So, I made a baby. He’s resting up against me, propped up with pillows, after he fell asleep during a feeding.
I made his feet. I made his tiny hands, I made his lopsided ears, and my heartburn made the healthy layer of hair that covers his whole body and gives him little sideburns. For 39 weeks, I sculpted and created this specimen. Last night I realized I recognized this boy on the outside to be the same boy as the one on the inside. He’s the same boy that didn’t kick much, but instead dragged his foot across my tummy like a matchbox car while I chased it around with my fingers. This is the same boy that I made.
His name won’t be a surprise to most of you. We have a rich connection to place, and we went through the grueling IVF process while we lived right along the Hudson River. We’d walk our dog next to the beautiful river at sunset and pray for each new procedure to work. They didn’t always. But we kept walking the river, and eventually, we’d walk with this little one utero.
But place wasn’t a strong enough reason for me to commit to the name, so we had a backup plan, in case he ended up coming out looking like a Griffin or a Melvin or a Todd (we only seriously considered one of those names).
Most of you here know that we’ve had a hard time bringing this baby into the world. To briefly recap for any newcomers, we struggled with Infertility for five years. Moving to New York actually led to a job with the most amazing insurance that covered IVF. This is an anomaly in most insurance systems, so it was definitely an element of place that brought this baby into the world. Once we finally got pregnant, we got scores of bad news about our baby, we were told he would be a tiny baby at best, still born at worst, that I would have gestational diabetes, or preeclampsia. Two weeks later, we were told that I had placenta previa, and that this baby would come via c-section, early, small, and unhealthy.
Each week, this child defied the odds. I kept making his feet, Jeremy kept ensuring that I was eating, and we made it up to 39 weeks. We started to feel optimistic that Baby Penrod would be born vaginally, which everyone ensured us, was preferable.
But this Thursday, almost all of the early premonitions of pregnancy reared their heads. Jeremy and I headed to a routine 39-week checkup to find I had elevated blood pressure and protein in my urine, tell-tale signs of preeclampsia. Doctor was worried enough to suggest we induce labor. This involved inserting what is called a Cook Catheter—two balloons you stick up you-know-where while they try to to get labor moving and shaking. This was a pretty hateful process. I couldn’t get an epidural until I was well-dilated, and I was dilating so slowly that I can’t even come up with an appropriate simile. Ironically, contractions came fast, every minute or two, and would shake my entire system. It’s hard to accurately describe the pulsation without sounding hyperbolic. I don’t know how so many women completed this process without an epidural throughout history. I tried to remind myself that most of those women probably didn’t also have a Cook Catheter.
34 hours into this business, shaking with pain and tears, we finally made the choice to potentially slow down labor and opted for an epidural. It was a saintly release, but a short lived one, because shortly after (for reasons having nothing to do with the epidural), I bled an abnormal amount. Cue all the premonitions about complications from placenta previa.
The doctor, who had had three births and three surgeries already that day opted to wheel us in for an urgent 2 AM c-section, where I could actually feel the procedure. Jeremy, holding my hand behind a curtain, could see the pain on my face coincide with the tugs the doctors were giving my body. Once we realized this, the anesthesiologist quickly sedated me all the way, I came back only briefly for the doctors to show me that a baby existed before they threw me back under anesthesia to remove my stubborn placenta, which had grown aggressively into the walls of my uterus.
The details here are less important than the events that led to me committing to Baby Penrod’s name. If you’re skimming any of this blog, prioritize this part.
We have officially named our child Hudson Leon Penrod.
I’ll admit, part of the reason I love the name Hudson was because of Hamilton. The way I interpret Hamliton’s duel at the end of his life and at the end of the show, is that it was an intentional act to atone for the loss of his son. He goes “in the same place my son died, is that why?” and duels in the same manner (almost down to the detail) got his son killed. And one morning, I was running along the Hudson at dawn, using the lyrics and beat of Hamilton to push me to go faster, and I heard the line, “We sailed across the Hudson at dawn.” It was one of my few rare moments alone in New York, and I looked out over at the river, and I could clearly see Hamilton’s boat rowing, fixedly, towards New Jersey, towards the place where his son died, towards his own resolute death, and towards atonement. I am not sure why in that moment that Hudson River became a symbol of Father and Son to me, but it did.
