Rule #1 of parenthood: you can’t control everything. Why do I keep forgetting this? I must have told eight people on the first day of my maternity leave that the baby would surely be late. Passing-by neighbors asked “How are you feeling?”, and I said, “Feeling good – this baby certainly isn’t in any rush!” I had lined up the painter and the electrician and the floor finisher that week to put the final touches on the kitchen so that we could bring the baby home to a fully-complete remodel. I asked my mom that afternoon to buy a plane ticket to be here for Juliette’s first day of school on September 1st, because I really didn’t think the baby would come by his August 28th due date and imagined we might be at the hospital on the 1st. I ran into my friend Amanda the evening of August 23rd while Shane was playing pickle ball and told her, “I’ll keep you posted, but don’t expect to hear from me anytime soon!”

Well, well, well. He showed me.

Juliette and I left Shane at the pickle ball court that evening and headed home for a night of Mama-Jules chilling. Juliette hung out in the bathroom with me while I showered and we made our plans – an episode of Property Brothers, some ice cream, some reading time together in bed…the next day we were going to head downtown to visit the Great Wheel and grab lunch at the waterfront. The week was my oyster!

It was just as I was stepping out of the shower and felt a gush of liquid leave my body that those plans ground to a screeching halt. Juliette looked up at me with wide eyes while I did my best to stay cool: “Uhhhh…that was interesting, kiddo. Not sure what’s going on, but I think maybe my water just broke? Which might mean the baby is coming?” But before I could urge her not to panic, Juliette was on her feet, tears streaming down her face while she frantically ran in place, crying “But Daddy’s not here!” I quickly called Nance (it’s a Godsend when one of your closest friends is a birth doula), who confirmed that it did sound like my water had broken, and postulated that the greenish-brown bits that spattered on the shower floor were likely meconium (baby poo), which meant that my doctor would want me at the hospital sooner rather than later. Next call was to Shane and was short and sweet: “My water just broke. Come home NOW!” And then to my doctor’s office, who did say they wanted to see me at the hospital within the next hour or two. It was go-time.

I pushed aside the voice in my head that was screaming, “BUT THIS ISN’T THE PLAN!” and said, “This is so exciting, kiddo! We’re going to meet your baby brother soon!” I calmly (though maybe in an octave higher than my normal voice?) told Juliette that she needed to be brave and we needed to get ready to leave – she had to pack an overnight bag for her stay at the Rusts and I had to make sure my own bag was ready. We flew into a packing frenzy and as Juliette began to shift from panic-mode to prep-mode, she stopped to grab my hands and look up at me with watery eyes and a chin quiver to say, “I don’t want to you to worry about me, Mama. Just worry about taking care of you. Now what else can I do?” And then my eyes watered because how did my baby become so mature?

Shane came home, sweaty from his fastest-ever bike ride, and started tossing things into his own duffel bag. In no time, we were headed out the door, equal parts excited and anxious. We dropped off Juliette with the Rusts, snapped one last picture as a family of three, gave our girl several big hugs, and then Shane and I were off to the hospital with Nance right behind us.

I spent the car ride to the hospital texting our contractor about our abrupt change of plans (“but feel free to finish up the painting while we’re gone!”) and felt only a couple of very light contractions. If not for the meconium that I knew our boy was floating around in, I would have asked Shane if we could stop for a latte to face the long night ahead.

We were ushered into our labor triage room at the hospital and I was hooked up to the monitors – it was a relief to hear baby’s heartbeat fill the small room and I laid back on my stack of pillows. Contractions started coming a bit more frequently, though the pain was still light enough for me to easily breathe through them.

We were led to our delivery room around 11pm and then things started gettin’ real. The pain intensified and I tried to distract myself by neatly repacking my thrown-together hospital bag (I clean when I’m anxious), but shortly after midnight no amount of tidying up was going to keep me sane and so I put in my request for an epidural. Shane held my hands and looked at me understandingly as the anesthesiologist poked at my spine and mused that I must not be in that much pain at only 3 centimeters dilated. If he wasn’t about to pump me full of pain meds, I would have turned around and slugged the guy in the nose.

The next few hours are a blur of trying to get some rest, trying to stay calm as the doctor and nurse debated the stability of the baby’s heart rate, and desperately just wanting to hold my boy safely in my arms. I was assured throughout the night that the baby was fine, but as I obsessively tracked my contractions on my watch and saw them remain at five minutes apart, I began to wonder if this kid was going to come out without some heavy intervention. A new nurse came in around 4:00 and rearranged my body in an effort to get things moving along more quickly. The contractions soon intensified, and then intensified some more, and by 5:00 they were setting up the bed for delivery. I watched them prep the small bassinet with a heat lamp and warm blankets and that’s when it really, really hit me – though our son had been growing inside me for the past nine months, I don’t think it was until that moment that I truly believed in my heart of hearts that he was real.

The contractions were excruciating by 5:10, even with the epidural, but Shane and Nance coached me though them while I gave Shane an array of confusing orders. “Squeeze my hand! No, don’t touch me; I’m too sweaty! Come here! Give me space!” By 5:20 the doctor gave me the all-clear to start pushing and I bore down and pushed through the pain. At 5:29 am on August 24th a slippery, crying babe was placed on my chest and I sobbed tears of joy, overwhelmed with relief and gratitude and love for this little one we’ve longed for.

