We went camping on Cousin Beach (our name) in Riggins in June of 2013 with Uncle Garrett and Margot and Iris. It was literally 100 degrees and we drank beers and never changed out of our bathing suits. I got super exhausted and slept for twelve straight hours in the tent one day. I think you were implanting in my uterus.
On our 13th wedding anniversary, July 11th, I took three pregnancy tests from the Dollar Tree and they all came back positive. We couldn't have been more excited, or scared.
Three weeks later the morning sickness hit so hard, as did the tiredness and bloating. Six weeks later I got excruciating sciatica and I knew what that meant; it had happened before. It was Labor Day weekend and we were traveling home from the Eastern Idaho State Fair in Idaho Falls and I was terrified. It was the same feeling I had when I miscarried the first time.
The next day I did, in fact, miscarry your twin at home, in the bathroom. I thought desperate thoughts about it being all over. I sobbed tears of confusion and joy during an emergency ultrasound when I first saw you, my little wriggling bean. You are 11 weeks alive. I bled for the next six weeks and puked for six more months. I spent much of my pregnancy with you hovering over the toilet, crying and crippled with worry. My belly continually measured larger than normal and I had extreme pregnancy symptoms, my placenta was too low and you were breech. I believe you and I and my body were still making room for your sibling. I swam twice a week at the rehab hospital pool to get you to flip because the thought of a cesarean birth ripped at my heart. I meditated and reminded myself about hypnobirthing techniques I used with your sisters.
At 36 weeks you turned, head down, and I had a baby shower for you at my house. The contractions had started, and the mucus plug had fallen out. By 39 weeks, I was walking around dilated to 4.5 centimeters. My doctor was leaving on vacation for Spring Break and didn't want me to deliver without her, so scheduled an induction the day after your due date, March 21, 2014, the Spring Equinox. The contractions hit again, coming every five minutes on your due date, March 20. Ah, I said, here he comes. Grandma Lou came to stay the night with your sisters, in preparation for the induction at 8am. We got burgers and Oreo shakes at Big Jud's for dinner and ran into friends. I paced the restaurant, as the chair was uncomfortable, and the contractions were, too. You look like you are about to pop, the waitress told me.
We went home and I slept for five solid hours, waking at 4am. I got in the shower and shook your daddy at 5am. He's coming! All on his own! We drove to the hospital and your daddy dropped me off in front of the family maternity center. I looked up at the bright moon, pacing and rocking and breathing. Two other women in labor were dropped off next to me. We walked a few feet and stopped to breathe through a really tough contraction, repeat, repeat, repeat. The hospital is full. I was preparing to call you to cancel your induction, the nurse told me. No need, I said, I'm already here and he's already coming, on his own.
They put me in the tiniest and least favorite and only remaining room and I'm dilated to 6.5 centimeters. At 7:30am, my water breaks and it's full of meconium, so the NICU staff is called and you and I will be monitored. I breathe and imagine waves in the ocean crashing and that with each contraction my uterus is opening up a bit more like petals of a flower, pushing you out. My thoughts and my breaths are calculated and important and I move into my animal/earth mother zone and shut my eyes so I can't see the commotion. I'm dilated to 9 centimeters by 9am and they are calling my doctor. My bed is broken, so they can't lower it. My veins are too difficult to get an emergency IV into, just in case, but they poke me with a needle a dozen times. I squeeze your daddy's hand and roll and moan and STOP PUSHING, cries the nurse. We all know I'm not pushing, you are making your way out all on your own. The NICU arrives, frantic phone calls are made, the on call doctor makes her way to my feet, your heart rate is dropping so an oxygen mask is haphazardly slapped on my face, my doctor rushes into scrubs in my room, you are crowning with your umbilical cord over your head, it moves and with a flood of blood and poop and fluid your whole huge, pink body is out, and I'm shaking ferociously. Your daddy bursts into tears and it's 9:38am on a gloriously warm March spring day.
I feel strong and powerful and like I just lost a limb. We name you Arlo Valley Brown, after your most kind great uncle Arlo from Weiser, and the Treasure Valley, where we live and love and make our Idaho home.
The NICU nurses rush to grab you but I hear a noise from your tiny lungs, and I know it's okay. Your hair is reddish brown and matted and there's not that much of it, really, compared to your sisters. Your APGAR scores are great and they hand you to me and I cry so hard and you latch on to nurse right away. A few minutes later you squawk at us. Finally, we weigh and measure you, 8 lbs 14 ounces (almost nine pounds! I cry) and 21.5" long (the same as Lucy! I cry). You get a warm bath under the faucet in the sink and we find a birthmark that looks like a bursted blood vessel on your belly (it's still there) and that one of your ears is kind of flat and a bit wonky (it still is). I wear baby diapers filled with ice for the swelling and blood and would give anything for a hot shower. Your Grampy brings me a peanut butter cookie dough Blizzard from Dairy Queen upon request and I order a turkey sandwich from room service. We don't hear a peep from hospital staff for three hours, except for the ringing of lullaby bells each time a new baby is born over the loudspeaker at the hospital (seven of them the same day as you!). Later in the afternoon we are finally moved to a recovery room and I can't stop staring at you.
Your sisters arrive after school to meet you in their matching BIG SISTER tees and they hold you and love you immediately. It's calm and lovely and I get a salmon dinner with sparkling cider and a massage and a dozen white roses and (finally) that shower. The next day the staff photographer comes and takes newborn photos of you and when she returns two hours later with proofs on her iPad, I sob hysterically. Because here you are, my rainbow baby. The beautiful calm after a storm of failed pregnancies and so much pain and more tears and confusion. And with your arrival you brought more joy and love and healing than I ever thought possible.
This week we celebrate our first year with you. You suck your two middle fingers just like Alice, your hair is blond, your eyes are brown, and you've got that lucky ear. You have three teeth, are just about to walk, jabber up a storm, and still squawk at your daddy and I. Eating is your favorite, and so is playing in the water. The backyard chickens are hilarious to you, and you giggle like mad when we tickle under your arms.
Holy moly, we couldn't adore you more. Our Arlo, our baby boy, our little potato. You complete us. Happiest first birthday to you.