The night before, Ryan and I were watching Sunday night football and eating a pizza. We had waited all weekend for a baby to show. We nested, we went out for lunch, we cleaned, we went to church, we took a nap, and we were convinced a baby was never going to show up, ever. It was somewhere after my third slice of pizza when pop! With a strong kicking sort of feeling, my water broke right there on the couch. I stood up, waddled up the stairs, saying something to Ryan about my water breaking? and made it to the bathroom. With shaking hands I called the doctor, who told us to head to the hospital as soon as we could. I had my first contraction in the car.
For some reason it took three different nurses to determine that I was actually in labor. By the time we made it into the delivery room, we were at least two hours into the process. Ryan turned on the TV (more football) and I was perched on a bed in a hospital gown, texting my parents and sisters things like this ain't so bad.
Two hours later the TV was off, and there was nothing but the sound of beeps and deep breaths. Deep breaths, deep breaths, deep breaths.
Right around the time I was sure I needed to vomit or get an epidural, something shifted and changed, and I knew I needed to push. It was 2am. Bed sheets were changed, lights were adjusted, there was a lot of bustling about, and I thought, this is it!
Whenever I pictured this part of Ralph's birth in my head, I saw it much like how TV and the movies portray a delivery. Bright lights, lots of shouting, lots of coaching and cheering. When it actually happened, the lights were dim, there wasn't much noise coming from me other than breathing and the occasional, "ice chips, please." I didn't have energy to waste on anything else. My doctor showed up halfway through the pushing, and instead of giving any sort of direction, he patiently sat at the foot of the bed with his arms and legs crossed, like he was watching a football game. It was all up to me, and I knew it.
Three and a half exhausting hours later, it was over. The first sound I ever heard from my baby was a tiny, "Achoo!" The doctor said, "He sneezed!" And I said, "He sneezed! Oh Ralphie!" And then he was placed in my arms, red and wrinkly and quiet, with dark eyes looking up at me. The most beautiful baby boy I had ever seen.
A little while later, my nurse told me I could shower if I felt like it. I didn't, really, but thought I might be glad to get that part over with. I hoisted myself off the bed and shuffled into the bathroom just off the delivery room. As soon as I stepped into the shower I knew it was a bad idea. The walls turned black and closed in around my eyes. Everything was swirling. I was about to faint, and I called out to Ryan. But instead of Ryan, the nurse's arms took hold of me, and somehow managed to get me out of the shower and in a seated position. After a minute or two, I had pulled myself together. A few nurses got me into some dry blankets and a wheel chair, and wheeled me back into the room. I turned to Ryan, who was walking around with Ralph in his arms, and said, "I almost fainted. Didn't you hear me calling you?" He looked back at me with stars in his eyes and with a sigh, said, "Hm?" completely oblivious to what had just happened not even 10 feet away.
That was the moment I knew everything had changed. It wasn't just the two of us anymore. It was Ryan and me, with this tiny little wonder named Ralph in the middle. That was the moment I realized we had just become a family. Nothing on earth has been quite so grand and terrifying and wonderful as that feeling ever since.