As I was waking up I could hear crying. Loud crying. Almost bordering on screaming.
I called Joe's name, but he didn't answer. I couldn't see my husband sleeping on the pull-out chair. I was still sore and did not want to move until I had to.
The crying continued to get louder and louder as I heard the wheels of the isolettes being rolled down the hall as the nurses delivered babies to the new moms for the morning feeding.
My chest was beginning to ache. I tried to move slowly, getting ready to feed my little guy.
I could hear my baby getting closer to my room.
Boy, he sure has some lungs on him.
Then the nurse came in my room that had been our home for the last four days. She smiled as she left our precious boy.
My face was almost sore from smiling so wide. I softly said good morning to my new "boss."
"Didn't the nurse bring Tom in?"
I hear Joe's voice coming from his corner of our beautiful private hospital room that I still couldn't believe we had scored.
"Yes... he wasn't the baby that was crying... I knew you weren't asleep."
"Well... I was really tired."
"You have got to be kidding. I was the one that had surgery after 20 hours of labor. I have been the one nursing the baby every two hours. "
"Well...One of us should be rested."
We both started to laugh.
Our whole life was in that room. The world outside didn't exist.
But that was ending in a few short hours as we would be let out into the cold world with our brand new baby.
I was terrified.
We had the bright idea of rooming in with Tom for the last night of our hospital stay. That was until it was 2:00 am and we still could not get him to sleep. We walked him down to the nursery in his little isolette and told the nurses to just take him.
I then cried because I figured I was a complete failure as a mother.
But now as I was holding my son in my arms watching him nurse, I started to feel like maybe I could do this.
I couldn't get over that this fair haired baby was mine. He looked more like my blond, blue-eyed sister than me. I was amazed as I looked at him because he looked exactly like the baby I had dreamt of a few days before I had him.
I remember waking from the dream and thinking it was impossible that Joe and I could ever have a blond blue-eyed baby. We both were the dark sheep in our families, getting our coloring from our Italian heritage. The idea that a child of ours would look more like our fair-haired siblings seemed highly unlikely.
Yet, here he was.
He was perfect. A baby right out of central casting. And he was ours. Finally.
I couldn't stop staring at him. How was it possible that he was inside me only five days ago? It was surreal. After waiting nine months, longer if you counted the fact that he was 10 days past his due date, my son was finally here.
After four miscarriages, I was a mom.
I wish I knew what the heck I was doing.
I had retired from my office job to become a stay-at-home-mom. Did I make a mistake? I was starting to doubt whether I could handle this.
As much as I wanted to get home, I also wanted to stay in our nice private room with the wonderful nurses and the fully staffed nursery that would take him anytime we wanted them to.
My emotions were on a roller coaster. One minute I felt capable and was ecstatic. The next minute I was convinced I had already done everything wrong and had scarred my son for life.
My confidence did not pick up when it came time to dress our newborn in his first "real" outfit so we could go home.
"Tom, you were born in one of the most expensive zip codes in the world," said Joe. "I bet you are feeling a little cheated right now."
I couldn't stop laughing.
Here we were two fairly intelligent, educated adults and we were lost trying to snap all the very tiny snaps of the going home outfit I had taken weeks to pick out.
I couldn't get over how patient this little creature was with us.
What the heck were we going to do? I was so glad my mother was going to be spending the night at our house, and I wished we had taken her up on her offer to come to the hospital and go home with us.
Joe had the bright idea that this should be a quiet, private time for us and our new son.
It sounded romantic when he mentioned it a few days ago. Now it just seemed nuts.
I don't know how we finally did it, but Tom was dressed and ready to go.
A very nice nurse took the elevator down with us, my newborn cradled in my arms.
Where is the wheelchair I always see the new moms in the movies and TV shows in? I felt a little cheated. I had the fantasy in my head that I would be wheeled down into the lobby, baby in my arms and be greeted with smiles, maybe a few cheers.
It was a little anti-climatic.
Since we now lived in Queens but were still using my doctor that I had when we lived in Manhattan, we had our baby at Lenox Hill Hospital.
