a year of stories - 25 of 52 / by Carey Pace

*This post is part of a collaborative project - a year of stories shared by a group of 15 photographers every Tuesday in 2016.  Please visit Renee Bonuccelli after you read this post to continue the circle.*

Eight years ago I made a compromise. I'm not usually one for compromises -- a bit too stubborn to give in -- but motherhood changes that in you, sometimes. I tend to lean towards the belief that God made a woman's body with the innate knowledge of how to grow a child, and that that child would come when she was good and ready and not a minute sooner. But as the days between 'now' and my due date dwindled, the doctor became more nervous. He told me tales of awful things that happened when a baby breathes in the meconium, and the risks I was taking to let nature proceed uninhibited.

I told him that if she had not come on her own by the day of 40 weeks, I would allow him to induce me. Fear must be tempered by wisdom, should it not? A balance. A pendulum, swung just enough and not too far. I gave her as much of a chance as I felt I could safely do to do this thing called birth. I felt a peace that cannot be explained. I just knew she would cooperate. But if I were wrong, I knew I would never forgive myself for letting pride overrun caution.

I went to bed at 39 weeks and 6 days with the expectation of rising early the next morning. The hospital was expecting us at 5am sharp. I would shower. Be clean and hair fixed and presentable. Not at all like it was the first time around. I'd eaten my last food at midnight. I was prepared. A tad heartbroken that my plan hadn't worked, but prepared. Earlier that evening after putting The Boy to bed, I had cried and cried on Shawn. I had loved this life with a baby. It was sweet, and perfect, and as much as I was excited about this new life growing inside me, I feared the changes there were to come. It almost felt a betrayal to The Boy to have a new baby enter the family.

Somewhere around 2 or 3am, June 25, 2008, nineteen month old The Boy called out. Bad dream or just needing snuggles, who knows? He still didn't talk much. Only a handful of words. His pediatrician wasn't worried and I tried not to be, but I was. Worry follows a mother around like a dog follows the grandpa of the family who sneaks him chunks of meat from the table.

I began that arduous process of getting a full term pregnant belly out of the bed. Did I ever tell you about that time that Shawn said to me in a sleepy fog, "it feels like an earthquake when you get out of bed"? Then his facial expression went to "oh crap" as he awaited my wrath. Instead, as pregnant women can do, I surprised him by busting up laughing, because it was true. What point in denying it! It is HARD work to get pregnant bellies out of bed.

But that hard work of getting out of bed, or getting up from the couch, or stepping in or out of the car had triggered those Braxton Hicks contractions in me for months. They are supposed to be painless, but whoever the "they" is that says that surely wasn't someone like me, because mine hurt. Every moment was braced with the expectation of newly triggered uncomfortable rock-hard-belly-itis. So early that morning, I managed to get myself up and felt that spasm lock hold. A vice. Nothing new.

I tried to get to the door. But I couldn't. This time the pain was more. Fiercer. Elevated. Real. And coming in waves.

I think I woke Shawn and told him I needed him to deal with The Boy at present. It was still a few hours to go before the hospital was expecting us, but our Little Lady had indeed waited until the eleventh hour to initiate the process. I showered, and we took off.

I thought I handled the pain better the second time. I've always done better when I knew what to expect. It was very different to arrive and have a room waiting for you, instead of spending hours in a triage room writhing in pain, a resident doctor unsure of if you're really dilated, while you wondered if THIS wasn't labor, what the &*%$l WAS labor going to be like. The anesthesiologist wasn't in any hurry though. Some people call me blunt, but there is a filter there. Pain dissolves that filter, and I think I said some ugly things to the people who kept asking me the same questions over and over again.  If I am anything, I am consistent. 

She was born around 830am and it couldn't have gone any smoother. She had passed her meconium - the doctor was right - but most thankfully she did not have any complications from it. The first thing I remember hearing said was "those lips! She has Angelina Jolie's lips!" I was so angry. Those darn nurses had tainted her birth by comparing her to AJ of all people. Then I saw her lips and hushed. I understood why.

We spent the next three years in tactical battle on every front. Those were long, hard years that are difficult to summarize in a sentence or paragraph.  Yet I wouldn't trade them out for anything now. I wouldn't trade the lessons I learned about myself, about God, and what they ultimately shaped her to be.

This afternoon, The Little Lady opened her birthday presents from us. We got her a couple small presents, but the 'big' gift was some cash that we'll take her to Durham to spend. She's getting to the age where that's really quite exciting. But the very first thing out of her mouth took Shawn's and my breath away.

"I know the FIRST thing I'm gonna buy! That panther for The Boy from Toys and CO."

All she knew, on this day that we have spent celebrating her, was that she wanted to take $100 and buy a life size stuffed panther for her brother because she thought he wanted it. She was willing to take half her money and spend it on someone else, without a moment's hesitation.

A month ago I took the kids to that toy store in Greensboro and The Boy was on the hunt for a panther stuffed toy, because that's his favorite animal. He was so frustrated that no store carried a panther of any kind. The only one we found was huge and crazy expensive. I filed it away in the 'no way' category, but that sweet little spirit filed it away in the "if I am ever able, I'm gonna do this for him." I hadn't thought about that panther again, and I'm sure her brother hadn't either. But boy, did she.

If there were ever any doubt that her love language is Gifts, it is washed away. We struggle with balancing materialism and greed with a child who understands love through gifts, especially since it isn't our primary love language. What a soul this little fighting spirit has turned out to be.

Happy eighth birthday to our Little Lady!

*This post is part of a collaborative project - a year of stories shared by a group of 15 photographers every Tuesday in 2016.  Please visit Renee Bonuccelli after you read this post to continue the circle.*