By Shelley Murphy
Last week, on June 11, I did something I hadn’t done in a decade—maybe two.
I combed through a cluttered closet searching for the book. Sitting atop the highest shelf, I spied the dusty keepsake and reached for my firstborn’s baby book.
Our travel plans to celebrate my older son’s 25th birthday together had foundered; instead, I commemorated his milestone by taking a trip back in time.
I opened the memory book but paused when I saw its haphazard pages embodying the turbulent time.
Twenty-five years ago, on an ordinary Friday morning, I drove to my doctor’s office for a routine checkup.
After taking my blood pressure—several times—my doctor ordered immediate bedrest for the remainder of my pregnancy.
That afternoon, I began my bedrest by curling up on the couch with a pristine baby book and recording my thoughts. Soon, feeling a cramp, I shifted positions and felt the damp cushion beneath me. Puzzled, I stood, and “water” ran down my legs.
My bedrest lasted three hours—not the prescribed four weeks.
Leaving home for the hospital, I remember closing our front door and thinking: the next time I walk through this door, it’ll be with a baby in my arms and my life will be forever changed.
My son entered the world 36 hours after I arrived at the hospital.
The APGAR test is a quick assessment of a newborn’s health at one and five minutes after birth, and scores range from 0 to 10.
Scores of 7 and above indicate routine post-delivery care, scores from 4 to 6 indicate medical assistance might be necessary, and scores of 3 or lower may require immediate life-saving measures.
I heard a nurse assign my son an APGAR score of 4. I didn’t understand its gravity until, amid a flurry of activity, nurses rushed my newborn to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
During my pregnancy, I had read What to Expect When You Are Expecting, but skipped the scary premature birth chapter.
I didn’t read the chapter covering complex lung development and premature babies suffering breathing troubles.
When someone finally wheeled me from my room to the NICU, I saw my son in an incubator. I couldn’t hold him. I could only touch him with my fingertip; his tiny body covered in tape, tubes and sensors connecting him to a monitoring system displaying darting numbers and graphs.
Leaving the hospital two days later, without my newborn, was indescribable. Walking through our front door, my life had forever changed, but the weight I carried lay in my heart, not my arms.
After a sleepless night, I returned early to the NICU to watch my son’s chest rise and fall in sync with the cacophony of beeps and buzzes—my routine for 11 interminable days.
The morning they allowed us to take our son home, a nurse wheeled me and my baby to our awaiting car. I remember begging her to come home with us. The intrepid nurse presented me with Polaroid pictures she’d taken to document my son’s first days and said, “You can do it.”
The page in my son’s baby book entitled “Baby’s Homecoming” bears scribbles reading: “We all had a rough first day—you didn’t eat much and we worried and watched you a lot”
Twenty-five years later, I’m no longer concerned with my son’s eating habits, but I still worry—a lot.
It feels as if I blinked and that my son traded sippy cups for school backpacks, car keys for dorm sheets, summer internships for genuine jobs.
My son’s baby book will always have more blank pages than recorded moments.
Nevertheless, I did complete the book’s final page, entitled, “My thoughts for you in the future.”
The words written 25 years ago by a nervous, new mom are true today: “I hope you know how much daddy and I will always love you—unconditionally.”
Shelley Murphy has lived in San Clemente with her husband for the past 21 years, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to the San Clemente Times since 2006.