I guess the Upper East Side of Manhattan was too cool to let out a little cheer, or even a smile.
The elevator opened up, and we were in the real world again.
The lobby looked the same as it did only five days ago when I was hugely pregnant and in labor. Yet, everything was different, and it would never be the same.
The nurse wished us well and left.
We were all alone.
Joe took a picture of me with our little baby all covered in the beautiful blanket my mom bought for him. Then he left me to get our car.
Tom really was an angel. He was just laying in my arms making the sweetest baby sounds.
Standing by the doors looking out onto the streets, it seemed odd that the world had gone on without us. Time seemed to stand still while we were safely tucked away in the hospital.
I spotted our new car, the one we bought especially for our new roles as mom and dad. Joe has a huge smile on his face. He gently helps me out of the hospital and onto the street.
Something seems very wrong.
"Joe, they are letting us walk out of the hospital with a baby." I say, almost in a whisper.
"They're nuts," is his reply.
We are smiling and happy as can be.
Then we try to get Tom into his infant car seat. In the middle of 77th street. With cars starting to honk their horns.
How many adults does it take to get one little 7 pound 10 ounce baby into a baby seat?
What happened to the good old days when mom held the baby in her arms in the front seat? I remember my youngest sister coming home from the hospital that way.
I'm a failure. This poor little perfect baby. He made a huge mistake picking us as parents.
We were so lost. I still am not sure how we got Tom in the car seat.
I'm extremely lucky that I married a man that laughs when he is under pressure like I do.
Tom, buckled safely (I hope) in his seat, I now take my new place in the back seat right next to our baby. I was now on baby watch.
I took my job very seriously and watched his every breath.
I couldn't believe our luck that he seemed like such a content little guy. He was just laying and looking all around at his new surroundings.
Look how perceptive he is. Obviously I gave birth to a genius... A perfect baby and a genius. I'm the luckiest woman in the world.
I'm extremely embarrassed to admit this, but for the whole 13 months that Tom rode in the car in a rear facing car seat I sat in the back with him.
Joe and I wanted to make sure someone could watch him at all times. What if something happened to him? You know, you can't see them when they are in the rear-facing car seat.
Plus, who was going to entertain Tom? He couldn't just sit there. He was going to need age-appropriate stimulation. Joe and I learned every baby song and game we could that first year as new parents.
A tad obsessive you say?
To say people made fun of us would be an understatement.
Heads would turn as we drove for the whole first year of Tom's life.
I didn't really care. Nor did Joe. We were parents. Finally.
As we went to turn into our block Joe stopped and parked the car.
"What the heck are you doing? I'm going to have to feed him soon."
What am I going to do with this man? This is never going to work. I wonder how hard it would be to raise the baby by myself.
"I just wanted to get a chance to enjoy this moment before we get to the house with all the people waiting for us and the baby," said Joe.
I love this man. I'm the luckiest woman in the world.
"We are a family."
"I know, I can't believe it." I start to cry again, this time tears of gratitude.
In about four weeks that little baby will be 13.
We went on to have two other children. Two more times being cloistered in a hospital room. Two more times that we stopped the car right before we got to our house.
(Although, to be accurate, Tom was the only baby that I sat in the back seat for. Lizzy and Peter were left to sit without me watching their every move when they came home. And, yes, I have deposited extra money in both of their money-for-therapy-for-all-the-things-we-did-to-screw-you-up-fund, because of this. Just in case you were curious.)
Tom was our first.The baby that came after years of wanting a child. Our miracle. And the sweetest, happiest little baby we could have asked for to start our parenting journey.
As Tom enters the teen years, I can truly appreciate parenting jokes like Bill Cosby's, "I brought you into this world, I can take you out," or Roseanne Barr's "This is why some animals eat their young."
It helps to think back to that time when it was all beginning.
I'm confident that Joe and I will handle the teen years the same way we have handled the first 13 years of Tom's life. Making mistakes, trying our best and laughing. A lot.