He looked like an angry alien lying on me. Because he had a short umbilical cord, the doctor could only lay Eli on my lower stomach, his back turned toward me. I remember looking at his body and wondering, "Were you worth it?"
He was far from me, and I had only seen his shiny purple back - I hadn't seen his face yet. I could hear his cries but they didn't stir up any emotion in me. It was an odd feeling. I had expected love. Joy. Happiness. Instead I felt disconnected. Wary. Suspicious of this stranger. He wasn't familiar to me as I had thought he would be.
I wanted to get to know him, to see his face and have him closer, but at the same time I felt cautious and guarded. He was foreign to me and at that moment he equated pain in my mind. Finally, Mike cut the cord and someone pulled him closer to my face. I finally saw his big eyes, his small nose, wide open mouth and dark hair.
I stroked him and wrapped my arms around him, trying to find a connection. Somewhere far back in my mind I knew this was a big moment, but I felt tired and awkward.
I looked up to find Mike next to me, smiling down at the two of us. He dropped to his knees and began to pray. He dedicated our baby to the Lord, right there, not more than ten minutes after birth. I didn't know he was going to do that. It was much like getting proposed to - I can't remember what he said, but in that moment I found some of the happiness I was looking for. Yes, I still felt a bit uncomfortable with my child, but it was starting to register in my mind that my baby was not pain, he was love.
I don't remember much more from the next two hours. An attempt at breastfeeding. Getting lots of stitches. Mike ordering me a BLT and a chocolate chip cookie from the cafeteria. Eli being taken away to get cleaned up, weighed and measured. Mike holding Eli for the first time. His love for our son spread clearly across his face. Getting unhooked from all the machines.
Eli now watches me as I walk in and out of view, kicks his legs in happiness when he's naked on the changing table, and coos and grunts when we play on the floor. He's easygoing and easily content, although he can be a bit dramatic when it comes to eating, pooping and waking up. (You should see him wake up; takes him a solid 10 minutes to become fully awake and complete his stretching routine.) He started showing us his first gummy smiles last week and every day we're learning new things about his personality.
Today I still remember the feelings, the questions and the pain from labor and delivery, but it's distant and vague. I think part of me is trying to hold on to the memory, attempting to remind myself how terrible it was so I won't want to do it again, but slowly, inch by inch, the part of me that has forgotten the pain because of the love is taking over, clouding the memory to only remember the end result.
Eli is my unexpected joy, my unforeseen miracle, my surprise blessing.
He was worth it.