Welcome to the world, Isaac Henry!  7 lb 1 oz, 18 3/4” long, and a head of hair just like his sister’s.

Isaac means “he will laugh” and speaks of the way Abraham and Sarah laughed incredulously when they discovered they were pregnant with their own son Isaac. Though Shane’s 41 years of age doesn’t hold a candle to Abraham’s 100, it still felt fitting – oh, how we’ve waited for you, baby!

The rest of Isaac’s birth day is a haze of feeding sessions and round-the-clock nurse visits and mango smoothies from hospital food service. We weren’t allowed to leave our post-partum recovery room due to COVID protocols and while Shane started feeling stir-crazy about 12 hours in, I loved those 24 hours of having no responsibility other than to feed the baby, hold the baby, and memorize every feature of his soft and squished newborn face. I don’t even think I changed a diaper in that first day!

Shane and I both thought Isaac had freckles until we discovered that was just dried poo on his face.

…Much better!

It’s been a long, long time since I held a newborn, but oh, how it all came back to me…he felt so right in my arms.

I know…so many first-day photos, but he got cuter every time I looked at him!

We weren’t allowed any visitors due to COVID protocols, so Isaac met all of his biggest fans over FaceTime, #1 being his big sister who cooed “Awwww, he’s so cute!” when she saw him on-screen.  She didn’t know the half of it.

While room service and a personal nurse were nice, by Wednesday morning we were ready to get home to our other child. We packed our things, strapped Isaac into the car seat, and moseyed on out of there, much less anxious about leaving the hospital than we were the first time around, but no less excited to be bringing a new family member into our home.

We were greeted by a living room full of blue streamers (this is what happens when you give kind neighbors a spare key!) that eased the pain over our not-done remodel and the absence of any furniture in our living room. This wasn’t quite the homecoming I’d envisioned, but whatever.  Shane got Isaac and I settled and then headed back out to pick up Juliette.

Juliette bounded in the front door several minutes later and then tip-toed toward the bed as she entered her room where I was holding her sleeping brother. “He’s adorable!”, she whispered. And then she asked tentatively, “Can I hold him?” I tucked him into her arms and she was immediately smitten – tears sprang to both our eyes as our collective years of waiting and hoping came to an end. HE’S HERE!

That first day at home was a mix of big, big emotions. Mostly bliss – it felt so good to have us together under one roof! But also anxiety (Juliette was very unsettled by Issac’s wailing as we changed his diaper), exhaustion, and a little bit of sadness over what once was. As I rushed to get ready for bed that evening so that I could feed an antsy Isaac, Juliette asked, “Wait…can you still lay with me sometimes before bed?” I stopped what I was doing and immediately wrapped my arms around her as the tears began to flow from both of us (we did a lotta crying that day!). “Everything is just so different now, Mama…”.  And she’s right – that little babe has caused some big changes in all our lives. But as I nursed Isaac in Juliette’s bed that evening while she drifted off to sleep, one of my arms cradling his tiny body and one of my hands running through her long hair, I was assured: these are changes we can roll with.

Lazy weekend mornings in our bed are a little more crowded, but a lot more sweet.

Books in bed now include a baby.

And though Isaac (and Shane?) sleep through our evening episodes of The Great Pottery Throw Down, Juliette still appreciates the extra company.

She’s such a doting big sis and has given up her reign as only child with grace. She loves to hold Isaac and takes great pride in how carefully she supports his wobbly head as she picks him up, cooing, “Hellooooooo, buddy, helloooooooo!”.

But before she picks him up, she smooths his hair flat and to the side, insisting it’s best this way because “it makes him look like a handsome teenager getting ready for a ball”.

And while Juliette isn’t the single center of our universe anymore, Shane and I are making space for quality one-on-one time with her – much as I love watching her play the role of big sister, it also feels good to spend time with her as my best little buddy.  We’ve had a couple of very satisfying coffee shop dates…

And Shane busted out his 2,000-piece Father’s Day gift for some serious Daddy-Jules Lego-building sessions (Isaac was occasionally invited to the party, though he gets no credit for the actual build).

When Juliette’s at school and Shane is working, I get the babe to myself; I let the feeding sessions linger and then transition to long snuggle sessions on the couch. These newborn days are even more precious than I remember, maybe because I know this is it for us. I’m soaking it up, wanting to remember forever the weight of his milk-drunk body on my chest, the way he spontaneously smiles in his sleep as if he’s having the sweetest of dreams, that little crinkle at the bridge of his nose…

Baby boy sleeps a lot during the day.  There were times in that first week when I hardly felt like I saw his eyes open (which was ok – he’s quieter when his eyes are closed!).

We’re still working on prolonging the nighttime sleep sessions and begin each night with the best of intentions:  “Tonight’s the night we’ll keep him swaddled and in his bassinet!”  Somehow, though, he always ends up in our bed.

There are worse things to wake up to…

We’re nearly three weeks in and still have plenty of figuring-out to do, but we’re in this together, the FOUR of us.  I like the sound of that.