There was a moment, 14 years ago today, when suddenly, I hated cats. I hated their pointless whiskers, their territorial battles, their marathon naps. I even hated my own cat, who was, no doubt, snoozing on the couch at home, while I attempted to breathe through my contractions in the hospital.
We had given up on trying to stop labor.
My husband and I had been watching TV in my labor and delivery room all day, trying to keep our firstborn from arriving five weeks early, when the doctors said it would be dangerous if we didn’t induce labor — this after 24 hours of trying to stop it.
We were in the middle of a 90-minute documentary about cats when it became clear — by the jumbo contraction that nearly crossed my eyes — that I wouldn’t be watching TV much longer. Also, that I was about to become a mother.
When Nicholas was born a few hours later, the doctor didn’t hand me my bundle of joy. Instead, a nurse let me have a quick look before she whisked him off to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
My baby wasn’t breathing on his own.
It wasn’t until hours later, when I padded to the NICU alone in the wee hours of the morning, that I got to hold my baby for the very first time. He was hooked up to wires and tubes, some that helped him breathe, others that monitored his vital organs. I carefully pulled my newborn into the warmth of my body, and started to cry.
Then I looked around the NICU. In one corner, there were quads, who, I later found out, had been there a month already. Their mother was running out of maternity leave, but they weren’t going home anytime soon. There were three other Nicholases besides mine, and an eight-pounder who was there for just the night.
Just over my left shoulder was a room attached to the NICU with just one isolette. Inside, was a tiny two-pound African American baby, so small he looked like a little black kitten.
Suddenly, I loved cats again.
I put my baby back into his isolette, where he’d spend a week, me hobbling to and from the parking lot every day to feed him and visit him. As I approached his isolette one morning, I noticed that the baby who looked like a kitten was gone.
On Nick’s last night in the hospital, I went to Party City to order birth announcements. Just as the sliding doors opened, I witnessed an exhausted mom shout at her son, who was standing up in the shopping cart, “Nicholas! Sit down!”
And I couldn’t wait to get this motherhood started.
Happy birthday, Nicholas.
Jen Singer will present: “Bed-rest and Breast Pumps: A Mom’s Five-Week Journey from the Couch to the NICU” on May 1st, 2011, at the March of Dimes Walk for Babies at FDU Madison, New Jersey.