Where to begin? It's hard now, three weeks and some later, to separate out the pieces of the story, and all the more so since I start work again tomorrow, and my mind is caught up with looking ahead. But this is not how the story starts; let me begin again.
It was dark when we left the house. The kids had spent the night at their grandparents' hotel room, the dog was at the kennel, our bags had been packed the night before. Passing through the empty office parks on our way to the hospital, we passed a police car with its lights spinning, parked beside a tree that had fallen into the street. Over and over as we drove, Juliette and I marveled that we would have another baby in mere hours, and also that this would be the last time we'd make this particular trip.
There was a certain sense of relief that we shared. We'd made it through Jason's birthday—just three days before—without Juliette going into labor. And, of course, she was looking forward to being able to breathe again. But there was a bit of apprehension, too. Not because of the impending sleepless nights; we'd been through that before and we knew we could handle it.
The first time we had made that drive, Juliette was curled into a ball in the passenger seat and I was just trying to hold it together, and despite all the classes and reading, we were both unprepared for how things went. The second time was more like this one, calmer and a little surreal, but later I would be holding her hand while she gasped and moaned from the pain of an incompletely anesthetized surgery. This time we felt more experienced, but that experience had taught us that things would probably be different in unexpected ways.
Things started in a familiar way. We filled out paperwork, we waited. Eventually Juliette went into the OR to be prepped, and I stood outside in the hall, alone, pacing nervously and cracking my knuckles and taking pictures of nothing.
But then things were different. Juliette had a smile on her face as the doctors started operating. The anesthesia worked this time, so instead of hearing Juliette's pain, I heard the pings and whirs of the machinery, and the doctors' voices as they discussed recipes for salmon.
And then, all of a sudden, there she was.
And just as I had both times before, I marveled at how loud she was. She looks like Eva, I thought to myself as I brought her to meet her mother for the first time on the outside. "Hi, Mary," I said. "Hi, baby girl. Happy birthday."
There are lots of little details that spring to mind from the next few hours and days. The surprise in the doctor's voice when she saw that Mary's umbilical cord had a knot in it. The little spurt of blood when I cut the cord, that shot out and hit one of the nurses in the eye. The surprise and joy at finally having a big baby—and the way I pumped my fists in celebration at the first visit to the pediatrician's office, when she'd regained her birth weight in just six days.
And now we're a family, all over again and newly and differently. We're still learning what that means and how we live together. It's strange and new and more than a little bit exhausting. And it's wonderful.