I know that’s strange, and a bit morbid, and Hamilton had a fatal flaw that renders this comparison incomplete, but that same sort of atonement reminded me of my Savior, who gave His life for me. And it reminded me of my own Father in Heaven, who watched in agony as his Son atoned for the sins of the world. And it kind of reminded me of my husband, who watched, sometimes in agony, while I gave life to our son.
And what I didn’t realize, is that an experience where I have almost exclusively fixated on my own motherhood, fatherhood has played an equally critical role in this experience.
Several nights ago, after solidifying his name, we got to tell the fathers in our lives who informed his namesake. We face-timed Jeremy’s grandfather–Leon Penrod– and as we told him how grateful we were for his example in Hudson’s life, the joy in his face was enough to light a lightbulb. And then we got to call his son, Jeremy’s father, Carey Leon, to thank him for his examples of fatherhood. And I felt so especially grateful, because those two fathers informed Jeremy Leon’s understanding of fatherhood which has matured overnight into the most beautiful, rich, and incredible instinct.
So, even though I’m the mama, and the process of becoming mama has been intense in many ways, to recognize the crucial role that Jeremy has already played in Hudson Leon’s tiny life. During IVF, Jeremy gave me about 200 shots. He never let me down. During pregnancy, he made me meals, monitored my water intake, gave me infinite back rubs, and coached me off some pretty intense cliffs. He held my convulsing body as I shook through the night, having anxiety about whether or not Maeby would like Hudson, and whether or not I’d be a good mama, and whether or not Hudson would even survive the pregnancy.
And for the last, relentless 72 hours, while I convulsed, and while I cried, and while doctors pushed and pulled and tugged on my body, Jeremy was there. He let me squeeze, sob, he predicted every contraction, and coached me every moment. He gave me and our baby a blessing that invoked Heavenly Mother’s watchful eye over me throughout this process. When it was clear that a c-section was eminent, he tabled his own sense of panic and handed me his calm. Dressed in scrubs, he held my hand, he watched me wince, and when they whisked my baby away before I could meet him, Jeremy stayed with Hudson and advocated passionately for my early visitation rights. He escorted my broken body to bathroom trips, never wincing at the new shapes my body has adopted. And every day, in recovery while I try to ignore my stitches and scramble to settle the “50-50 Parenting Split” score, Jeremy insists the score doesn’t exist, or that it’s already swung far towards my favor because of the last 78 hours, and the last nine months, and the last five years of infertility, and so he can “change a damn diaper.” Jeremy, more than anyone, brought this baby to me.
As I write this, he’s watching Youtube tutorials on how to best swaddle a baby. I haven’t changed a diaper yet because Jeremy’s done it. Jeremy’s escorted our baby to bathtime, and circumcision, and he’s hummed Simon and Garfunkel lullabies to get Hudson to sleep. He is Hudson’s daddy. And Hud-SON is our son, sharing a rich legacy of Sonship that for some reason struck me that morning while listening to Hamilton along the Hudson River.
This process, from the beginning, had been the hardest struggle of my whole life, and now as I watch my husband hold my son like a football, and swaddle my son like a precious gem, I realize I’ve never felt the wholeness of teamwork so divinely.
Finally, we are parents. Finally, we have the best, most wonderful, handsome, and kindhearted son who wiggles his arm out of his swaddles and explores the world with it like an antenna. We are a family, finally, and I am the happiest I have ever been. These baby hormones are really something.
Now, here’s a whiff of Hudson Leon Penrod, because I can’t send baby smell over the internet.