Hometown Hollywood: More than a birth story

Last month, I had a baby. I wrote that sentence in three seconds, but it took years to make it true.

Our son, Arlo Byron, arrived early after I was diagnosed with preeclampsia. That diagnosis turned into the doctor trying to induce me for 33 hours, which turned into a cesarean section.

It wasn’t how I’d imagined the birth would be. Instead of laboring on a yoga ball as my husband fed me ice chips, I was in bed on blood pressure medication as my husband ate cafeteria pizza and apologized for the smell. Instead of the doctor saying things like “push” and “I see the head,” he said things like “scalpel” and “Please calm down, Ms. Runck. I promise you can breathe.”

Nothing about bringing our baby into this world had been easy, but when they finally pulled him out, everything faded away. The world stopped — as if his first cry was a spell that froze time.

The doctor lifted him over the curtain toward Jason and I, and we were too stunned to do anything but sob. Suddenly, he was here. He was healthy and screaming. He was weighed and measured. He was put on my chest.

He was a person in this world. Our person. The person we’d waited for.

Later, in the recovery room, I stared at our baby and felt a sense of relief. He was here and safe in my arms. We could all go home and start our lives together. Finally, the hard part was over.

Oh, what a fool I was. Because I’m one month into motherhood and feel like I’ve been hit by a Mack truck carrying breast milk and dirty diapers.

During our years of struggling to get pregnant, I promised myself I’d be nothing but thankful when our baby finally arrived. And I am — deeply, intensely grateful. But I’m also exhausted; we both are.

Yesterday, Jason was so tired he accidentally shaved with his hair gel. I keep waiting to be in a haze of delirious love, but mostly I just feel worried. Is he getting enough food? Is he meeting his milestones? Is it okay that he peed in his own mouth and then swallowed it?

These past few weeks, I’ve been frustrated that it’s not all magical. I’ve been overwhelmed with the physical and mental demands of being a mother. But I’m trying to remember what this entire process has taught me.

Through in vitro fertilization, pregnancy and birth, I’ve learned that being magical at all times is not really how life works. There are moments — many, many moments — of struggle. Some days it’s hard to remember what you’re even working toward. You’re sleepwalking through the day, one foot in front of the other, knowing nothing other than that you’re moving forward.

Then, out of the blue, something snaps you awake. For me, it’s a sound my son makes or the way his head feels on my chest. Time stops and I’m left to wonder at the beauty of life. Then I dive back into the deep, moving forward toward the next bit of light.

Welcome to the world, Arlo. I can’t wait to swim this ocean with you.

Jessica Runck, who grew up in Wimbledon, N.D., and graduated from Concordia College, is a writer living in Los Angeles. Visit www.jessicarunck.com for more information.