La Leche League. Cradling the phone and holding my baby in the crook of my arm with his mouth positioned near my nipple, I used an eyedropper to drip breast milk into his mouth, hoping the sweet taste would encourage him to begin sucking. Deranged from sleep deprivation and worry, I cracked. All I could do was sit there in the blackness, hugging my newborn and weeping.

Long after Owen's feeding and health problems improved, the emotional fallout from those difficult days lingered. It was months before I could work, and a year before I trusted that my baby was really all right.

Even with the distance of time, that juncture seems so terrifying that I shudder when I remember it. But the giddiness after my second baby's birth seems just as vivid, and I can still summon that miraculous sense of oneness I first experienced when I held my oldest child next to my heart.

In fact, their very unscripted, individual qualities are what make these memories so precious and so powerful. And who can ever be prepared for the most amazing feeling of all: looking into your own beautiful child's face for the very first time, meeting one of the people you'll love most for the rest of your life.